A Fun Family Memory -- Dedicated to Parents of Teens
As I was going through articles I have written over the years, I came across this one, and I had to share it. While it may be embellished a bit, the basic story is true. Wonder how my kids will remember it? Keep in mind, it was written many years ago when they were teens...
It seemed like a good, logical idea when they were little. Principles taught at a young age would be deeply ingrained by the teen years, and children would never question them as they grew older. My husband agreed the plan was workable, so we came up with a few basic rules which, we naively thought, would ward off trouble when the children hit those terrible teen years.
That is the background of the first of our “teen wars”: my husband and I versus our 12-year old. Actually, Jim was involved by implication only. I fought alone. Understand this was a purely abstract discussion; Jericho had no real desire to date anyone, she was just planning ahead.
“Mom, when can I date?” She had chosen her time wisely. Saturday morning, TV blaring in the background, and me ready to leave for grocery shopping. I was in a hurry, but this interaction would be quick and easy. We had planned for it from her birth.
“Remember dear,” I reminded her gently, “we’ve already settled that question – when you were a toddler. You may date when you are 30.”
She gave me that look usually reserved for the aged and infirm and responded, “Oh, Mom, you know that’s unreasonable.” There it was, the statement I had dreaded for years. She was questioning one of “The Rules,” and it was the one specially formulated with our tiny, innocent baby daughter in mind.
"Now, Jericho, you never objected to the rule before,” I responded sweetly. But she was having none of it. “Mom, I was six. Boys didn’t even appeal to me... I wanted to live on Sesame Street!”
She had a point there, but I didn’t want to cave if I could salvage the principle involved. “Your father and I agreed when you were just a baby that dating would interfere with the really important things in life. By age thirty you should be pretty well established in a career and your own home, and then you are free to date.” I sensed victory in the air after that brilliant speech. In fact, she seemed a bit stunned by the simple logic of it. She was walking away without further question.
I allowed myself a secret smile. The concept had worked after all. She had heard it for so long she was accepting it... but no. She came back almost immediately with reinforcements. Six foot six, fifteen year old Josh was imposing when you stood toe-to-toe with him, but I wasn’t too worried. He never agreed with his sister on anything, and he hadn’t pushed the dating issue at all. I was hopeful I could enlist him as an ally for my side.
I tried a diversionary measure that usually worked. “Hi, Josh. How about those Bulls?” He could talk about basketball for hours once he got started, and that would definitely end the dating discussion.
To my amazement, he didn’t run with the ball so to speak, but steered the conversation back to the topic at hand. “Jericho says you are still telling her she can’t date till she’s 30.” It was a simple enough statement, though I couldn’t help but hear a ring of challenge in it. Of all days for my husband to be working overtime. I mumbled something like, “Well, we’ve always agreed on that,” but there was no conviction in my voice.
“No,” Josh noted, “you and Dad always said that, but we never agreed with you.” Ooooh, score one for their side.
“That’s true, but we always felt it was understood... the best way to handle it... for your own good...” As I mumbled on, I could tell from the looks on their faces they weren’t buying this. I struggled frantically to come up with a clincher, a statement so profound they simply could not argue with it. Nothing was popping into my thoughts.
Then my baby dealt me a crushing blow: “How old were you when you first dated, Mom?” he asked casually. I never expected a full frontal attack! They had always accepted the thirty years dating rule, or so I thought. While I tried to think of a way to phrase my answer to be consistent with the rule, Jericho jumped in with yet another assault. “How old were you when you married Dad?” (Emphasis hers)
That one really hurt, but I had an idea. Divide and conquer–that was a biblical principle. I turned to Josh and whispered, “How come you’re taking her side?” Two can play that “ignore the question” game.
He didn’t even falter. “She’s right, Mom. Thirty is unreasonable.” I was stunned. In all my recollections of Davis family history, they had never agreed on anything. Why did they have to start now? I was losing the battle, and it was fast becoming a total rout.
“All the other kids are dating at 13 and 14.” Oh no, the old “everybody’s doing it” defense. I considered my Mom’s standard reply for that one, “If everybody was jumping off a bridge, would you do it, too?” Then I realized it wouldn’t really have any impact in this situation.
A better idea came to mind. At least it seemed better idea in the heat of the moment. “For this we’re paying to send you to a Christian school? What about ‘Honor your father and your mother’?” It was a bold and risky move that might remind them of Rule #3 (You will always take care of your parents in their old age, keeping them in the manner to which they have become accustomed), and start another controversy. After all, they had always wondered what “accustomed” meant... But I was desperate, and no help was in sight.
“This has nothing to do with that,” they replied, almost in unison. This total agreement was unnerving. There was only one move left to me, and I hated to resort to it already, but I was tiring fast. “OK, we’ll discuss it when your father gets home.” There it was, the final word. Jericho shuffled off to her room, a beaten foe yielding to a superior adversary. Some satisfaction there, but Josh was standing his ground.
“Fine, Mom. Now about Rule #2. I think learning to drive when your spouse teaches you is pretty unreasonable, too. I’ll be 16 in a month or two...”
Oh no, questioning another of those childhood principles so carefully drummed into his head for years. Worse yet, Jericho was coming back at the mention of another rule. “Mom, can I get married when I’m 15?” she was asking. Where did we go wrong?