*This is a guest post
This post was inspired by an assortment of advisory received from my daughter since her in preschool days. She goes to college next year. Her goal has been to make me a “chill mum” and not do things that make her cringe. Being that she has put in a decade of work into correcting the error of my ways, it would be a shame not share what I have learned with other mothers similarly challenged on how not to be that embarrassing mum.
Dress Nice But Not Like A Teen
This one is exactly as the title suggests. If you are considering that cute off shoulder peasant blouse paired with a nice pair of blue jeans to the parent-teacher conference, do think again. You favorite casual summer dress with a bold parrot pattern is risky business as is chunky jewelry and platform heels and any neon nail color. On the other hand, the frumpy look in mum jeans over-sized plaid shirt and messy hair is not the way to go either. You need to look like you tried but not too hard. Business casual is the way to go if headed to your kid’s school. On other occasions, you have more latitude but remember to stay away from edgy and closer to boring. Less is more almost always.
Don’t Talk Like a Teen
Apparently, nothing is more embarrassing than a parent being up to speed on teen slang and feeling free to use it in the company of their kids’ friends. Just talk like an adult at all times. Talking teen while a parent is a quick way to weird kids out. The slang exists for a specific reason – to keep the adults out of their business. If you find yourself stumped by a particular turn of phrase, Google is your friend. Just don’t flaunt your knowledge. If you know all about the bands your kid listens to, it’s a great way to bond as long as you are not tagging along to a concert with them. Your teens are well behind you so please keep marching forward into the golden years; don’t look back. Keep an eye out for the 80s bands coming to town and maybe take your kid to one of those to relive the nostalgia.
Help Don’t Hover
This one is a very tricky business. Very rarely will you and your kid agree on the operating definition of help. Likewise with hover. If your kid is driving alone for the first time and you feel the need to have them on a GPS tracker so you can monitor them remotely, are you helping or hovering? If you follow-up on their grades and homework to make sure they stay on top of things, there is a point where help turns to hover. If you help them choose a prom dress, chances are you may be in the clear unless you take over the whole prom experience and relive your own senior year through your daughter’s. Here again, less is more. When asked to back-off it’s generally best not to push your luck. There is always another time and another cause. Some battles are best lost to win the war.
Inquire Don’t Intrude
Your inquiries into what they do with their time need to serve purposes other than idle curiosity. If there is a cause for concern, preface your inquiry with that and chances are you will be met with lesser resistance. Breaches of privacy online or otherwise can become a deal-breaker with a teen. Ideally, you would have educated them on acceptable use of social media earlier on so they know what not to do. If they sense intrusion, they will push back and close doors you can’t easily open. Every mistake will set you back a bit further and create distance between you and your kid. Being open and willing you share your own life is likely to encourage reciprocal behavior though it’s not a given.
Socialize Don’t Overshare
This applies to your communications with other parents and distant relatives. It’s okay to meet another mum for lunch and commiserate about the over-abundance of homework in the second term. Gripes about specific teachers both kids have in common are fine too – within reason. Don’t give out information that may compromise some other kid or was shared with you under a presumption of privacy. Please don’t brag about your kid. It is truly boring to everyone else and no one cares how wonderful your kid is. You have grandparents for that so call them every day if you need to work it out of your system. If on social media please know your posts are forever and other parents can overshare too. Use your best judgement about what you post if it relates to your kid or another mutually known kid. There is a reason teen are fleeing Facebook or not even signing up.
This one is my addition to the list. It is the principle I have followed with my kid and the results are mixed. I probably don’t know her as well as I would like to, we have much less in common than I dreamed we would, we have a large number of disagreements across the board and I may not always be the first to know. There are many mothers (including my own at some point) who are way closer to their daughters and find great mutual comfort in that connection. I found from my own experience that having a best friend in my mother limited me severely in creating the life I wanted and even being able to define my vision of it. I trust my concerted efforts not to be my daughter’s best friend will serve her well in college and beyond.
In summary, being “chill” while a mum is not a goal for the faint of heart. Despite all your efforts, you will make your kids cringe periodically and there will be loud arguments over your “infractions”. They will hold grudges for longer than you like. There will also be those lucky days when your kid is actually proud of you and brags about how cool you are to their envious friends. For me, the most useful advice I got from my daughter was “Help Don’t Hover”. It taught me the value of giving her room to grow, make mistakes, take hard falls and recover. In the age of helicopter and snow-plough parenting, knowing the line is quite difficult. As parents, we experience peer-pressure too. However, if you constantly watch yourself for over-zealous hovering tendencies, chances are you will help set your kid free to blossom into a well-rounded adult.
Author bio: Long time blogger, a first-generation immigrant in America, a single mother of an opinioned teen and excited to write my first guest post for Motherhood: The Real Deal. I read like a maniac both for the love of it and out of necessity. When I started my blog Heartcrossings in 2005, it was meant to be a place to store those small moments with my daughter that happened daily but were still special to me. I feared I would forget them otherwise and my life would be void of its best memories. While my kid features a lot in the blog, I have written about culture, technology, parenting, marriage, relationships, music, art, cinema, literature and poetry over the years.
Picture credit: Designed by Freepik