The details aren’t important. The short version being that the wife and I wanted the teenager to do something that she didn’t want to do. That she refused to do. A challenge to authority that we were in no way able to enforce.
Impotence does not mean surrender however. I may lack the ability to follow up on any threats made, but not the ability to articulate my feelings. In this case both loudly and profanely.
Instead of listening to my tirade and capitulating to our wishes, she decided to leave, a tactic that has been used before. When a car pulled in with a boy behind the wheel that I didn’t recognize I made sure that before leaving I obtained both his name and their intended destination. Again, both loudly and profanely.
I didn’t hear what was said in the car as they pulled away, but judging by her social media posts I’d imagine that it was some variation of “see, I told you he was an asshole”. This was probably followed by nodding and commiseration, the other occupants proclaiming their own parents to also being assholes.
I hope they’re right. I hope their parents do set boundaries, do hold them accountable for the things that they do and say, do make them do things that they sometimes disagree with, and do discipline them when necessary. That’s what parenting is. That’s the job, for better or worse.
Here’s another of the hidden secrets that parents of teenagers know, the burden they share : we don’t like it any more than they do. We’d love to just let them do whatever the hell they wanted. To let them learn from their mistakes and go about their lives, free from our intervention or interference. It would be infinitely easier. Too many parents take that approach for exactly that reason.
We don’t want to be assholes, but we have to be. Not because we think they’re stupid, but because we know they aren’t half as smart as they think they are. A subtle difference perhaps, but an important one. We make mistakes, pick the wrong battles sometimes, misinterpret people and situations colored by the prejudices of our own experiences.
It’s these experiences, combined with an intuition impossible to explain and a love and fear that they can’t understand that drive our actions.
We’re not trying to be mean, cruel or *gasp* trying to ruin their lives. We don’t get a “power trip” or satisfaction from getting our way. We hate it. We hate it but we do it anyway, telling ourselves that one day they will understand.
We’re parents, and sometimes that means that we’re assholes as well.