Want to know when you’ve earned big parenting points? Gage it by how much your teens mock you.
By Peter Carter
I WAS MIDWAY DOWN the snowy slope. At the bottom, about half a football field away, were my three teenaged skiers. It was March break and they, as usual, had completed the run before me.
While I may have been a klutz on the slopes, at least I was on the slopes. And I credit my kids for getting me out there. Skiing, something I now love, is a sport I wouldn’t have tried had it not been for them.
Growing up in Sudbury, Ont., skiing eluded me. As a teenager, I was jealous of the kids who wore those cool little wire tags on their jackets after March break. I grew up thinking downhill skiing was the preserve of the privileged. (Weird, I know, but true.)
Then came my own family.
First the twins, and then Michel. One day, when they were in their early teens, the kids wanted to give skiing a shot. I agreed and joined them.
At first, we were all at skiing 101 level, but then they started improving faster. Until one day, as is true with pretty much everything else, they got way better than me.
It happens all the time. One day, you’re showing your cute little preschoolers how to play chess and letting let them win; three games later, they have you in checkmate three moves in. My kids leave me in their dust with regularity. But I digress.
That one memorable day I had stopped for a breather when I glanced down to see 14-year-old Michel falling, flailing and weaving around, his ski poles poking in every direction. He looked like an out-of-control robot with really long slender feet. Think C-3PO breakdancing. His sisters thought it was a hoot. I could hear their laughter from up the hill. When I finally skied down and asked what was so funny, Ewa reported sheepishly, “Michel was showing us how you ski, Dad.”
A similar thing happened to my friend Rodney.
He had teenage sons and a very musical family. One afternoon, he heard someone in the next room, banging away on the family piano. He said it sounded strained and clumsy; whoever was playing was demolishing a 12-bar blues pattern. It hurt his ears.
Rodney entered the room and his younger son Andrew was sitting on the piano bench, his elder brother was standing next to him, laughing. Turns out Andrew was demonstrating “how Dad plays rock ‘n’ roll.”
This gets me to wondering: what does it all mean? Is the fact that our kids are making fun of us to our faces a bad thing? Nope. It means Rodney and I—and any other moms and dads who get teased by their kids—win parenting.
Our kids are so confident that we have their backs and are so sure that we love them that they make fun of us. I am so happy I’m a parent in modern-day Canada. It’s easy to imagine a time and place where young people would simply be afraid to poke fun at their folks. I sure didn’t when I was their age.
It’s not that my parents would have punished us. It’s just that teasing Mom or Dad would have been so far removed from the realm of possibility to be conceivable. But today? In my house? It’s a synonym for love.
Then there’s this: You already know that sometimes, when it comes to your teenagers, you are nothing more than an unpaid Sherpa and a social liability.
Exhibit A: You’re driving your darling 14-year-old to a concert and she’ll have her best friend with her—a kid you’ve probably watched grow up—in the backseat.
They’re talking about what great tickets they have and you chime in with, “I remember once at an Oasis concert when I was…” and before you get another syllable out, a condescending voice from the back puts you in your place.
“Oh Mo-o-m,” it says. (An embarrassed teenager, BTW, has the ability to stretch ‘mom’ out to four syllables.) “That is so-o-o not what we’re talking about.”
So you, firmly schooled, shut up and keep driving. You don’t even mention the fact that you are paying for the concert tickets, chauffeuring your sweet daughter and her buddies to the event, and then, four hours later, after having turned down a glass of Pinot Noir because you have to drive, are heading back into the night to make sure they have a ride home.
On said drive home, don’t bother offering an opinion on the concert. Whatever you say will be the wrong thing.
What’s worse: even though you vow to not take it personally, you do. You’re like, “Am I really that out of touch?”
Newsflash: You’re not.
Newsflash the sequel: It happens to all parents. And the fact is, if your kids weren’t sure of your love, they’d never risk contradicting you. They know they wouldn’t talk to somebody outside the family that way.
Remember a few paragraphs ago when I talked about my kids mercilessly ridiculing the way I ski?
Combine that with the fact that I get to be—depending on the time of day—their resident gopher, personal concierge and/or human, fully stocked ATM and what do you get?
I call it “unconditionally being taken for granted.” It’s a sign that I’ve made it as a parent.
I’ve won this thing!
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