Last night when we were just about to rest from a long and tiring day at work and school, my eldest son – a soon-to-be teenager – decided to confront me about something that has been bothering him for a while now. The conversation went on like this:
Son: Mommy, you know, all my friends have Facebook and YouTube accounts, and they’re allowed to use their gadgets even on a school night!
Me: Ok, you’re clearly upset, but why bring this up now? Where is this coming from?
Son: I just feel it’s so unfair! Like all of them can do the things they like, but me, I’m always not allowed. I sometimes feel out of place when they’re talking about their new Facebook friends or the new video they posted on YouTube. Some of them are so popular now, like they have over 36,000 subscribers and their videos get more than 1 million views. (See related story: Children and the need for regulated gadgets use)
Me: So you feel you’re missing out on all the “fun” because of that?
Son: Of course! They can play and chat all they want, and they can use their gadgets the whole day on weekends. But me, no. Always no! Why are you so strict, mommy?
At that moment, I knew I had to gather whatever energy is left in my body to engage him in what I imagined to be a long (but hopefully peaceful) discussion. So I composed myself and when I was ready, I gently touched his face, looked him in the eye, and said:
Me: Baby, I’m strict, I’m overprotective because I love you so much and I don’t want you to get hurt. Not even a bit. I don’t want you to ruin your future because of these distractions. I’m doing this for your own good. I’m not trying to be mean by ruining your life. You know that, right?
And just like that, my son became more relaxed and open to my next words. He even looked like he was ready to apologize for ranting about something we’ve gone through with many times in the past. I knew what I said was the quick fix to his sudden outburst of emotions, but I wanted to provide a rational explanation as well. So I continued:
Me: I know how you feel, believe me. I was once a teenager and I thought my mom – your lola – was too strict as well. Like I could never go out with my friends and have fun! But you know what? Now that I’m a mom myself, I understand why she had to do that and why she had to be like that. And later on when you have your own family, you will realize that what I’m doing is all for you. For now, though, you’ll have to trust me. You’ll have to believe what I’m saying.
And I continued with a litany of examples and stories to make him appreciate what I was trying to explain to him. He kissed me and hugged me tight, and everything was alright again.
While he was able to go to his room and sleep shortly after our talk, I stayed up and got to thinking. What if I’m really being overly strict and protective? How would I actually know if I am? What if my words won’t make sense to him anymore? What if his friends’ stories about their “fun” life overpower the seemingly harsh reality I’m opening up to him? To say it’s tough is an understatement! It’s like we have to make certain we don’t overstep this uncomfortably thin and almost invisible line to avoid pushing our children too far and hard. (See related story: My biggest fear as a parent)
My hubby told me before that I should probably loosen up with my boys because, well, they’re boys and they should be given more freedom to explore the world. Deep down I know he’s right, but I’m too scared to expose them to the craziness and evil in the world. Deep down I know I’ll have to adjust my parenting style as he grows older, but that’s something I can’t bring myself to do. Or at least not yet.
I may not have the answers right now, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out real soon. I mean I better do because my firstborn’s teenage years are right in front of me. For now, I’ll stick to my emotional + rational approach and hope that my baby #1 will continue to be on my side.