Yesterday I faced a parenting dilemma.
See, I don’t let my kids just roam the streets, I need to know where they’re going, who they’re with, the address of their friends place they’ll be at. In fact I’d like to have MET the parents of their friends, but it’s a weird thing that happens when they become teenagers because other parents don’t seem to care about that anymore – meeting the parents. I mean we could be crack smoking axe murderers but they merrily send their kids over to our place without sussing US out.
Maybe I’m a little too overprotective, I don’t know.
We’ve just moved after nearly seven years back to our old neighbourhood. My recently turned fourteen year old son has been pushing more and more for his freedom, and I’ve been giving it, reluctantly, nervously, inch by inch. Things like allowing him to go to the skate park by himself. I don’t really like skate parks, but hey, his passion is skateboarding and he IS fourteen now, and well, you’ve got to give them a chance to prove they can be trusted don’t you?
So yesterday my son comes home and gets changed in a flash,which is unusual – he doesn’t do anything in a flash- ever. So the first alarm bells went off in my head.
“Can I go and swim down at the Jetty with Jayden?” he says halfway out the front door.
In my head I’m thinking….swimming? Unsupervised? At the lake? Where there have been reports of blue ringed octopus and SHARKS?”
“Uh, no. I don’t want you swimming in the lake.” I said.
“Why not?” he says.
“I don’t think it’s safe. Haven’t you seen the reports in the paper about sharks?”
Of course he hasn’t. What’s a newspaper? Oh those tiresome things mum makes me pick up off the driveway.
“Can I go swimming in Jaydens pool then?”
“Ok, yeah, you can do that. DO NOT go swimming in the lake.”
He’s down the driveway, disappearing round the hedge…
“DID YOU HEAR ME? No swimming in the lake!” I yell.
I hear a mumble…. “Yeah, yes mum!….”
Then he’s gone.
And then I panic because my gut instinct is saying “Something is not right.”
My sixteen year old daughter (the informer, who just LOVES to get her brother into trouble) has been listening to this exchange and she says.
“You know, all day at school they’ve been practising front flips off walls and things onto CONCRETE at school? He’s going to go to Jayden’s or the jetty so they can do front flips.”
So in my head now I’m hearing ambulance sirens, seeing wheelchairs in our future or worse…planning funerals.
God I hate my head.
“He won’t go to the jetty.” I tell my daughter.
“He’s scared of things in the water.”
But, I know…I just KNOW, he is going to the jetty to give himself a spinal injury, or have his legs chewed off by a bullshark. Or at the very least he’s going to this kids pool to crack his head open on the side.
I stand in the doorway to my husbands office and explain the situation.
“What should I do?” I ask him.
“I don’t know…go down and see if he’s at Jayden’s. Talk to Jayden’s mum.”
“But then I’ll look like an idiot. What will I say? Just checking up on you to make sure you’re still a responsible parent and watch your kids like a hawk in the pool as they just paddle around nicely and calmly and throw plastic balls to each other in the water?”
This is what I’m thinking. I may have said it, I’m not sure. My head was in a spin.
“I can’t do that.” I said.
“Well then don’t.” said my husband.
(Sheesh, he is useless in a crisis!)
“I don’t know what to do!” I wailed.
“I don’t want kids!”
I decided, yes I would go down to Jayden’s (who by the way we DID know from years ago when we lived here.) at least at the pretense of saying “Hi” and give her our new phone number “just in case” seeing as my son is spending a fair amount of time with her son now.
So as I’m getting changed and doing my hair a bit more respectably, my daughter is hanging around watching the unfolding drama with glee.
“He’s going to be doing front flips you know. He’ll probably end up at the jetty with a whole bunch of them there. You should punish him.”
“Punish him? He hasn’t even DONE anything that we know of YET.”
“Yes, but you should punish him in advance anyway.”
Punish the brother.Torture the brother. Kill the brother!
Such sibling love.
So down at Jayden’s house I face a situation.
There is a thick heavy dog lead tying up the front gate and it looks like it’s saying “Do not come in the gate!” and I spot a large dog lying on the front veranda who looks like he is saying “I will rip your leg off if you come in the gate!”
I do not go in the gate.
There are no sounds coming from the backyard where the pool is.
I knew all along that he was at the damn lake.
So I march down the hill, in the wind, hair and skirt flying and there in the distance, what do I see?
Yeah…three of them and one is my son. Front flipping off the jetty into the shark infested lake!
Even though my eyes are bad I could see my son because he’s the one suddenly standing dead still, like petrified wood, on the edge of the jetty.
I don’t have to do anything. Just stand there with my hands on my hips, wild hair flying and he slinks up the hill towards me.
I don’t say anything for a while…he’s just slinking behind me looking very… sprung.
“It’s a matter of trust.” I finally say.
“I expect you to be where you have told me you will be.”
He looks a bit ashamed, but more sprung than anything else.
“I told them…I said I wasn’t allowed…It was peer pressure mum.”
Oh my LORD!
Now he’s blaming peer pressure?
I honestly couldn’t respond at first beyond snorts and wildly rolling eyes.
“You have your OWN mind. It’s there in your head. Use it!”
Anyway, so he’s grounded.
It’s the principle really.
I told him my trust bucket is now empty.
I showed him this….
Ok, so I know the chances of him being eaten by sharks swimming in the lake are very remote, and I understand peer pressure IS something he will have to deal with more and more, and I realise that teenagers don’t always (never) do as they are told (Yeah..I know. I WAS one.) But I want him to know that I DO mean what I say, and I WILL check up on him.
Such a shame you can’t sell ’em on ebay.