We wrapped up the ManChild’s freshman year of High School and I am breathing a sigh of relief. I had my worries, but they were largely much to do about nothing. He is still a teenager, and teenagers will teenage. However, what I didn’t anticipate was his need for independence. So let’s talk about teen independence.
We maintain a very open and honest relationship with our son. We are not his friend, best friend, little friend or any other type of friend. We are his parents, period. We have his best interest at heart and our goal is to raise a very independent and productive member of society. That means giving him independence, this is a new level of trust for all of us but one that is necessary.
Below are a few scenarios that required us to give our teen controlled independence. I’m happy to say they worked out well, but there was a lot of time and effort that went into the planning and maybe a bottle of wine or two.
My son started his freshman year at 13 years old, two months later he turned 14. I say all of this to say he was the youngest in the entire school, he skipped a grade. This means these kids have a little more maturity on him, not smarts though because he runs circles around them. Typically we wouldn’t get to this stage until he was 14 going on 15 years old.
The Manchild has a cell phone, we can track him geographically via Google Maps or the Life 360 app when needed. We can also call and text him when needed; understanding that he is unavailable during class time and when he is actively practicing or performing a sport. Husbabe also has full access to his phone and can see who is texting, what they are saving and every movement he makes with his phone.
The Talk: With the kids growing up in a cellular world we have to discuss bullying, cursing, and sexting. We talked to him about the importance of not participating in bullying. These kids committing suicide due to bullying at younger ages and more frequently. This is more than playing the dozens like many of us did as children, and it comes with severe consequences and repercussions. The greater part of the talk is sexting, I stressed not sending pics of your privates, what to do if someone sends you a pic of their privates and not to engage in pics that the homeboys may send of a girl. The simple viewing and forwarding without reporting can ruin your entire life.
Sexting: Sexting is sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs, or images, primarily between mobile phones, of oneself to others.
The Dozens: Participants insult and use other verbal rudeness with each other until one gives up.
The first quarter of the year the ManChild played High School football. This meant he had to start two-a-days during the summer. This was our first round at controlled independence. He was leaving early in the morning and coming home late evening like he had a job.
Second Quarter he wrestled and their schedule was rigorous. It had him leaving school at Noon and riding over an hour on the bus for a match. That GPS app came in hand. However, he has to be accountable for getting his work completed and turned it on time. Even on the nights where they didn’t get back to school until 11 PM.
The Talk: We talked to him about having what he needed each day. This meant a clean practice uniform, a solid lunch, healthy snacks and enough water/Gatorade to keep him hydrated during the 100+ temps. We stressed the importance of good sportsmanship, being a good person, a good teammate, keeping up with his things and staying out of the locker room drama. He was a freshman so there was some hazing that came into play too. We explained that it is natural for that to happen however nobody should be putting their hands on you or getting in your personal space. We had to discuss this one a lot, a few kids tried him.
Two-A-Days: When a team trains on two occasions during the same day.
I was thrilled that my ManChild wanted to attend the Homecoming Dance. He went to the game the night before and got cleaned up for the dance the next night. He went solo and met up with friends at the school. He isn’t a kid that likes fanfare but I was happy he allowed the family over to see him off. I admired his confidence in going to the dance alone; he had only been at this new school for two months.
The Talk: Being safe at the game, what to do if a fight breaks out, and how not to get caught up in the rivalries that sometimes take place. For the dance, I only asked that he be safe, have fun, and dance. We talked about what to do if a fight breaks out. What to do if there is a shooting (Yes, these are the talks that we must have with our kids now.) I need to know that he knows what to do, I need him to always make it home alive. I didn’t want him to be so weighed down that he didn’t have fun.
When I picked him up I was thrilled to hear that he had such a great time and that he danced. He had his jacket off, he was sweating and he turned up. I never want real life to be so heavy that he can’t and doesn’t soak up the moment.
*sigh* The one you wish you can put off but you can’t. We entered into the girlfriend scene in 8th grade. It was very pure and respectful and honestly a bit mature. My experience was not so kudos to the kids who are not wildin’ out. They chatted and text and saw each other at school. I would check his text chats from time to time making sure they were respectful, and they were every time. *wipes brow* However I still talked to him about sexting as mentioned above and being a respectful young man and being respectful of this young lady. It is never too early to discuss NO MEANS NO! This year he kicked it up a bit and went on a chaperoned “date”. That meant more talking about being a gentleman and making sure you don’t spend beyond what you have. I did not allow him to buy her ticket. They are kids, she can buy her ticket and he can buy his own. She paid for her food and he paid for his. I talked to her Mom the night before, I dropped him off at their house the next day and chatted with her Mom a little more. She took them to the movies, they got lunch and she drove him back home. Very PG as it should be. It is essential to talk to the other parent. You need to know that their morals are in line with yours. I was very clear on where I stand with things and if the parent was not on the same page than my kid isn’t going. PERIOD!
Gifting While Dating:
I coached him on the rules of gifting for Valentine’s Day. He has no job and she has no job that means no elaborate gifts. Also note, I don’t spend my money on his Boo. He had to use his money to buy a gift. He wanted to get her a bracelet from Alex & Ani, I supported that idea. They have nice jewelry that won’t break the bank and nothing that will be alarming to her parents when they see it. I told him he couldn’t spend any more than $30 on said gift, it was on sale so it was even cheaper than he expected. There was a gentleman in the store giving me the fist bump for teaching him right. Note: He could have done this with dad, but he came to me so we did it. Don’t get caught up in the gender roles, the kids will talk about it with the parent they are most comfortable discussing this topic with.
Parties Outside Of School:
The Manchild was invited to the Bowling Alley for a classmates birthday. We dropped him off and allowed him to hang out for a few hours and then picked him up. We had similar talks as mentioned already. However, this one required a little more. I talked to him about how innocent competition can turn into a random shootout. I hate this part of parenting but it is necessary, my goal is for my son to come home safe and unharmed every night. My mother didn’t need to have these type of conversations with me. We talked about scoping out the exits, places you can hide if you can’t get out. I told him to remove himself from a situation if it seems like it is escalating even if he has nothing to do with it. Bad things happen to innocent people all the time. I reminded him to text us on the low if he needed or wanted us to come and get him at any time. If something was going on text us if you can’t call.
Being timely is essential to the trust process. Your child needs to know where they need to be and what time they need to arrive. Conversely, they also need to know the time they need to be picked. Where you should meet them for the pickup. Are they near the football field around back or the front of the school? If something changes they should notify you ASAP so everyone is on board.
You have to give to get. This is a push-pull situation-ship but it requires boundaries. Without boundaries, things can go left quickly.
Our children are a reflection of us, they need to be respectful at all times. Just because we aren’t around isn’t a pass to act a fool. I know your parents told you that when you were a child too.
My son had to learn this the hard way. Don’t come to me with some vague mumbling. Your teen to know exactly what they want to go, where they want to go and have a general time
I had to go real old school on him for this one. Don’t have a parent call me asking me about something you as my child have not discussed with me. I will NOT answer their call, you tried it.
If you don’t have trust between you and your child then this entire house of cards will fall. They are teens so they will mess up and get it wrong sometimes. However, this is how they learn.
Are you tired yet? I am but these are very necessary conversations to have. We live in a good area, but I can’t be too safe. I would rather him be over-prepared than under-prepared. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to say nothing at all.