Beware… They’re Going to Happen
By Rajdeep Paulus @rajdeeppaulus
I never wanted to have kids. Shocked? Truth is, long before I got married, ever kissed a boy, or even stepped out of high school, I freaked out at the thought of raising a teenage me. Because I was bad. Not your Miley Cyrus, twerkilicious-type of bad, but I definitely lied to my mom. On several occasions.
“Going to the library to study. Don’t wait up.” And off to a Sined O’ Conner concert I drove.
“Nope. Nothing exciting happened last night while you were out of town.” Meanwhile, the engine radiated I beg to differ heat from the ten-hour round trip commute to Toronto for a few hours of high school mischief.
Toronto? Isn’t that like Canada?
Umm, yeah. We crossed the border with cash in our pockets and music a’blaring, screaming, “Road Trip!” out our windows. Just glad we made it home without any traffic tickets and well before the parents arrived.
So the thought of having my own kids someday, who might pull similar or worse pranks, terrified me.
The one time I did get caught, I totally asked for it. When I called the school a few days after skipping school, pretending I was my mom, I turned on my best Indian accent and left this message: “I am calling to inform you that my daughter Rajdeep was feeling very sick, and that is the reason why she was unable to attend school on Monday, January 6th.”
The moment I hung up the phone, doubt seeped in. Did I? Was that the? OMG! “Sandi! Sandi!” I screamed my younger sister’s name, “What day was last Monday?”
“January 5th? Why?”
So, like an idiot, I called the attendance office back. “I am so sorry. I believe I said the wrong date on the prior message regarding my daughter Rajdeep’s absence from school. It was actually January 5th, not sixth.” Click.
And of course the nurse called my house until she talked to someone to verify the date. “Rajdeep was never sick this past week.” Busted.
So on the morning of our firstborn’s impending arrival [My water broke early August 30, 2000. Apparently, I didn’t just pee in my jammies, the nurse left the delivery room after telling us, “Today’s the day. You’re having your baby, today.”
I immediately turned to Hubby, lower lip quivering. “I’m not ready.”
I had such grand plans. Read a bunch of books on parenting. Get my personal act together so I could be the best example for this little person who I was bringing into the world and would watch my every move. Become perfect. So I could be a perfect mom. Am I the only one who thinks like this right before childbirth? In between contractions, of course.
Well, as you might have guessed, that’s just not how life happens. The only ducks that were in order were the little yellow rubber duckies lined up on the rim of the bathtub, awaiting their first giggling baby bath time. And even those cute little guys had to wait a bit before our first princess could grasp them between her tiny little fingers.
Four princesses and little over a decade later, we’re entering our teen years. And the debates have begun. Ready or not, life has come full circle, except this time I’m the mom and my thirteen-year old is asking the same questions I asked just yesteryear. And then some.
SO here are the conversations happening in my house. Some just starting. Some knocking at the door. Some en route in the near future. Like a good weather report, I see the storms a’coming.
1. Date or wait.
Should you let her date? What age? And then comes in the where, when and how often? And beware the sexting that goes on between teens in crush these days. Talk to her about boundaries before she gets in those situations. And a note to Dads and Grandpas: take your daughter/grandchild to dinner and show her early on, how a young lady deserves to be treated.
2. Brown or other.
Does he have to be Indian? From the same part of India? Speak the same Indian language? These were the stipulations a lot of us grew up with. Personally, I prefer to teach my girls to examine a boy’s character on the inside. The outside is icing.
3. Ivy or No-vy.
College was always a non-debate. You’re Indian? You’re going to college. Truth is not every person was meant to do the college thing and some kids do better in school after taking some time off and returning to academics. Being flexible could result in some saved heartaches, not to mention cold hard cash not totally wasted.
4. Sari or dress.
On that special occasion, family wedding, or portrait time, does your teen always have to wear her ethnic garb? Let her find her style, what she feels comfortable in her skin wearing. Force the glitter glam of Indian clothes too hard and you’ll find when she’s an adult, she might host a sari burning fest. Just sayin…
5. Long or short.
Black or blue. Her hair is beautiful. You’ve held off on letting her cut it all this time. Black, silky, long enough to braid, swoosh up or wear like a waterfall down her back. But she wants to chop it. It can always grow back. Personally, when it comes to the external, I try to think of the old adage, pick and choose your battles. I’d rather see her speak with integrity rather than keep her long locks and be cursing me to her friends for not giving her any choices or freedom.
6. Short or short-short.
Bikini or tankini. Strapless or spaghetti strap. This goes along with Uggs, NorthFace, Coach and all the other latest and greatest name brands out there that “everyone” has. Truth is, there’s a fine line between influencing and shaping your daughters to letting them find their style and signature look. I think modesty is important, but so is the cute factor and feeling pretty. I find when my girls start wanting what others have to the point of an emotional meltdown, a different conversation has to happen. The one about what defines you? Where do you get your self worth and what affects your self esteem. And as much as I grew up with a who cares what people think chip on my shoulder, I’m a little more balanced now and I find that you can choose a wardrobe that shows you respect yourself and others around you and still sings, “I gotta be me” to a sweet tune.
7. Meat or veggie.
Carbs or protein. Eat or starve. And these decisions could be faith-based or health and body related or she could really be sick from such low self-esteem, she could be hurting herself. Practice balanced eating. All things in moderation, and keep the dialogue open. And don’t be ashamed (as so many of our parents refused to tell others the family junk for fear of reputation) to ask for professional help. Especially if she’s going from sad to depressed to anorexia or bulimia. Don’t close your eyes and foolishly hope it’ll just go away or fix itself.
8. Friend or Unfriend.
Social media is the ultimate cursed blessing. On the upside, you’ll be up to date on your daughter’s comings and goings, find out if her relationships get complicated and see pics of her and her friends. On the downside, you’ll be up to date on your daughter’s comings and goings, find out if her relationships get complicated and see pics of her and her friends. Seriously. A lot of teens block posts from their parents and what did you expect? She needs to feel like her parents aren’t stalking her. She needs a bit of space to breathe, just as we did when we were her age.
9. Tie the knot or just date and wait.
And wait. And wait. And as your girls move from high school to college, the questions just won’t be asked. Your girls will want to experiment. With their hair color, body jewelry, and boyfriends. They’ll want to know they decided for themselves how many earrings line their lobes and what defines the right time to move forward in a committed relationship. The hardest part of this as a parent will be letting go. Trusting that you’ve shared your feelings, your opinions, your views and your understanding of healthy choices.
Direct them to blogs on healthy communication and relationship skills. Something like PAIRS for Peers is a great resource of tools for teen talk. But at some point, you have to let go of her wings and let her fly and find her way. Assuring her that she can always come home. You’re always here for her. Because if and when that boy rejects her, she needs to know her parents haven’t rejected her too and she has a place to go. She needs to come home. And that can only happen if she knows it’s okay to come home.
10. Talk or listen.
Text or tweet. Wait or walk away. Forgive or forgive. The ultimate gift we can give our girls is an open line of communication. And skills to know how to communicate and how to work through conflict. Because there’s no way around it, put two people, any two people in a space together and at some point they will disagree. Your marriage is a good place to start: invest in it. Learn how to work through things with your spouse. Let your girls see and hear you fight, but also make up. And then invest in your kids. Roll play fair fights. Point out unhealthy language and patterns that only lead to escalation rather than resolution and intimacy. Be honest. None of us has it all together or all figured out. When you mess up, fess up and when your daughter does wrong, forgive her. Nothing heals a relationship like the gift of forgiveness. Live free and encourage your daughters to too.
So that’s my short list of what to expect. I don’t have all the answers. You and yours have to iron out what works for your family, but just wanna warn you: the questions are coming. Don’t bury your head in the sand and wait for the winds of time to blow by. You might miss the chance to teach your child how to make informed and healthy choices. How to talk through disagreements. And how to seek advice and develop tools to manage the madness of life. Because the madness they have no choice about. How they muddle through, remembering they are not alone, will make all the difference.
About the Author:
Rajdeep Paulus, author of Swimming Through Clouds, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of this past June, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.
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