Today, Kathleen shares her story of how she and a friend strongly disagreed on a parenting issue. By talking about their differences openly and respectfully, they ended up learning something from each other and strengthening their relationship. It's a great example of how we can benefit from civil discourse.
It was 3:30 in the morning as I knocked on my neighbor’s front door. She answered somewhat dazed. I asked her to step outside and when she did I pointed to her driveway and asked, “Do you notice anything missing?”
As we sat on the damp hard ground of her EMPTY driveway in our pajamas at 3:30 in the morning looking at each other in disbelief that our teenage daughters had snuck out of the house and gone for a ride in the family car, I couldn’t help but feel a little lucky that the first time I was having to deal with something like this I was able to share it with one of my dearest friends. I had the pleasure of living across the street from this woman for nine years.
I am the strict parent; she is the easygoing parent. We parent differently yet here we were in the same boat, dealing with teens who forgot everything we ever taught them. This in itself taught me a huge lesson!
Because we have been in and out of each other’s homes for so many years I have been able to observe her relationship with her kids. I have taken note at how close they are and how open their conversations are. They talk about things I never thought I could even say in front of my kids but it seems to work for them and honestly after observing this it made me open up and allow my children to open up more in our own home.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had serious doubts about ways that she parents and I know I’ve judged her in my thoughts. But the great thing is that we have been able to talk about our differences and we both have given each other perspective we had never thought of before. We have learned from each other and I think we have helped each other along the way.
Earlier that year I had been sitting across from my friend (on the couch this time) listening to her talk about the overnight party her 17-year-old daughter would be attending after prom. I remember thinking, “Are you crazy, don’t you know she’ll be drugged and kidnapped? Or don’t you know they’ll all get drunk and throw her off the balcony or she’ll die in her own vomit and no one will notice?”
At the time my own daughter was 15 and I just knew I would NEVER let her stay out all night in some strange hotel. I was thinking doesn’t anyone watch Nancy Grace or Dateline anymore or for that matter The Jersey Shore? Instead of trying to make her as paranoid as I obviously am, or maybe it was that I really didn’t want her to know I had actually watched The Jersey Shore, I said, “I have to be honest, I don’t know if I could let my daughter stay out all night at 17 years old.” And I did share some of my concerns with her. Without skipping a beat, my friend said, “I trust her.”
Now I don’t for a second think the word trust and teenagers belong together in the same sentence. But to me the word TRUST is equivalent to a great relationship and isn’t that what we strive to have more than anything with our beloved children, a great open and communicative relationship based on mutual trust? What I learned right then and there is that she wanted to give her daughter another chance to earn her trust.
Fast forward to June 2012 and my now 17 year old wants to stay out all night. I trust her but I did not let her. The real point of this story is not about teens, it’s about two women who parent differently but were able to talk to each other with no insults and no anger but with open minds and open hearts… and trust. Trust in the fact that we only want what is best for each other’s kids and trust in the fact that we both love our kids equally. Just because we have differing views on how this situation should be handled did not mean we thought any less of each other as women, as friends or as moms.
More recently her other daughter who just turned 17 has her first boyfriend. My friend lets her daughter and the boyfriend spend every waking moment together and it’s seriously making me crazy because I could NOT disagree more. I have talked to my friend and told her if it was me I would be limiting the time they spent together and I shared my concerns about her daughter neglecting other relationships and her daughter not experiencing other things during her senior year, etc. but her reply to me was that it was her daughter’s responsibility to nurture those other relationships and face the consequences if they fail. WOW, I never thought of it that way. I am still not sure if I agree but once again SHE taught me something and she opened my mind.
My friend told me a couple days later that something I said made an impact on her and she passed it on to her daughter and she thanked me for talking WITH her and not AT her. I am happy to report that the boyfriend’s car is parked in front of my house a little less now although I wish he’d stop blocking my mailbox… payback???
I try very hard not to judge other parents because you never really know how you’re going to deal with a situation until you are IN the situation. We walk a fine line as parents and instead of judging and condemning each other, we should support each other and at the very least have empathy for each other. After all, we have the toughest job in the world. TRUST me on that!