Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why Don't You Need A License to Parent?!

The word "license", according to Wikipedia, means to give permission.  We need a license or need to take a class for everything, driving a car, getting married, selling houses, etc.  Yet, for one of the most challenging, rewarding, hardest jobs on the planet, we don't. Anyone schmuck can have a child, thus making them a parent.  Why are people not forced to take a class before they can become parents?

We head into parenting without any knowledge, hauling our own baggage, histories of our own parents mistakes, fears, phobias, idiosyncrasies, yet we are allowed to shape, mold and teach the next generation.  It is just plain scary!

I had my first child at 36 years old. The positive side of having children older is I got to watch many friends and family make mistakes along the way.  We all parent differently, and while I don't judge anyone's parenting style, (mostly because I understand the second paragraph of this post) it is sometimes harder not to judge when I see some life altering mistakes being made.

Last week my niece, who has always been extremely sensitive (the kid used to tear up when she was 2 years old during Hallmark commercials or when she was talking about something sad), posted something on her Facebook wall that worried me and I just had to call her.  I noticed messages from friends who were saying they were sorry about what had happened during the day. She is 15, what could have happened during the day?

When I called, I asked are you physically OK? I know that at 15 to ask if you are OK would be crazy. No one at 15 is OK. They maybe alright but there is a lot going on at 15 hormonally and mentally.  When she told me she was physically OK I asked if it was about a boy. It was! Surprise, surprise.

She, wanting to be honest with her parents had gone to them and asked if it was OK for her and this boy to get together, watch movies, hang out with each other. Her parents, being like the rest of us, people who didn't need an education to be a parent told her that this boy, who is older than her, is trying to get in her pants, and will eventually go to college and leave her.

Ummm...OK...while I get the wanting to be an adult and warn this young teen of the makings of a typical guys head and how it works, I think they missed an opportunity.

What they taught her, was to lie. Go behind their backs for the things she is passionate about.  Most teenage girls (not the girls on Maury) at this age, in case anyone has forgotten, which her mother obviously has, are not thinking about sex.  The act of sex is scary. They are romanticizing holding hands, calling someone a boyfriend, hugging and kissing a boy. To even put that thought in her head makes her think about it. Try to keep them apart and she will do what she has to in order to get him/keep him.

What she and this 17 year old boy were asking to do, was watch a movie and hang out. These are things that if my daughter had asked me, I would hope that I would say, "Yes, he can come over here when Daddy and I are home. You can watch a movie in the living room with us. We would love to meet him."

Then I would make sure that The Teach and I were home. There would be rules. They would not be allowed to go to her bedroom unless they kept the door open. Allowing them the time to be together without being alone would show her that I trust her to make the right decisions for herself, under my supervision of course.

If this boy were pressuring her to go further than she wants, I would trust that she is smart enough to know what her boundaries are. The only way to do that, is to talk openly about making the positive choices without scaring her. There would be plenty of time to have the "he's trying to get into your pants talk."

Shutting the door on this relationship, as her parents have, creates a bigger problem. She wants to be with this person. She will eventually lie to do so. Teens who are kept apart will find a way to be together. Plus, this will affect everything for her. Why? Because she is passionate and feels she knows what she wants. They are not even giving her the chance to see if this isn't what she wants. Maybe by spending time with him, she will see he is not the person for her and move on.

In no way, am I advocating that she and this boy date. She is 15 but, this first relationship, positive or negative will affect the way she deals with all others.

My suggestion to her was, try not to bring this up. Your parents, are not going to wake up tomorrow morning and tell you they have changed their minds.  Try to show them that you are the smart girl, I know you to be and that you can handle this. By acting like the angsty teen they think you are, they feel they made the right decision for you. Put this away for a week or two, busy yourself with friends, school, and crew and revisit it again telling them that you would like them to reconsider and invite him over for dinner and a movie with your family.

Kids grow up so fast, parents need to make sure they are doing the best they can without being selfish or judgmental. You cannot tell someone how they feel. If your teen says, this boy is perfect or the guys worth fighting for, that is how they feel!  Telling them how you think they feel, is not the answer! Don't close the door on your teens feelings or honesty because you are uncomfortable with the conversation. The only way to get through the teen years, is to be open and allow your teen the room to be their own person. In the long run, it is the only way to have a lasting, loving, relationship with them.


  1. As long as I have to push, have major pain, and suffer through childbirth like I did twice, that is all the license I need.

  2. Anonymous7:31 PM

    aunt maria. i honestly have to tell you i loved that blog post. it made me cry but i also jumped up and down because that is exactly everything i wish i could've said andeverything that was in my mind but wasnt in words i wish my mom could see that that was an amazing post i wish my mother saw things the way you did. i love you and thank you

  3. Anonymous11:44 PM

    My mom let me date at 15. I ended up having sex in the back seat of this boy that I thought I was in love with. Less than a year lated he cheated on me with my best friend. I was crushed beyond belief and contemplated suicide. Yes this first relationship affected every relationship that I had after it. IF my parents had been more watchful and strict, this might not have happen. Every parent knows their children better than anyone else and they probably know the boy that she was to date. IF they think she isn't ready for it, or that HE isn't the first boy she should date, then maybe they have a reason for it. Maybe if she continues to want to date him they will give in. BUT I believe it is WRONG for an adult role model in her life to take opposition on her parents on such an important issue. You've completely disrespected her parents' authority and made her think it's ok to do so.

  4. As a parent we learn everyday. No class will help with that. Each parent and each child are different. Maybe a class to be able to tell you the things that you may go through.
    But also i think the parents are scared that there daughter will do something that might mess up her life. Yes it might make a difference if they heard her out to see what she had to say. I think kids do think about sex not just think but do. But yes when a parent does say no some kids will go against what there parents have to say.
    I hope all works out with the girl and her family and the boy.

  5. Boy, I'm totally with you on this one. My husband and I were foster parents for 6 years and we handled some pretty messed up kids. Mind you some of these poor kids were under 3 months old and they got damaged. Burned us out completely. Glad we did it and my own kids got an eyefull and hopefully better parenting skills.

  6. Ok Ok no one here is getting Maria's point especially Anonymous.
    1. Maria I am behind you fully with this one. Being a parent is a very difficult job and we learn more and more each day and unfortunately it is due to our mistakes most of the time. However one thing that is very important is to have an open relationship with your child. A child should feel that they can talk to their parent(s) and feel comfortable enough to say anything or ask anything. A parent should be a best friend and an authority figure at the same time. I was in a similar situation as your niece and I learned exactly as you predicted for her; to lie and go behind my parents' backs. If my parents would have been more open with me and made me feel more open with them I would not have done half of the things that got me into trouble. My son is 14 and I am very open with him. He and the majority of his friends come to me when they need to talk and/or just talk freely in front of me. They don't feel as though they have to hide anything.
    As for (Anonymous), I disagree with your statement regarding Maria teaching her niece to disrespect her parents. The statement should really be, "Thankfully this young girl has an adult to talk to that cares about her even though her parents' heads are stuck in the sand." Furthermore, if the girl's parents did have a good reason for not allowing her to date the boy then this reason should have been stated to their daughter. He just wants to get in your pants is not a reason it is an assumption which unless proven, by facts does not make any sense whatsoever.
    Everyone has their own parenting style and beliefs, however we all share a common interest and that is hopefully our children. What matters most is them. They are individuals who we mold into the adults that they become. They need guidance and love. They need someone to talk to who's been through it, who's their to just listen and who loves them unconditionally. Maybe if there were more people like Maria and more parents that cared enough not to judge their children, were not afraid to talk to them and were not afraid to realize that they are growing up then there would be less teen suicides!!!!!

  7. I think many parents forget how it felt to be teenagers. A parent's guidance, trust, and supervision are so important. To brush off and trivialize a teen's emotions builds walls. I think that the things Maria suggested would build bridges between the teen and the parents, keeping the teen safe while allowing her room to learn and grow on her own with parental guidance.

  8. I have to agree with Angels on this one. Nowhere did Maria try to undermine her neice's parents. She specifically told her NOT to try and go behind their backs but to busy herself with her friends and her school work and then to try and talk to her PARENTS again in a couple of weeks.
    I know how much Maria loves her neice by the way she writes about her in this blog and the photos she takes of her.
    I, too, was a strict parent but a very open parent as well. My boys had rules but knew they could come to me about anything and they did and still do (at the ages of 20 & 23).
    BTW, Maria... I have been saying for years that it makes no sense that you need a license to catch a fish, but any asshole can be a parent.
    In CT when you get divorced with children, both parties DO have to take a parenting class.


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