My teenagers hated me. Of course they didn’t really, but their behavior seemed to convey that. You know, that snarky, barely acceptable language, accompanied by the mandatory eye roll, (what was in that calvareum that was so interesting that they kept looking up there), the “You’re Embarrassing Me” charge (what, what was I doing breathing?) flew from their mouths constantly.
I tried everything in the Mother’s Make Believe Handbook. I went at them directly like a lion tamer. “No rude behavior, you shouldn’t talk to me that way”. “I am the adult here.” But my efforts of taming my teen lions with a whip and a chair were a disaster, all I did was turn up the heat and make the lion hungrier.
Then I tried guilt. “After all I do for you this is how you treat me?” All that got was so many eye rolls I almost called 911 to make sure my child wasn’t seizing.
I wasn’t above the bribe. I sat at my kitchen table drumming my fingers. “No, Goldfish won’t do it. Gummies are a big no. iTunes gift card? It turns out I couldn’t reward them for being stinkers. It was against the moral code of my motherly religion. Boy this wasn’t easy. You should see the things I used to get them to do for a smiling orange fish cracker. Now I had the feeling if I couldn’t provide something 5’8” and female they weren’t going to be very interested.
Shucks. What I had here was a real problem. But I had to do something. Unchecked these wonderful kids could turn out to be rotten and I wasn’t about to let that happen after eighteen, sixteen, and fourteen years of investment in them.
A problem. A problem. A problem. Then I got it! It was a problem, a math problem and here was the equation
My kid + X = Respectful human being
All I had to do was solve for x, and I was a little ahead of the game since I had already failed a bunch of times. Note, this is the ironic secret magic of managing teens, if we can outlast them, then the game is half won.
So I kept trying. I lowered my New Jersey accented voice in public, I car pooled like I was training with Michael Phelps, Yummy dinners appeared on my table. There was a slight improvement that could only be measured on an incredibly accurate scientific scale, but I still wasn’t getting the warm, respectful tones I yearned for, it felt more like walking on land mines.
But I love math. There’s always an answer and the one thing I had was plenty of will power and investment. So this time I tried silence. I super glued my lips and used my hair dryer on my ears to make sure the path to my brain wouldn’t be hindered by, well, you know.
It worked. After a few days of only listening, only supporting, not jumping in with “the answer” their tone changed. Their shoulders softened and I think the eye roll quotient reached an all time low. And that’s when I struck. “Guys I will always embarrass you, it’s a law of the universe as sure as gravity and it happens between children and their parents since the beginning of time. But if you quietly and respectfully tell me how I can change, I will do my best to respect you. But I won’t tolerate rude or pararude behavior. I am not intentionally embarrassing you, but you are intentionally acting unacceptably and hurtfully to me.”
Wow, before my eyes, my equation was solved. Instead of rolling their eye, an actual light of understanding appeared. Smiles, better behavior….for now. Then onto the next math problem… At least now I am prepared.