Between the fear and the fun parents and teens can find a meeting point says Robyn von Geusau.
All around me I see parents parenting in fear, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little and, of course, I am one of them.
Five years ago a friend’s husband died of a drug-related addiction. She now lives in terror, should her 18-year-old son have a drink or a smoke of any sort, that he will become an alcoholic or a junkie. She constantly warns him he is more at risk than any of his friends. It is like a drumbeat in his head.
The father of a little girl I know left when she was 3 years old, never to be part of her life again. Now, as a 12-year-old, she clings to relationships, jealous of any intruders or newcomers, fearful it will lead to a loss. She resists change and her mom, fearful of her fear, now leads a life of frustrated sameness. For various reasons the child should be changing schools, but her mom, predicting her reaction to upheaval, would rather not rock that particular boat.
Yet another mother, who admits losing her virginity aged 15, is now terrified her 14-year-old daughter is headed down the same promiscuous path. She checks up on her obsessively, flings misguided arrows of accusation at her and things between them fall apart on a regular basis.
I was living in a hotel in Hillbrow at the age of 17. It was not as bad as it sounds: I was doing a journalism course and that is where we were expected to stay. Hillbrow then was a different space and place than what it is today and I did have a loving home I could go back to most weekends should I wish. It made me worldy-wise and attuned to the beat of the street. My daughters have simply not had that experience or anything similar so I worry that they don’t know what to worry about.
Of course we are over-protective parents, ferrying, feeding and fussying, barely allowing them to catch an independent breath. And our parents were probably like that too which makes us mad when our maddening, infuriating, beloved darlings say: ‘You are just like your mom!’
We want to be the perfect parents, knowing when to hold, when to let go, when to say: ‘over to you, Sweetheart’. But heck it’s hard when you know the pitfalls, the smooth operators, the temptations. I guess you know you have the balance right when you can also remember the joy, the lack of angst and the knowledge that kids do actually have fun without it always being fraught. What is your biggest fear for your child?
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