Parenting is the hardest gig around. It comes with no road map, instructions, or other tools to help you in not screwing up your children. We try our hardest, but sometimes that just isn't enough. Some kids are a little tougher to manage than others. How do I know that, besides being a mom now myself? Because I was one of those kids. And while my parents did their best to tame me with strict rules, it ended up backfiring in a big way.
I spent most of my high school years grounded. So, when I was finally out of the house, I couldn't wait to let loose.
Growing up, my mom and dad needed to know my every move. I have three older brothers, so they knew all of my tricks before I even attempted to play them. To help prevent any unruly behavior, they tried to enforce endless rules on a daily basis. I always had the earliest curfew, which my friends hated because that meant they had to leave the party to drive me home. If my parents actually allowed me to go to a boy's house, they had to call every single time and speak to their parents (talk about embarrassing). And I was never, ever allowed to spend the night at a friend's house. I couldn't pull the "I'm sleeping at so-and-so's house" just so I could stay out all night. My parents knew better. They were always a few steps ahead.
But even with all of those strict rules, I always found ways around them. Their rules only made me want to rebel more. I earned two MIPs (minor in possessions) by age 16 because I got caught drinking. I got caught sneaking out. I got caught smoking. I got caught skipping school. I engaged in a lot of bad behavior, and this was all before I even left for college. I spent most of my high school years grounded. So, when I was finally out of the house, I couldn't wait to let loose.
Somehow, I still managed to keep my grades up throughout my time in school and got into a few colleges. When I finally picked one and showed up to my freshman dorm with all of my suitcases, I. went. crazy. Without my parents' constant rules, I was finally free. I was always the last to go to sleep, which meant getting to class the next morning was often a no-go. As a result, my grades plummeted, and in one semester, I managed to be on both social and academic probation. But with the love and support of my parents, I managed to get back on track. They didn't give up on me, and today I get in a lot less trouble — finally.
Now that I'm a mother myself, I often think back to my parents' strict rules. I'm not exactly sure how I'll choose to parent my own children once they hit those unruly teenage years, but I know it will look a little different than my upbringing. Strict parenting didn't work on me. I often felt stifled, and when I finally did break free, I didn't have the tools to handle being on my own. If anything, having so many rules made me more of a rule-breaker. I think if my parents had given me rules while also trusting me and giving me a little more freedom as I got older, I wouldn't have gotten into so much trouble. But I know it's easy to say that now. And I know they did the best they could.
Since I still have a few years to figure out my own strategies, one thing I do know is I'll always love my kids unconditionally, just like my parents did for me.