Marin mother of four young adults
We have a perfection problem in my county. That is to say, we expect it. Of ourselves, our children, our partners, our friends. I’m projecting of course (as those who promote the narcissist narrative would say), but as I accumulate experiences with teen truthiness and perfection parenting, I’ve learned a few things:
- Teens will say anything to avoid having their phone or car taken away. Anything.
- The smarter, more high-performing the teen, the better, more believable the lie.
- Parents will want to believe them. Some (head-above-sand) won’t; others (naïve or perfect-just-ask-them) will.
- Parents are loath to admit—even to “concerned” friends who are just as likely gossip-driven harridans—that their kid has made a mistake. Who could blame them? Brand is everything in these here zip codes.
- When information is shared amongst the adults whose kids have made a bad choice, parents get comprehensively defensive. Their child will be running/swimming/playing soccer/hoops at Stanford, thank you very much.
Adolescents experiment, folks. It’s part of it. We’re in the soup. My litmus on these occasions is to tell the other parent if I would want to know. I’m a big proponent of talking about it. Not from a punitive frame but from a mess-up-and-grow place. Mistakes happen. What can we learn?
A couple examples. Let’s say they’re hypotheticals. After cleaning up a girls’ vomit in my daughter’s bedroom (their designated driver couldn’t bring them home because she too had been drinking), I suggest a meeting with parents and kids (including mine) the next night to discuss. I offer to host. Serve tea and cookies! For this, I am informed by one of the parents that it was not my place to suggest such a meeting. Another parent explained that her daughter tells [her] everything and that someone had slipped a drug into the very little alcohol she consumed, which explained the projectile hurling. My response (the lawyer hat) may have been: You will be reporting this felony to the proper authorities, yes? Um, no. She would not. They had “worked it out.”
Another parent may have recently blanched when I shared that her daughter had texted my oldest kid with a request to get alcohol for her. The conversation did not go well. She requested (it was more like a veiled demand) a screenshot of the alcohol ask, which was promptly provided. Because the date of the ask was actually earlier than I thought (thanks to teen truthiness), this mother went into a defensive crouch, accusing me of making an inaccurate accusation—wrong date!—regarding her kid. Were I wearing her shoes, I may have replied with something along the lines of "hey, thanks for telling me."
It’s hard to learn that your teen is … being a teen. As in: experimenting, making mistakes, committing teen truthiness.
I’m so weary of the perfection premium here. It’s hurting our kids and ourselves. We need to allow our kids to be LTP (Less Than Perfect). And—more important—LTPLU (Less Than Perfect Like Us). Can we be okay with sharing, supporting and letting teens know we have their backs, no matter what, but that they aren’t in charge and we aren’t pretending or enabling? It might be too much pressure for them otherwise. Just a guess. Not that I'd know.
Growing up is hard. The guardrails will be breached. We can either be waiting on the other side with a vulnerable, loving heart, disabusing one another of the notion of the perfect child or forging ahead, gaze averted, truthiness blinders in place.