Do as I say, not as I did????

I love "Modern Family". It was a breath of fresh air in a TV landscape needing a kick in the funny bone. I really enjoyed turning on this week's Modern Family, called "The Kiss".

It reminded me of the blending of cultures. Sometimes my husband is just as bewildered by my loud, outspoken, overly-warm, Southern-European-blood relatives as I am by his Scandinavian family. There were several lines of the program that could have come directly from my in-law's living room! Others could have been from either my mother "honoring through cooking" (I do that too). And, yes, I remember my mother beating a chicken breast (or just as likely veal, which I don't cook) - but not to rid the house of ghosts. My Mom was even a beautiful woman named Gloria, too!

But what really touched home was the conundrum that Mom (Claire) navigated. How much of your past do you expose to your teenage daughter? Is it better to straight out lie about your less than perfect past? Claire wants her daughters to think that she was a goody-two-shoes to have her girls live up to that fantasy, "and when they fall short" it isn't such a big deal. But her father breaks that idealistic image when he tells an anecdote about how Claire was brought home by the police half-naked (after she and a boyfriend went swimming in a pool without an invitation...). She had to admit that she wasn't always so perfect.

Some of us had very colorful pasts.  Unless you married your high school or college sweetheart (and sometimes even then), you probably have a past that has nothing to do with your spouse and likely nothing to do with your current existence as nun-like Mom. It's a long time since anyone I know sneaked out of the house? But plenty of my friends did. When we talk about sex or drugs or alcohol with our teenagers, the pamphlets tell you that you should answer their questions about your seedy past with an evasive, "this isn't about me, this is about you!" But what if that doesn't work? What if they push, or worse, assume you are lying to them, or omitting something intentionally (which, of course, if you say that, you are) and decide that they don't need to listen to the rest of what you have to say? I don't have any answers to these questions and I'm petrified that my daughter is going to do as I did.

I guess I have my work cut out for me. Maybe there is no right or wrong answer. Here are a few links for a start - I am kind of afraid to read them! I would rather stick my head in the sand and wake up when they've graduated college. Here's an NIH pamphlet about talking about alcohol. Here's Planned Parenthood's info on talking to your kids about sex. Here's the DARE program's info on speaking about drugs. (At least the rhetoric would match what they get in school). There are plenty of other subjects out there too! After the incident at Rutgers we all watched with shock this week, I think I'd share this with my kids too if they were gay or maybe confused, or being teased for any reason (but now re-watching it, I realize they need to be older than 12 to watch it - one line is particularly racy)! It's about being gay, but the message can cross many fronts: hang in there if you're being teased or tormented or just miserable. Your life will get better.

Talking to my kids about any of these things seems like a daunting task. Maybe you have better ideas? Maybe your Mom had just the right words. Maybe you know because you've avoided exposure to drugs, alcohol, members of the opposite sex or bullies of any kind that your kids are going to be fine.  Maybe you're not a parent and therefore have an outsiders point of view to share. Parents and friends need to share their best-practices. Parenting is about learning. I've clearly got a lot to learn.


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