Ask Amy: Parents must step up before son steps out
DEAR AMY: I am the mother of a 13-year-old boy. My son is a good student and a nice kid, and he has a passion for music. Recently he befriended a couple of kids who share his passion, and we’ve supported their friendship by welcoming them into our home to play music, taking them to “open mike” nights at local coffeehouses, etc.
These boys have parents who are a bit more “hands off” than we are. They allow their boys to hang out in the local parks unsupervised. We told our son we wouldn’t allow him to have such freedom at this age, even though he has other friends (whose parents’ style is more in line with ours) we do let him do similar things with. We let him hang with these buddies because we know and trust these kids and parents to do the right thing.
Needless to say, my 13-year-old thinks we are unfairly judging his friends when we allow him to do similar things with one group but not the other. I feel as though I am stuck in a no-win situation: My gut tells me I don’t let my kid roam aimlessly around town, hanging out in parks and grocery stores with his buddies for hours on end, but my brain tells me the best way to have a 13-year-old rebel is to forbid him to hang out with friends we aren’t overly thrilled with.
The last thing I want is my bright, talented kid to make bad choices and end up in a bad situation. What should we do here? -- Scared
DEAR SCARED: Be the parents. Do your job. Mainly, being the parent of a 13-year-old is pretty awesome. But sometimes it involves putting your foot down, even if you think it might get stomped on by an adolescent’s sneaker. Your reasoning is completely logical, even if your son tries to gaslight you that it is inconsistent.
You are not forbidding your son from hanging out with friends. You are inviting him to hang out with friends at your house. Your message should be, “We don’t know these other kids or their parents well enough to feel comfortable with their judgment. When we do feel comfortable, we’ll let you know.”
The fact is that your son could set out for the park with one group of friends and then pull a switcheroo and hang out with the other kids. That’s why these park jaunts should be finite.
But don’t assume that your son will rebel in dramatic ways. If this assumption compels you to act against your instincts, then basically you are letting the logic of a 13-year-old run your parenting choices.
DEAR AMY: My wife received a phone call from her cousin yesterday regarding the engagement of the cousin’s grandson. She told my wife that she was excited to announce that her grandson Justin was engaged to his boyfriend, Paul.
My wife offered her congratulations, and they discussed the details of the wedding. The only problem is that my wife did not know this cousin is gay. It felt as though there was a step missing: not being told of her cousin’s sexual orientation first.
When my wife discussed this with our adult daughter, she called us both “nonprogressive” for needing to be told that the cousin is gay. Is this a generational thing, or are we truly being nonprogressive? -- Confused Baby Boomers
DEAR BOOMERS: You can tweak your “progress-o-meter” with your daughter by being consistent.
The next time she tells you about an upcoming marriage between a female and male friend, you can say, “Oh, that’s great. But give me a minute to get my bearings because I didn’t know they were straight!”
DEAR AMY: “Aunt” was wondering about talking to her sibling about her out-of-control kids. I tried this once, but my sister became enraged, and it took years to repair the relationship. I wish I had stayed silent. -- Also Aunt
DEAR ALSO: Overly sensitive and easily enraged parents tend to raise challenging children, so that all makes sense.
Write to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.
2012 by the Chicago Tribune
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