It's times like these that I wish I had a parenting handbook. Is it too much to ask for guidance every once in a while? What would Gloria say??? How did she manage the four of us: my hippie brothers with their buddies gathering in the garage... my friend puking in our living room on New Years Eve and my sister's various boyfriends (Nicknamed things like "Biff" "The Priest" and "The Walrus")?

Despite being a parent for about fifteen years (and my own experiences as a kid), I still have so much I wish I knew. Here are a few questions:

  • How do I set realistic boundaries? I'd like something where my home is neither a maximum security prison and a 60's hippie love fest. My kids are good and have (so far) only made great choices. They do well and work hard in school. Can I trust them?
  • What is fair punishment when kids do wrong? What is overdoing it? Am I too mean? Too easy? How can I get angry so quickly one day and not let things bother me as much the next? 
  • How do I prepare my friendly, but too-sweet and rather naive 11 year old for the shark-infested waters of the Middle School? (Or can I leave that to my tough-love daughter who wants me to toughen him up - by being meaner to him).
  • Is it really better for my kids to give them the role model of a successful business woman or to be a stay-at-home Mom involved in their lives - just enough but not too much - and provide them the extra support (and watchful eye) that I can be when I know what's going on (or think I do) under my own roof?
  • What is fair and reasonable spending on/with/by children in our overly materialistic culture and this bastion of wealth in Bridgewater? How old should she be when she has to earn her spending money? What about things beyond the norm: concert tickets, trips? 
  • What is the goal, anyway? Ivy League college? (Or any college, for that matter) 401 K plans? Family/kids (grandkids for me)? Fun? Big job? Money? Travel? 
My "few questions" became a long list and as I write them more and more come up. With a daughter entering high school I wonder every day how to draw boundaries? Should I trust her as much as my parents trusted me? I got away with a fair bit - but a lot of the "bad stuff" I did (and none of it was that bad) they didn't know about. We got caught playing strip poker once - and my father sent everyone home at 4am. I think our lack of appropriate dress went unnoticed... and the guests didn't.

What do I say about alcohol or sex? If I forbid her to be anywhere where there is alcohol she won't even be allowed to go to a football game. (Where lots of parents also drink in the bleachers). Same deal regarding boys? Obviously the big stuff is verboten, but kissing? Hand holding? Cuddling? OMG I don't even want to think about it. 

I may not have the answers to these questions, but my daughter thinks SHE does. If she heard them, she'd say:

YOLO**, Ma!

And I'd ask for the thousandth time, "Huh?"

A teenage girl's answer: You Only Live Once.


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