I had to make the hard decision this week to forgo the friendship I’ve been trying to build with my teen daughter and take on my role as parent first. It seems as though she turned overnight from an engaging, pleasant, well-balanced, happy teen into a sullen, snappy, disconnected lass who was fighting me at every turn. Her school grades have still been reasonably good and she’s performing well in her extra- curricular activities, but it felt to me as though she’d turned on me in the blink of an eye. Then I started noticing her lack of interest and at times lack of manners when family members or friends would visit. Something was definitely up.
She was totally absorbed in the cyber world, solely focused on pop culture updates and tidbits and had little or no interest in interacting with me at all. Our once chatty conversations over meals became one-word answers to my questions and at times no answer at all. Then I discovered she was taking her laptop into her room at night and between texting her friends on her phone or iPod and trawling the internet she was not getting enough sleep. She confessed to going to bed at 1:00am some morings. Suddenly I understood her mood swings. She has always been a grump anytime she doesn’t get enough sleep. Why I didn’t make the connection before simply comes down to not being able to juggle too many balls at once and parenting slip-ups which I have definitely made my fair share of through the fifteen years of single parenthood.
I confiscated her tech gadgets and locked them away and set a bed-time curfew of 09:30pm. Naturally an argument ensued and I was even told ‘I don’t like you right now’ but I am less concerned about being liked than I am about doing my job as a parent and raising a decent human being. And I realised and owned up to her that I’d been trying to be a friend to her which is all well and good if we’re able to achieve that through the minefield of teen challenges, emotions and change, but that my job first and foremost was to be a parent. And sometimes that means I’m going to be disliked, perhaps even hated. But it’s something I’m willing to face if it helps to keep her in balance, turns her into a human being others want to and love to be around and has her be aware of more than just herself in the world. And the handful of books, blogs and reference material I’ve read on parenting through the teen years emphasize one common thing – being a parent over being a friend is paramount in getting them through the formative teen years. Being a friend is appropriate at times, but being a parent is necessary at all times.