Do as I Say, Not as I Do…uh…Did - by Elizabeth Allen
I keep finding these little tiny glitches in the system of “parenthood later”. One of them has to do with budding behaviors, attitudes and episodes my 16 year old exhibits that are fairly tantamount to me when I was 16. Now, that said, there are some major differences between the two of us as sweet-sixteeners, not the least of which is 36 years. Am I wrong in thinking parents with a narrower age difference can work these glitches out with more efficiency? Are their behaviors better emulated because they didn’t have the extra time to make more mistakes?
It was a different time and different circumstances. I hit upon 16 in 1975, the product of enormous dysfunction with a wild streak that even Paris Hilton would envy. I had a fake id and was drinking alcohol with friends. I smoked pot (and yes, I inhaled). I was sexually active because I needed love and if a boy wanted me that way, that meant I must be loveable. I ran away twice before the very real threat of juvy inspired me to cool my jets until I could legally run away once and for all at 18. I had an argument with my mother during a drive from Tampa to Atlanta and threw her out of the car somewhere near Valdosta. I didn’t actually throw her from a moving vehicle; just forced her out physically and watched her expression of disbelief in the rearview mirror as I called her bluff by actually driving away. I didn’t go back.
Not a very nice kid. Yeah, well. I’m not proud of that last stunt but over time I did develop skills which have made me who I am today. And I’m very proud of how I turned out. You can develop some pretty nice muscles when you pull yourself up from rock bottom on your own.
On to my daughter. Let me say right up front that she is not a drug-using, sexually active, ruthless chip off the old block. Quite the contrary. She knows all about drugs and has no desire to indulge (but if she did and/or her friends entice her, we talk about it honestly and I would insist they partake within the safe confines of our home…and save me a hit). She was not bounced on the knees of two parents who hated each other, but rather, witnesses daily a mom and dad who are nuts in love. And who love her more than air. That alone gives her value and confidence; no gap that she needs to fill artificially with drugs, sex or anger. She hasn’t thrown me out of the car yet, but she still has her learner’s permit…
So all things considered, she’s really a great kid. The similarities I speak of are mostly an attitude imbalance. She’s tough on me; she yells a lot and she has virtually no patience. In short, I exasperate her. Exactly how I treated my mom. It doesn’t help that she’s hormonal and I’m premenopausal. But while I don’t see her following in my unpleasant footsteps on the road to her evolution, I have to anticipate there may be some detours I didn’t expect. And when those deviations pop up, how do I, in good conscience, tell her “no”? I guess, like any parent, regardless of my unsavory, reckless and fairly debauched youth, I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them.
I just hope this particular fruit fell way far from the tree.