Ok, so being a parent of teens is challenging...but it is also so much fucking fun. I am getting to have a second adolescence, which seems fair since my first go round didn’t go all that well. I mean I started drinking at twelve and then that is all I really did until I was 25. Adolescence really skipped right over me as I hid out in the fox hole of alcoholism.
But being a sober mom has allowed me to have the privilege of raising my kids without the ever present threat of alcoholism and all its attendant perils. I mean, I am not saying that I have nailed this whole motherhood thing, but I think I have gotten it more right than wrong and that is really quite a feat these days.
How can I make such a bold statement?
My kids want to spend time with me. They chose it. Not all the time (that would be messed up for both of us). But they still want to go places with me, invite me to go places with them and not just drop them off and they tell me things, personal things about their lives that are things that are not usually shared, most especially with their parent.
I am privileged to receive intimate invitations to their lives. To the lives that occur on screens, late at night that most of us parents only cringe about, worry about and fear. I don’t have an all access pass, to be clear. But I am invited in more often than not. And I know from talking to my friends, this isn’t the norm.
Last night was another night where I moved just a little closer to the inner sanctum of teenagedom. I was invited into the labyrinth of Snapchat...
Now to be clear, I do not really even understand what it is besides an app that requires that you take random ass photos of yourself and unsuspecting other people all the time. And then send those random photos to all your friends. The oddest part about it is that the photos are not saved, unless you follow this complicated three step process. Most of the photos are snapped and then exists for their requisite fifteen minutes of fame and then poof! They are gone forever. Which kind of defies the whole historical purpose of photos. I mean forever we have been taking them to preserve the past for the future...but now, our kids, have turned this all upside down and now photos are just another thing we throw away.
So I was reluctant. But my daughter’s enthusiasm about creating an emoji of me was off the charts. So I relented. She laughed her ass off and that was so wonderful to experience...And now I have a weird cartoon version of me that is standing in as me on this social media platform that I don’t even understand...what could possibly go wrong?
My daughter was absolutely insistent to add me to the platform and then snap all HER friends. Now this is going to get tricky, I know. I made a firm stand that she could not snap me to any of her guy friends because that would be super weird. I mean, "hello, my mom wants to be your friend on snapchat!" It is just too weird. So I drew a boundary but I have no idea when and how that might get crossed because I again, I do not understand exactly what I am doing.
However, in less than fifteen minutes, I was up and running and now have a snapscore of 10. I also have no idea what that means but apparently that is good.
I am sure that I am going to end up regretting this decision and I may have to start a go fund me page for bail but last night it seemed like such an honor to be invited into the hallowed halls of snapchat by my daughter. So no matter how this turns out, I really did enter this realm solely because I was touched to even be considered. Which could be the beginning of every story in my life that turned out badly...
But for now, I am getting to relive my adolescence with and through my daughter. I feel honored to be included and a little terrified of what I am now going to have access to...I am super grateful that I can see where she is at all times. Except I do now know that she can turn that feature off...but I also now know that if she does, she is up to something!
I have never been one of those parents that hover and demand her passcodes. I grew up having a private life from my parents and yes it did almost kill me, but there was nothing their snooping could have done to stop my demise. Seriously. I was on a path and no one but Divine intervention was going to stop it. Not them, not even me. So I know that while my kids are likely doing and saying things online that would cause me to be embarrassed and likely troubled...I have to give them their space to do that. That is what adolescence is all about. Giving them room and privacy to make mistakes while remaining close enough and present enough and not so militant that they can come and talk to you about it all.
While my position on teenage privacy may be controversial and an issue for most other parents, I do not see my teens as ignorant children who know nothing and need to be protected from themselves and each other. And perhaps living in Ojai allows for me to have the opinion I do. But I grew up doing and saying things that my parents would not have approved of and I turned out ok...I mean all things considered. I unfucked my life when I was ready and not a minute before. And while I pray the prayer that every parent prays, that my kids will not make the same mistakes, I know that they will because experimentation with sex, alcohol, drugs and smoking is part of growing up. And I feel like I have a much better vantage point to be included in the fray than if I insist to be admitted and then shadow them like some sort of internet overlord. My kids are not mine. They are their own person. My job is to keep them alive and relatively safe until they take the reigns of their lives and take off on whatever grand or perilous adventure awaits them.
So last night being invited into the inner sanctum of Snapchat was really a huge fucking honor. I didn’t have to threaten or pry my way in. I didn’t have to demand passcodes or log ins. I was just sitting in bed, surfing Facebook if I am honest, and she came in and opened up her world to me. All I had to do was say yes.
I am so in awe of my girl. She is such a force. Such an amazing person: beautiful (inside and out), smart, fun, funny, wise beyond her years, empathic, brazen, tough, and just a little bit of a dick. And she would totally approve of that characterization. I am proud of who she is and how she shows up in this world. I love her spirit and her grit. I am in awe every day of how well she seems to know herself and how she walks this fine line between growing up and holding on.
I am also immensely grateful for a second chance. To be included in her world and get to experience all the cool things kids do today. I mean on a good day I feel about 26 and on those not so good days 13. My actual age does not match how I feel about myself or my station in life. I frequently walk around my house and think “wow, the person in charge here really has a fuck ton of responsibility...” Then I have a little panic attack when I realize that it is me.
And I hope that I never match my chronological age with my mental age. I like this life and this age fluidity I feel. And I love parenting my teens, the highs, the lows, the terror, the hilarity. All of it. I am so grateful to be here with them doing the deal.
Parenting is not easy...for sure. But I feel that all those years of hard labor have somewhat paid off...that one night you can be doing your lame life sitting in bed at 8:30 pm and your whole life can change when your fourteen year old daughter walks in and opens up her world to you. It may not happen the way you think it should, or even as you would like it. But that is not the point. The point really is that it makes sense to her, to them. That they care enough to allow you access to their world, and for me, I will say yes every single time.
So if you hear about me being inappropriate on Snapchat, remember I already told you I don’t know what I am doing. I am just trying to honor the kid by showing up and saying yes whenever I can. Last night it was Snapchat...today who the fuck knows. Tik Tok? That one will be a harder sell because I hate videos of myself but I can see that she, this wild and wonderful girl that I get to raise, can move me over and past my comfort zones and that the learning is not me teaching her, but us learning from each other. Because, actually, teens have a lot to teach us about life, about technology, about who they are and in turn about who we are. There is a lot of room for growth for all of us. And I am pretty sure that growth only comes when I am willing to set aside all I think I know, or should know, and say yes to things like Snapchat. And in the immortal words of edgy Snapchat quotes and captions..."I do what I want." So there.