A Mohawk for Mom.
Another Friday! Another beginning to a busy weekend. This Sunday is very special for CoupleDumb because it is Lee’s sisters birthday so HAPPY BIRTHDAY AIDI! O.K., she’ll stop reading now and we can move on to our topic of the week which is adolescents. You know those darlings from ages 13-19 who are so fun and exciting. Now, if you’re a parent to one of those darlings then you know damn well that teenagers are some sort of scourge on the planet. What? Too much?
Lee says: Let’s face it, we have all been teenagers. Unless of course you are reading this and you are 12 years of age or younger and to you I say ‘Stop reading this because we say fuck and stuff your parents should be teaching you and not some total strangers’. I became a teenager right before the 80s. So imagine me, cute, preppy with shoulder pads. Yeah, that was me briefly in the 80s.
Then came me at 17 where I shaved my head and popped a bunch a holes in my ear while watching the last season of ‘Happy Days’. Hey, if you had seen the last season of ‘Happy Days’ you would have popped holes in your ears too. I went to Goodwill and bought a whole new used wardrobe and finally allowed myself to express my rebellion. After 12 years of oppressive Catholic education, I was gonna be me! Sure, I went to a Catholic University but trust me when I say, no one noticed me there. Plus, since most of my pals at school were Jewish, it obviously wasn’t as oppressive as grade school and high school.
What was my mother and father’s reaction to this transformation? How do you say freaked the fuck out minus the obscenities? Yeah, my Mom and Dad decided I had lost my mind and every time they saw me, they would emit a tssk noise or roll their eyes. That’s when they were being passive-aggressive but their normal modus operandi is aggressive-aggressive so I was subjected to screaming, lectures and look what you’re doing to me’s. Did this affect me? Sure it did! I just insisted on being me even more.
I remember the thought processes. ‘Mommy hates this jacket that I wear. I think I’ll buy another one just like it.’ I was more independent now. I was still living at home and going to Loyola Marymount which was 16 miles away (but almost an hour with L.A. traffic). I was there all day. I had a job on campus. I had my own money. I was spreading my wings only to come home to hear my parents give me shit and try to clip my new feathers.
As the Mom now, I am very aware of this and watch my 17 year old. I have not done a 180 and become a permissive parent. However, with things like hair, earrings and clothing, I support whatever she wants to do (mind you she chooses things that will not compromise her like leaving a booby out so I have no problem). I encourage her to express herself and have, on more than one occasion, helped her dye her hair.
I realize that she is not me and I am not her. Her image is her own and the world’s reaction to her does not reflect on me. I realize my parents reacted to my transformation as a personal affront to their form of parenting (old fashioned fascism). They assumed my change was a complete rebellion to everything they had taught me and not just a normal process of differentiating myself from them. Differentiation is the most important thing a teen does and is necessary for a healthy adulthood. This is where they say ‘I am not my parents’ and they may follow that up with moving away or becoming the antithesis of who you, as the parent, thought they were.
Our kid is different and we are fine with it. She wants to go far away when she graduates from High School and that’s fine too. We live by a certain philosophy: If you love someone set them free. If they leave, cut off their money and don’t send them gifts.
Paul says: The ironic part of differentiation is that, as they make the statement that they are different then their parent, they simultaneously become their parents. My children will ultimately become (at least in part) me. Ok. Now I’m scared. I have to go get my shit together.