No More Mrs. Nice Guy

By Debby Shulman

Being a freshman in high school can’t be easy. I try to be as sympathetic as I can, listening to stories that honestly freak me out and make me wonder how different things are in just the three years since my middle son was a freshman.

Yes, all of our children are very unique; they may have the same set of parents but what was enticing to one bears no interest to the other.

I can’t decide if I have become impatient with the issues that plague my 14 year old or that it is a ‘been there, done that’ attitude that prevails because I know the ending of the story. Whatever the reason, our youngest is growing up in a house very different than the one her brothers did and for better or worse, it makes my husband and I tune in with sharper radar and the idea that strapping a honing device onto her ankle until she graduates is not such a bad one.

This particular class at my daughter’s high school is a tough one. These girls are exposed to so much at such a young age … like adolescence on steroids. So now, I feel the burden to protect both her and myself from the impending bad judgment calls that define this age. Her behavior, her instagram habit, the texting, the FB posts and picture monitoring are a full-time job. I am hyper-vigilant about the image she portrays and like a few GIRLilla blogs discussing this very subject over the last few months, it concerns me a great deal.

So the fact that this class presents behavior that I am truly concerned about – drinking, blatant disrespect for adults, and more attitude than I feel is appropriate – my husband and I lock in with our sonar and I am lucky that my sister is on it as well.

Together with my two older boys, we form a SWAT team of emotional management, damage control and social intervention. Earpieces in, People. Lady Liberty IS moving.

So, last night she wanted to have ‘some friends over.’ Remember that?  You heard about someone having people over and then someone else said it was fine that you came with and soon enough, there was a party at someone’s house and that was the beginning of the end.  We said Yes because we were going to be home, but insisted we get an approximate number of how many kids and who they were.

The list grew from six friends to 10 and then 12 and then the doorbell kept ringing … My husband was on it; he scared the living daylights out of every young man that walked in the house.

He made it very clear to our beloved that EVERY teen walking through the door would have their bag and water bottle checked. You know, because pouring your parents’ vodka into an Ice Mountain water bottle is so clever … and he told our daughter that he had the right to appear in the basement at any point in the evening and intended on doing so. He was incredible.

I purposefully stayed out of it; my husband had tapped into something very interesting and I was watching with amazement.

Not only did I hear our daughter telling her friends that her father would not tolerate any drinking on the sly, she felt proud and relieved. I listened as each group came through the door as my husband “welcomed” them, telling them there would be absolutely NO alcohol because this was his house and that behavior would be disrespectful to him and to our daughter.

He also mentioned that he would be coming down into the basement periodically to check on everyone.  Not one child left, most of the boys thanked him and shook his hand and told them they would not do anything. Several of the girls asked my husband if they should leave their purses upstairs.

We thought we were being really strict (and didn’t care) and figured it would turn most of the kids away. But as the doorbell kept ringing, we became more and more confident that these kids wanted to know that nothing in our house would get out of hand.  Everyone had to be gone by 11 p.m. and if there were any problems, parents would be called.  I had made up my mind that I did not care if my daughter was embarrassed and clearly she wasn’t – the biggest surprise of the night.

Ironically, everyone seemed grateful for the rules, the restrictions, and the supervision.

The real experiment, the real lesson for all of us, was that it was okay to be the enforcer.

Why are we so afraid of doing the right thing, fearing our kids won’t be pleased? When did their safety take a back seat to their friendship?  If I continued my act of being Friend Mom, which I confess was a complete disaster, then, when I need to be THE mom, I would not have the respect or the resources to fall back on. 

Trust me when I tell you how empowering this night was for me. It made me feel good about being the hard ass (or at least letting the hubby play that part) and knowing my daughter would see that and come to terms with how it felt.

If you want to play the freshman game, it’s going to be on our turf, with our rules and if you don’t like it, get off my field.

I can promise you that the same group will be back because there was NO booze, NO pressure to try something and the kids felt safe.  They are so young and still don’t appreciate the fact they want rules, they need rules and feel better when they know the limits.

I don’t want to have to deal with this issue but it is a reality:

If you have a high school student, they are exposed to alcohol more than you realize and more often than not, parents are too intimidated to call the shots.

If you let your child have people over, please have the guts to smell the water bottle and check their backpacks. Make these kids accountable for behavior that is appropriate and respectful.  Demand that your rules are followed.  I can promise you that this will garner more of your child’s respect and friendship than by ignoring what is going on in the basement.

Lady Liberty may be moving at a quick pace these days, but I am close behind.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare:  Debby Shulman is a college essay consultant and academic tutor with a private practice in Northbrook, Illinois.  She also professionally collaborates with Amy Simon College Consulting in Bannockburn, Illinois.  Debby also blogs about Motherhood/Teen issues for Your Teen magazine (www.yourteenmag.com). Check out her valuable advice. 



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