Parenting 201

When I attended college  (back in the stone ages), there were different course requirements, depending upon the major you chose.  For example, I was required to take courses in marketing each year.  Freshman year the course title was Marketing 101, sophomore year the title was Marketing 201, and so on.  In Marketing 101 we learned the basic principles.  In Marketing 201, we built upon the foundation we learned in 101, but the subject matter was more sophisticated, and therefore more challenging.

I feel like my life could be entitled Parenting 201 this summer.  My kids are 10 and 13, so theoretically I’ve known them for that length of time, but honest to God this summer it seems like aliens have taken over their bodies.  No, I should clarify that statement.  My 13-year-old daughter seems like an alien has taken over her body, my 10-year-old son is just joining in on the fun and games because that’s what little brothers do!

Maybe it’s because I’m in recovery, since I don’t remember thinking about this as in-depth as I have before now, but I’m trying to figure out where I’m going wrong, and I’m not coming up with any solutions.  First, let me qualify the problems, as I see them, and perhaps writing them out will help me to process:

1.  Time of Year.  Separate from anything else, summer is a universally challenging time for any parent, due to all the unstructured time.  Here is a miniscule example.  Yesterday we had dentist appointments at noon, my son and I are waiting for my daughter to finish up.

Danny:  “Let’s pick something up for lunch on the way home from here.”
Me:  “No, we just had dinner out last night, do you remember how I drove 20 minutes to take you where you wanted to go?  We are not eating out again.  I’ll make lunch as soon as we get home.  What would you prefer, a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”

Before I continue this story, it is important to note that I have had the conversation entitled:  THIS HOUSE IS NOT A RESTAURANT AND I AM NOT A WAITRESS at least 600 times this summer

Danny:  “Could you grill me a hamburger?” (and yes, he did specify the way in which he would like his burger cooked)
Me (as even-toned as I could muster):  “Would you like a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”
Danny:  “What do we have in the fridge in terms of lunch meat?  Could you cook up some bacon?”
Me:  “This is the last time I am asking:  do you want a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”

I will not bore you with the rest of the discussion, but the point is, this is one of about 1,000 such “teaching moments” on any given summer day.  And I will not even begin to complain about the intra-sibling fights that take place each and every day.  So, to recap, summer is a challenging season.

2.  Changing personalities.  This is the heart of the problem for me, and I will probably focus more on my teenage daughter with this issue.  I know I am not covering any uncharted territory with this one, parents have been complaining about teenage girls since teenage girls first came into existence.  So I do realize that I am not in a unique situation; what confounds me is what the hell to do about the behavior, along with my hurt feelings that my once-angelic daughter who acted as if I hung the moon now looks at me insolently, has nothing but sarcastic comments back to me, and argues EVERY SINGLE THING I say to her.  Sometimes I try being honest with her (“When you stay at your cousin’s house for 3 days and fail to call me even once, it hurts my feelings”), I try the hard-lined approach (“You will speak to me with respect or you will face consequences”), I try sarcasm back (yes, I know this is not the best parenting technique, but sometimes my frustration level is so high that I need a release myself), and sometimes I try just ignoring whatever situation I’m in and hope it goes away.  By the way, none of the above has been very effective.

3.  Finding the balance.  This concept applies in about a million ways:  balance between letting them find their own way, and guiding them to make the right decisions.  Balance between allowing them to speak their mind and shutting down the incessant “but what about…” statements.  Balance between respecting privacy and knowing how and with whom they spend their time.  Balance between allowing them a relaxed summer and having expectations with regard to chores, reading and the like.  I’ll stop now, but I could keep the balance list going for another several paragraphs.

So that’s where I’m at, parenting-wise.  I try, as best I can, to incorporate the principles of recovery into parenting.  When decisions seem impossible, I do my best to turn them over.  When things get heated between me and either of my children, I make my amends as quickly as I can.  I try as much as possible to accept that there is much about these kids over which I am powerless, and that list grows longer with every year they age.

Anyone out there experiencing the same?  I’d love to hear from you.  Even better, anyone have the magic solution to all this parenting stuff?  I’d really appreciate it if you could share your wisdom?

Today’s Miracle:

Today is the miracle of sharing what’s on my mind and in my heart.  Just having typed this post, without even receiving feedback, I feel lighter!

Posted on July 24, 2013, in Parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Sorry, no suggestions from me on the parenting a teenager front, but know that all of us who try to fill the hours during summer vacation are right there with you. Please continue to post your frustrations as they help you/us to know there is “someone else out there going through the same thing”. and we may even get a laugh out of each other’s stories.


    • Hi Karen, I have no idea if “email readers” get the replies, but I still want to try. I really appreciate all of your support, and I really couldn’t agree more, just the simple knowledge that others are experiencing what we are can sometimes be the solution to the problem. I know I felt a lot better, and had a better attitude towards the kids, just having written about it!

      We need to connect soon just trade humorous stories!


  2. Lol! Love the comic! And thanks for the post, my daughter is almost 10 and I wonder what happened to my little angelic girl too! The only things I hear from other parents it to decide on one plan of action and stick to it, and follow thru on the punishments. Last weekend my daughter was all over with her behavior and I told her if she continued she wasn’t going to be able to go to a bday party scheduled later in the day, and she continued and I didn’t let her go – she got straght real quick – I think she though I was bluffing! Lol! Will see how long that will last, righ? and, Yes, keep sharing, there is many of us out here in the same boat. And hang in! – Maggie


    • Thanks, Maggie, and I’m sorry to say, but the fun gets even better once the hormones kick in! I really like your advice… finding one path and sticking to it… that is definitely not what I have been doing. I am going to attempt that, and I will let you know how it goes!

      I really appreciate the feedback!


  3. I also have a 13-year-old daughter. ‘Nuff said.


  4. i have 16-year-old daughter who loves to get as close as she can to trouble without falling in it. So far she hasn’t, but it’s exhausting to constantly sit by, waiting with a towel if she ever does!


    • Hi Al, I actually was thinking of you as I wrote this post, you have mentioned your 16 year old more than once. I can only imagine what life is like once high school is involved, and driving (have no idea if your 16 year olds are allowed to drive, ours are!). Exhausting is an absolutely fantastic word, I wish I had thought to use it.

      I guess all we can say is… thank God we’re sober!

      PS… still working on the not drinking game, I can’t find anything hilarious with my date, so I keep looking! I will be posting this morning!


  5. I missed the Parenting 201 class too. I have a 18 yr old daughter and what a ride it has been. I know that teens start ‘separating’ from us in order to become young adults, but wow, it’s as tough as those wobbly toddler times. Instead of making sure she doesn’t go ‘play in the street’, now it’s making sure she doesn’t go ‘play with the wrong kids’. I’d say now looking back at those middle school and high school times that the number 1 important factor was ‘who she hung out with’. If she got together with girlfriend A (who she knew since first grade) she stayed happy and made the right choices when the peer pressure was on full blast. If she got together with girlfriend M (who she met in middle school) she ALWAYS got in trouble. She lied about where they were going and who they were with and because I was a private investigator (not really) I would always find out the truth. It was exhausting!

    But then along came the boys and my grey hairs! I really think that technology made it easier for all of them to ‘talk’, but they don’t talk, they text, tweet and skype! We were mean, old fashioned parents…we didn’t get her a cell phone until she was starting 9th grade. She moaned and groaned and hated us for this. But we didn’t care. We didn’t crack under teen parenting pressure! You know the saying ‘little kids, little troubles…big kids, bigger troubles’? So true!

    So we kept her so busy after middle/high school that she didn’t have time to ‘get in trouble’. She joined a dance studio and was on the competition team and she danced 4 nights a week. We have had numerous nice chats about making the right choices and I was always glad when she wanted to talk to me about the woes of being a teenager. Of course she would say ‘you just don’t know what it’s like to be a teenager mom, it’s so hard’. Oh and we would have our mother-daughter yelling matches too. They always backfired. I am part Italian and so it’s a part of my genetic makeup to yell to be heard. I was bad cop and my husband was good cop. What a joy that was on our marriage.

    She is nearly 19 yrs old now and has been at home the first year of college and she got her own car. You would think that now she’d never be home with her own ‘escape vehicle’…but she’s home more now than when she was in high school. Go figure! We call her room ‘the cave’ and say ‘oh look she’s out of her cave…it must be feeding time’ and we all laugh. Sometimes all you can do is laugh.

    We didn’t know what the hell we were really doing raising her, but looking back at it now, we are just grateful that she didn’t do drugs/alcohol, or get herself killed. We all lived! It’s not over yet…we have a 12 yr old son who is starting middle school soon. Yippee!!!

    I love that you wrote about ‘parenting’….it’s a topic that not many write about while sober (I do love Karen’s No Nelling) and I found this very helpful. I didn’t intend to write so much! I must have needed to. So thanks!

    Well, have a wonderful ‘unstructured’ summer day with your kiddos! 🙂


    • Hi Katherine, I am sorry I am just getting around to responding to this, because there is so much wisdom in these words… I need to print this comment out and staple it to my forehead! You summed it up with one word: exhausting. I can doubly appreciate this comment after coming home from a vacation with kids and extended family, this comment is so, so appreciated!

      I am truly going to take these words to heart. Some I already practice, but others I can put into place immediately, and, again, I cannot tell you how very, very much I appreciated your taking the time to write this!


  6. Lol, I remember these years. My girls are 16 & almost 19 now, and while I know that they are far from grown up, I don’t envy you the next few years. Saying that, thank god I was sober & you are too! What a mess it would have been!

    I know families where the parents have not got sober until the early teens and it is so much harder for those parents to reset the playing field and establish ‘rules’ when they themselves were seen to have broken them so many times themselves.

    I found the best approach is to remember that you are looking at a 2 year old in a body that has learnt how to answer back. They are pushing you in every direction possible, just as our toddlers did just to see what they can get away with. When you set clear and consistent boundaries, they will respect them, but it takes time, and if they find a new weakness they will pick at it till they break through!

    Remember they are still little children, in fast growing bodies, growing ever more aware of the world around them, and they are testing out their ability to impact it. They also need to feel safe and loved, but the same way it is loving not to allow a 2 year old to eat chocolate all day, it it also loving not to give in to the nagging of our children…. And they will see this as loving, especially when you are having your conversations with them about ‘how things run around here’ which are always worth doing at some point after an incident (such as the burger for lunch) involving them in the decision making processes about rules. Eg you say, I want to bring us all out for treats, but obviously we can only afford to do this once/twice a month… And you ask them where they would like to go, and whether they want to pick the dates and whether lunch or dinner…. Then they feel involved in the process, buy into it, and don’t bug you about treats in between, because it has already been agreed

    I remember as a child I had no input into the rules, and many of them I felt we’re stupid, there were no discussions allowed, so I just found ways around the rules. When I looked at my children navigating their teenage years I felt so grateful they weren’t like me…. But at the same time I never wanted them to be afraid to contact me if they got in the kind of trouble I got into…. To think of my own daughters in the situations I had to get out of because I was afraid to ask for help because of the trouble I would be in! It makes my blood run cold…. I never wanted my children to be afraid of me like that!

    There are no easy answers, but I know working through things as a team with the children with you as the uncontested team leader, allowing them choices within the boundaries which you set is fun and liberating. It is holiday time, everyone wants a good time… But it does need some structure, or you will run yourself ragged!



    • “Two year olds in a body that has learned how to answer back.” You have HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD! There may not be easy answers, but your pieces of wisdom have really hit home with me this morning, and I am so grateful you took the time to write them!

      And I couldn’t agree me… THANK GOD I AM SOBER! I can’t imagine what this would be like if I weren’t!


  7. I think EVERY parent understands your frustration! I know I do! My kids are a bit younger, but my almost seven year old girl has mastered the eye roll and sarcasm and my four year old just talked back to me for the first time today! You know, the “you’re so lame” talk. I wanted to ring his neck but instead I firmly said it wasn’t unacceptable and let it go. Sometimes that’s all you can do!


    • Oh, Chenoa, then you are certainly feeling my pain… the eye roll and sarcasm at age 6 does not bode well for the teenage girl! Deal with it and move on… truer words have not been spoken, and I am trying, day by day through this summer, to do exactly that. I really appreciate the feedback, and knowing that I am not alone!


  8. If this is Parenting 201 then I am still in grade school. My boys are 3 and 5, so I am not quite where you and the others are in the parenting prism. the boys are still at a point where if they sulk it’s still cute (ish). I have a fighting chance at least to figure out the boys. i would be hopelessly lost with a girl. 🙂

    So i sit here and take notes, which I can pull out in 10 years or so…


    • Paul, parenting grade school… I love it! I know everyone says it, but it’s damned true: appreciate that their sulking is still cute, because, I promise you, that shine definitely dulls over time!

      And, keep in mind, there will be pop quizzes, so keep those notes fresh…


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