“I’m so going to smoke pot with my children when i’m older”. How many times did i hear that when i was a teenager? The coolest kids in school had parents who’d sit around smoking pot with them and all their mates, sometimes even buying them the odd can of watery lager from the local cash and carry. I still hear similar stuff from time to time, but now it’s more along the lines of “If they’re gonna do it, i’d rather know about it” or “I’d rather they got the stuff from me, at least i’d know where it came from”. To be honest, i’d rather not know. Or at least i’d rather not see it. Of course my children are going to experiment. To be honest, i’d be more worried if they didn’t. It’s a part of adolescence, a time of experimenting and risk taking, an evolution-supported rite of passage into adulthood. But surely you experiment with your friends not with your parents?
Here’s what i believe:
My kids are going to do a lot of this stuff anyway. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, meaningless, fumbling sex, sleeping in holly bushes outside school because you’ve said you’re staying at eachother’s houses (hmm, ok so that one was me). But I want them to have the right morals so that when it really comes to it, they make the right decisions. Fumble about in the back of a car and try and cop a feel under a girl’s bra when she’s not looking, but know to stop when she tells you to. Eat a few space cakes and giggle childishly with your mates, but know it’s time to stop and take care of them when they’re getting weepily paranoid. Tut at your drunken friend in the corner eating faces with a man a few too many years older, but insist you’re going too if she decides a party back at their place is too good an opportunity to miss. I want them to have enough ambition and self belief to mean that all this experimentation and risk taking is a phase and that ultimately they will want more.
My husband believes passionately that choosing the right friends is probably the most important choice any teenager will make. He always uses the example of Euan Blair. Left on his own in Trafalgar Square by his so-called-mates, too drunk to get himself home, prey to sniggering onlookers and passing journalists. Any friends worth their salt would have walked him the 5 miles home, on their backs and being intermittently puked on if they really had to.
As a parent I don’t need to be part of all this. I don’t want to the one they talk to after a night out and tell all the gory details to. Let them do that in a hushed phonecall while whining “Mum, can you stop listening, am i not allowed ANY p-r-i-v-a-c-y”.
I do believe that there is a line between parents and children. An unwritten code. Children learn appropriate behaviour this way. They just need a secure enough framework to know that when a bit of experimentation goes wrong their family WILL be there to pick them up when noone else can. If they’ve popped a pill and their useless friends have left them on their own with no way of getting home, then I absolutely want it to be me they call, but I want them calling with their tail firmly between their legs. I want them to be expecting a bit of tutting on the way home, tediously repetitive pleading with them “to grow up and stop acting so selfishly for a change”. But despite all that they’ll call because they know they’re loved unconditionally, and no amount of foolish behaviour is going to change that.
I don’t want to be their friend. I want to be their mum. A hip, stylish, wise and super hot mum, but a mum all the same.