I’ve got some friends out there who are badass mothers. Good thing I’m a half- (OK, half- to full) generation removed from parenting kids concurrently with them, because they also happen to be excellent writers. Nuff said, right?
I knew I was going to like Nina Badzin’s recent (June 27, 2016) article in Motherwell, “Call me Mrs. Badzin,” from the very first half of the very first sentence:
In one of our earliest parenting arguments…
So much, in seven words:
1. The assumption of parenting arguments;
2. The recognition that they came early;
3. The implication that they continue.
And we haven’t even gotten to the meat of her article yet! Which I also happen to like, which is that eventually Nina decided to agree with her husband and encourage (Nina’s general take) or demand (my understanding of her husband’s take) that the friends of their children address them as Mr. and Mrs. Badzin.
I believe the point at which I was called upon to make this decision was much like the one Nina describes:
The first time my opinion shifted was the day that Sam, four at the time, had a new friend over for a playdate who walked up to me and said, “Mrs. Badzin, may we please have a snack?” Call me Nina was on the tip of my tongue, but I realized that this little boy calling me Mrs. Badzin was not about me. It was about his parents’ wish for their child to demonstrate respect, and there was no question those parents had succeeded.
Unfortunately, most of my kids friends did call me Donna, so I think (hard to remember, now) I wasn’t moved sufficiently to act as Nina did. And I do think its unfortunate, if only because I feel there’s a trend toward societal infantilization of adults that is not doing our kids, or us, any good.
I’m not talking about parental authority run amok, but I am talking about the very tough parenting decision my friend Angela Johnson recently made regarding her teenaged boys and cell phone use into the wee hours of the morning. Regarding her June 14 “Words by Angela” blog entry, titled “Talking to Teens When Tragedy Happens. Oh, and Cell Phones…” , I think I cued in to the cell phone part because the rest I knew I would have handled the same way she did. The 10+ years’ difference between her two boys and my one wouldn’t really have changed the way I’d approach discussions about the Stanford rapist or the massacre in Orlando.
But I wasn’t as brave about restrictions on cell phone use. In my defense (and let’s just say right here it is always a sign of weakness, to use that phrase) Wikipedia says that in 1997, 0.4 text messages were sent per customer per month. My son was 10 in 1997; I think he got his first cell phone when he could drive, so maybe 2003. I don’t remember his taking his phone to bed at night with him (I suspect he will be happy to correct me on this), although I do remember my niece doing so just a few years later. “Sexting” became a dictionary entry in 2012.
All of which serves as preamble to these words by Angela:
Speaking of lights in the darkness. Let me finish with comments about those glowing blue screens. I should have done this before, when we first bestowed those tiny Pandora’s boxes into the palms of our children’s hands. I should have insisted they be phone free overnight.
And she did, Now she collects her two teenaged boys’ phones at 10pm, and returns them in the morning. They live somewhere east of St. Paul–I think I still hear them howling every night just as the summer sun sets. As Angela writes,
They are not pleased.
That’s where the badass part comes in, for Angela and Nina and, I hope, for me, in what few opportunities I continue to have to parent. What we do, say, how we conduct ourselves doesn’t always please our kids. Even when they’re young adults, out on their own, we can still make decisions that influence their behavior.
Let’s all try being grown-ups, for a change. It may, in the end, make our kids look more grown up, too.