Free advice is always worth what you pay for it. . .
That's one of my Mom's favorite things to say, just before she offers me some free advice.
My friend called me while I was having lunch in the school cafeteria with the second-graders. Her daughter was the Edge's best bud until a few days ago (see "It's Not You, It's Me. . .)
"Mwa mwa mwa mwa, mfff fwula?" She said, as the kid across from me showed me how to suck blue jello through a straw.
"Hello! I'll have to call you back!
Thirty minutes later, we were fully-involved. My friend's daughter is lying to her parents, can't hold a job, hanging out with friends of ill repute, basically heading down the wrong path.
"Take her car, her phone, her computer. Make her earn them back. . ."
There were reasons that they couldn't take her to school. "Make her ride the bus."
There were reasons that they wanted her to have the cell phone. "Put restrictions on it so she can only call you."
What about the job? "Help her find one, and tell her if she loses it, then she loses the car!"
I spent the next hour offering suggestions, answering questions, and just listening.
"I feel like I'm losing my mind!" my friend began to cry. . .
I suddenly felt surprisingly competent, but I was humbled, too. The only reason I felt like I had so many of the answers was because there was a time when I didn't. I'd made similar mistakes, made similar excuses, had similar feelings of parental helplessness and hopelessness. I shared this with my friend.
"Smooth seas don't make skillful sailors. Whatever you're doing now isn't working, but don't beat yourself up over it. Learn from it and go on! You've got to take charge here - you're the parent, it's your job to guide your child, not give her everything she wants."
The table busser at Pirate's Cove once told me that raising teenagers is like trying to nail jello to a tree. (I don't get ALL my good sayings from my Mom. . .) Sometimes it can feel that way. But one thing that I believe has helped us is to recognize that , yes, we are preparing to turn them loose on the real world, but sometimes we have to reel them back in first.
My advice to my friend was to ground her daughter. "I don't mean that you should lock her in her room, either. Make her your constant companion. Spend time together and get to know each other again. Talk, talk and talk some more. Make your rules and expectations clear. Her actions need to have consistent consequences. It's not about being mean, it's about saving your child! Hey, it worked for us!"
I hung up and called the Edge, who had come through her own set of trials and tribulations. I told her what advice I'd offered. "Yep, " she said. "I told her the same things. . ."
I laughed. "So, now I guess you can see the other side of things, huh?"
"Uh, yeah. . ."
"Are you just saying that so I'll hang up the phone and let you get back to your Mallin'?"
Well, at least we've got that honesty thing down.
6 months ago