I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
February 9, 2011
I once read a brilliant blog post (which I can’t find now, arrrrgh) written by a man who was thinking back on a conversation he’d had with his stepdad when he was 17. Their topic of discussion is unimportant- What mattered was that at 17, he’d thought his stepdad was full of it, and didn’t know what he was talking about.
But at 40, the man thought about that conversation often, because he totally got what his stepdad had been trying to convey.
At 40, his stepfather’s words were poignant, because they made perfect sense.
The man, now a father himself, learned from that discussion that as a parent, the words we say to our children matter. We just don’t always know when they’ll matter.
Because of that long-ago conversation with his stepdad, the man knew that he would sometimes have to say things not necessarily for the benefit of the 15-year-old standing before him, but for the 30-year-old down the road.
I’ve parented with that in mind ever since. And I think it’s how many of our parents operated, too. At 17, I thought they were way too strict. At 35, I see the logic behind their decisions. I like to think they knew that this would happen.
So why aren’t parents acting this way now?
I wrote a post recently for my style blog on The Stir that generated a lot of discussion. TOO MUCH DISCUSSION. The topic was on… um… pubic hair. Or the lack of it– and the fact that according to an article I had read, the absolute and complete lack of it is what most teenage girls are going for these days.
Now as anyone who reads my blog knows, I’m all for grown women doing whatever the hell they want in that department. I did not need to know what the readers of the post were doing with their pubes and
500 600 700-something comments later, I am forever scarred by the number of personal pubic hair confessionals that the post elicited.
WHY, LADIES? WHY? I DID NOT NEED TO KNOW THAT.
But I digress.
I did admit that if I found out MY teen were doing that (and I haven’t by the way, this is purely hypothetical), I would be concerned. I wouldn’t freak out. I wouldn’t forbid it. I might not even discuss it with her- It would totally depend on the teen and what was going on in her life. But I would be concerned. I would wonder why she felt the need to do it and whether it was for someone else. I wrote as much in the post, and OH. THE FALLOUT.
My attitude indicated that I was repressed, wrote commenters! I was Victorian! It was none of my business! It was her body and she could do whatever she wanted with it and I needed to just butt out! I should get my head out of the sand and realize that teens have sex! I needed to get over it! I should accept that this is just the way it is and focus on educating her on how to have safe sex! Etc, etc! Blah! Blah! Blah!
Truthfully, I’m seeing this kind of attitude from parents of teens more and more these days, both in popular media and in real life. Teenagers are going to do what they want, right? It doesn’t matter what we tell them. So we should just give them their space, make sure they’re educated about safe sex, and keep them well stocked in condoms and birth control pills. And if we’re cool enough, maybe they’ll tell us what’s going on in their world. But probably not. It’s none of our business, anyway.
I couldn’t disagree more.
No one cares for our teenagers like we do. No one is more invested in their lives. No one else is charged with raising them, nurturing them, and teaching them right from wrong. I’m sure I will say many things my teenagers don’t want to hear, things that aren’t “cool,” things that go against all they’re seeing on MTV and hearing on the radio.
My 16-year-old children won’t necessarily get it. My 16-year-old children may go ahead and do the very things I warned them not to do. I’m well prepared for that reality.
But years down the road, I’m hoping that the 35-year-old versions of my kids will look back and totally understand. My 35-year-old children will realize how difficult it was for me to say those things, and know how much I loved them.
Or maybe they won’t. After all, we parent knowing that we may never get any sort of reward at the end for all our years of labor. But I’ve learned a few things over the last twenty or so years– I’ve learned to respect myself and my body. I’ve learned that our God is an awesome God. I’ve learned that seeking a life filled with meaning and service to others really is more fulfilling than seeking a life filled with worldly pleasures.
And if I can’t convey what I’ve learned to my children with authenticity and compassion, I’ve failed them. I’ve failed them.
So with all due respect… to those who call me old-fashioned, who say I need to stay out of my teenagers’ business and let them live their lives and make their mistakes without my pesky interference and opinions?