Tag: parenting teenagers (page 1 of 4)

Awesome Advice Central: Up the ruling class

Yeah, hi.

So…it appears I’m in trouble again—no, not THAT type of trouble—and Mater told me I had to write to you ’cause you’d give me what for and explain “what you did wrong, young Prudence, and how to steer you down the correct path in future.”

So. Here I am. Knock one out of the park for dear old ma, okay? Make her happy, tell me off and let me get on with my life….


Really, darling, it’s just not the done thing.

Dear Awesome Advice Central, this is Prudence’s mother writing now.  Please ignore what she wrote above, she’s a naughty girl and in need of a serious talking-to. She’s not paying attention to her darling Mater and Pater any more, and we need her to understand what she did was wrong and unbecoming of a young woman of her status. And income level. (Plus, she’ll never get a husband if she keeps behaving this way.)

This, as you young people enjoy saying these days, is “the poop”:

Last week, darling Pru (her nickname; please don’t call her that, though, it’s for family use only) was returning from an exciting week’s journey abroad. As this was her first trip without Mater and Pater accompanying, we went to great pains to make sure she was well taken care of en route. Hotels were booked. Officials bribed. Clothing bought, pre-laundered to remove the common “shop smell.” Sherpas sorted. Restaurants and menus chosen. We left no stone unturned in ensuring she had a delightful holiday. 

We were gasping in anticipation on the day she arrived home. While waiting at home for her to walk through our front door, bags bursting with curios and duty-free pipe tobacco, it occurred to me that there was one detail we hadn’t considered when we bade her farewell from these shores: poor dear had no way of getting home from the airport.

Battle stations, tally ho!

We scrambled quickly, reckoning we had but 15 minutes to make our way from home to airport arrivals hall. Time was of the essence and we were quick about it.  Pater fired up the helicopter and away we went. Sadly, we had a messy moment with a Canada Goose; the engine failed and we bailed out, only missing death by the smallest of margins.

Avoiding the burning wreckage on our neighbour’s lawn, we took temporary ownership of their Rolls Royce and drove hellbent for leather to the airport, thoughts of a lost and crying Prudee-Pip (another nickname! don’t use it) spurring us on ever forward,  but alas, no sign of Pru-Pru (also a nickname; as before, do not use, it’s our favourite of 7 specific names for our darling girl) at the airport…..


Whaaaaat? It’s not like I’m going to hell in a handbasket.

Oh, for gawd’s sake. Mater is taking way too long. Man oh man, she can drone on and on, can’t she? Here’s what happened, the long and short of it, the thick and—oh, crap, now I’m doing it too.

Okay: so, I get off the plane (no, I do NOT de-plane. That sounds like something that guy used to say to Mr. Rourk on Fantasy Island:  “look boss, de plane, de plane!” ) ( I disembark, as civilised people do). Walk through Customs and Immigration, make a scathing comment about how the lines are too long and how I should be given preferential treatment because…well, just because. Get my bags.

Walk into the arrivals hall and I see a chauffeur holding a sign for a Pamela Prenderfithing-Gard. Not my name, but hey, close enough, right? So I saunter up and tell the guy, “Hey, I’m Pammy, you’re my ride. Home, James, and don’t spare the horses!!” And away we went. 

I told him I had a new address and to take me to Mater and Pater’s residence instead of Pamela Whats-her-fish’s. He didn’t seem to mind, so that’s what we did.

Nice limo, btw, with pah-lenty of whisky in the back. Tasted so good, I had James take me round the block a few times before letting me off. And once we were in the driveway, I invited him into the back seat to sample the, heh heh, wares as well. He wasted no time, and a good time was had.

So! Here I am, I had a good holiday, probably won’t go away again though—foreigners are just so, well, foreign, aren’t they? yuck—and now you’re supposed to tell me how evil I am for, I don’t know, ruining the world? M and P need to relax their collective sphincter muscles and chillax.  They could learn a lot from me if they tried.

Anyway, have at it. Enjoy yourselves.  Knock yourselves out. I’ll be sitting here playing Candy Crush so probably won’t be too interested in your advice, just warning you. 

Prudence Pippersnip

Dear Prudence,

We must thank you for giving us the opportunity to open one of our missives “Dear Prudence.”

As for the rest…well, you seem to have matters well in hand, so to speak. We cannot think what we might say that could punish you more than you’re already suffering from your execrable genetic inheritance, not to mention your most interesting mother. We can only surmise that your father, so far the blessedly silent partner in this saga, is equally inbred.

So Candy Crush away, by all means. And pass the scotch, would you? There’s a pet.

Awesome Advice Central


My terrible confession: I violated the Mother-Daughter Code.

Dear Wendy,

Forgive me, sister, for I have sinned.

Continue reading

Just one kid graduating this year? Try triplets…

Dear Wendy,

When we moved into this house more than 12 years ago, one of its big selling features was that it’s in a “family-friendly” neighbourhood. Adrian was working full-time by then, but Rachel was in Grade 3 and I wanted her to live in a place where she’d have kids to play with, and a bit of the freedom you and I enjoyed at that age.

As it turned out, our house was perfect on that score…not only are we located on a quiet street, but when we moved in, the first neighbours to introduce themselves were the triplets next door. Yep, you heard me right. Six-year-old triplets. They barrelled over like an invading army, tumbling over themselves to meet their new neighbour.


Marilyn, Peter, and Michael before we met them–even then, they were unique

Rachel was a little shy in those days, and I remember pulling into our driveway with her slouching down as far as she could in her seat, “so the triplets won’t see me.” It’s not that she didn’t like them, but she found their collective energy overwhelming—when they were on a roll, they really did give new meaning to the phrase, “I can’t hear myself think.”

Eventually she managed to get over her trepidation, though, and the four kids became fast friends—building snow people together in winter, engaging in long, intricate games of flashlight tag on hot summer evenings. Arguing over who got to throw whom off whose property when the bickering got too intense…you know how it goes.

We used to take turns car-pooling the gang to school, and when it was our week, each of us would take turns choosing that morning’s music. Which is how, one bright spring morning, it came to pass that we rolled up to Lady Evelyn Primary School with all the windows down, AC/DC blasting on our Camry’s stereo, and all four kids tumbling out of the car singing, “I’m on the HIGHWAY TO HELL….HIGHWAY TO HELL….”

Over the years, our families became close, and when they moved away a few years back it would have been heartbreaking, if they hadn’t been moving into a house just around the corner from us. We still get together for dinners, and when Rachel is home from college, Peter (and sometimes Marilyn) is a regular fixture in our family room.

As I’ve watched the triplets grow up, one thing I’ve always marvelled at is their parents’ seeming ability to juggle the needs of three bright, active kids, all the same age, each with different interests, temperaments, and needs.

Think about three babies learning to crawl at the same time; three new walkers; three toddlers learning to say, “No!” Now think about all that homework to supervise, all those parent-teacher meetings, all those after-school events to coordinate, all that laundry to stay on top of, all those meals to make…and clean up from!

I had enough difficulty keeping any pretense of order around here with one kid at a time, and the thought of trying to get all three kids ready for school, for example, used to boggle my mind. How did the triplets’ parents cope?

Apparently, it takes almost superhuman powers of organization, an ability to negotiate, and an equal ability to lay down the law when necessary. Oh, and a sense of humour. Knowing the triplets’ parents as I do, I can tell you that last piece is mandatory, and they definitely both have it nailed.

But the day-to-day logistics of parenting three small people through infancy, toddlerhood, and the grade school years is a teddy bear’s picnic compared with some of the adventures lying in wait as the triplets approach the end of high school.

In fact, last week Rachel and I were lucky enough to be invited to attend a very special graduation ceremony: Marilyn, Michael, and Peter. (Mitch was invited too, but he was off in Baltimore, so he had to miss it.) We armed ourselves with several handfuls of tissues, and joined the rest of the family—parents Greg and Lisa, Aunt Laura, and grandparents Bonnie and Julio—for a morning of cheering, photograph-snapping, and weeping.

As I waited in the crowded high school gymnasium, I thought back to last year, when Mitchell and I watched with so much pride as Rachel walked confidently across the stage and accepted her awards and diploma. Both parents had tears streaming down our faces, as our girl moved past the final frontier of childhood, into the next big phase of her life.

This time, the music started, the graduates began to file into the gym, and once again a lump formed in my throat as I saw three kids I’ve known since early grade school, now all grown taller than me, file into the gym looking so solemn and dignified. I heard sniffles, and didn’t have to look back to know that our entire contingent was sharing a moment of deep nostalgia, pride, and love.


Congratulations to everyone–including Mum & Dad! (Photo: L. Annibalini)

Unsurprisingly, all three were on the Ontario Scholars’ list (kind of like the honour roll) and all three received awards from the school for various achievements—these kids are special on their own, not just because they happen to have been born within a few minutes of one another.

And once again, for all the pride I feel as a friend of this beautiful family, I wonder how it must feel to watch all three of your own kids graduate on the same day. If it’s an intense experience with just one child, I think it must be almost overwhelming with three.

In the best possible way, of course.




p.s. Rachel and I bought 3 of these, um, unusual cupcakey dudes for the occasion. Because what’s graduation without a sugar rush?

Teens aren’t monsters: Notify the press

Dear Wendy,

What the heck is with all the slagging of teenagers (and young adults) lately? It’s coming from all sides: parenting blogs, magazines, news stories, social media, casual conversations.

Everywhere I turn, it seems I’m running across articles and blog posts about how very difficult it is to live with teens, how they disrespect everything and everyone, how they refuse to grow up, how they dress like what our father used to call “streetwalkers.” They’re angry. They’re hostile. They treat their parents like the live-in help. They are….TEEN-ZILLA!


Teenzilla will eat your head for lunch. Then she will fail to clean up after herself. (Photo: A. Robert)

 Usually, these articles contain heartfelt laments about parents trying to live with these terrible teens—sometimes they take a humorous slant, but it’s easy to detect a tone of underlying desperation. Even parents of pre-teens are joining in, seemingly holding their breath in dread anticipation of a decade of parenting hell.


We all know the stereotypes…but are they true?

As a two-time veteran of the teen years, I’m left completely in the dark here. I honestly don’t get what the fuss is about.

And you’ve raised three kids to young adulthood—do you think these so-called “entitled Millennials” are as lazy, privileged, arrogant, and tasteless as they’re being portrayed? In my experience, teens can sometimes be testy and hormonal, but I seem to recall that I might have had a few moments of testy hormonal behaviour myself over the years.

More often, though, I’ve found that the teens I know, including the ones I haven’t given birth to, are interesting, chatty, respectful, delightful people. So how come everyone else seems to hate them?


A gaggle of great teens

Sure, teens are going through a roller-coaster ride of development in the years between puberty and college graduation. They are suddenly aware of their bodies and their sexuality in new ways, they’ve begun to realize that they have the power to decide for themselves how they want to act, and they’re starting to push at the constraints of childhood in ways that make adults—their parents and even strangers—profoundly uncomfortable.

If a parent says, “Ah, but you haven’t met my teen! He (or she) is completely out of control—you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff he (or she) does. It’s taking every ounce of my self-control and energy to keep from bopping him (or her) over the head with a two-by-four, just to get his/her attention!” I won’t argue with them.

But I will wonder what went wrong with that person’s relationship with their kid, such that they now feel so full of anger, so powerless, and so excluded from that child’s life that they can’t imagine a constructive solution.

I don’t believe there’s anything inevitable about the stereotype of the sullen teen. Or the desperate parent, come to that.

I do believe that the seeds of a great teen are sown long before that kid feels those first hormonal proddings. Like Aretha said, it all comes down to R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And wise parents know that respect is a two-way street that originates during the earliest years of their relationship with their child.

Many parents mistake “obedience” for “respect”—they think that as long as their kid does what she’s told, more or less when she’s told to do it, it’s evidence that they’re being respected. But what is obedience really?

I can tell you that when I was a teen I obeyed our parents (mostly)—but I certainly didn’t feel respect for them. I was resentful of their high-handedness, angry that they were both raging alcoholics who wouldn’t seek treatment, and furious that they seemed to view me more as a troublesome nuisance than as a human being with opinions and feelings.

To me, respect means having high expectations of your child, within the constraints of their current stage of development.

  • It means understanding that kids are constantly developing, and their developmental needs must be accommodated. We don’t expect 2-year-olds to make their own suppers, and we don’t expect 15-year-olds to go out and earn a living.
  • It means being open to their opinions, understanding their point of view, and letting them know that you’re always open to hearing from them.
  • It means respecting their privacy, their ability to make choices (even the wrong ones), and their physical and sexual development.
  • It means treating your child not necessarily as an equal, but as an individual who has opinions, ideas, and thoughts that you’re interested in hearing and open to considering.

Respect doesn’t mean abdicating responsibility for family decisions. As adults, we retain executive power in our families, but that doesn’t mean we run the place with an iron fist.

  • If we model good negotiation and compromise skills, our children learn to negotiate and compromise.
  • If we talk to our kids, and listen when they talk to us, they learn how to communicate…with us and others.
  • If we take responsibility for our own behaviour as parents, we teach our kids to take responsibility for everything they do and say, to us and others.
  • And if we treat kids with openness and respect, we get openness and respect in return.

The equation really is as simple as that.

It’s not rocket science, though I’ll concede that it’s definitely hard work. But the pay-off? We get to go through the teen years living with kids we like, who like us. Kids who ask our opinion before they go out and get that full-leg tattoo. Kids who don’t treat us as the live-in help. Kids who tell us what’s going on in their lives, and are interested in how we think and feel.

Kids who grow into responsible, caring adults, which as I recall was kind of the plan in the first place.



Awesome Advice Central: Tips for teens and flashers

The case of the friend-stealing mama

Dear Awesome Advice Central,

I have a problem, and it’s my mother. I’m 18 years old, and pretty popular at school. Or at least I was, until my mother started stealing my friends!

It started a couple of years ago, when I brought my best friend home for supper. She and my mum hit it off great—and next thing you know, they were joking and laughing together like they’d been friends for years. At first I was really happy, but then they started calling each other “best friends forever,” “BFFs” for short.

What the…? First off, she’s MY best friend, and secondly, BFF? Srsly? What are we, in grade school?

A couple of months later, I went to meet this same friend, who works in a coffee shop. My mum came in with me, because she’s always up for a cup of coffee. In fact, I think she might have a coffee problem. But anyway. My friend saw us, and wanted to introduce us to her co-workers. So she said, “Hey, guys, so this is my BFF…and this is her daughter.”


I want her to act her age. And give my friends back.

I couldn’t decide whether to sink through the floor or punch someone. Because she’s MY friend, dammit! Not my mother’s! AAC, what can I do about this? I need your help.

Nadia Nofriends

Dear Nadia,

We can help you out, but only if you follow our advice to the letter.  You must first of all go to your mother’s Filofax (she probably hasn’t worked out how to include her friends on her mobile phone contact list yet) and copy all her friends’ home addresses.  Trust us, she’ll have it all written down, and in alphabetical order, too.  Let’s say she’s 20 friends; copy their names onto your list, okay?

Go to your local stationery shop and buy 2 boxes of flowery invitations (they’re made of paper and come in a box – you’ll recognise them as they will probably have “You’re Invited!” written on them).


Not quite what we had in mind.

Go to the post office and purchase postage stamps. I don’t know where you live, but these stamps might have a silhouette of the Queen on them. Or Elvis.  Doesn’t matter.  Tell the cashier you want to buy enough stamps, one for each envelope.


Stamps may resemble these…

Leave the Post Office. Don’t forget to pay! Dear god, go back and pay before you get yourself in trouble. Okay, now go straight home and write the following on each invitation:

Dear Mrs/Miss/Ms___________________

Hi, my name is Nadia and I’m Frieda Friendstealer’s daughter.  I’m planning on having a tea to celebrate my darling mother’s birthday next week and would love if you would join us in the celebrations.  She says she doesn’t want any presents or any fuss made on the day, so please, join us for a cup of tea (or something stronger!) at 3 pm.



PS I’m organising this as a surprise, so please…Mum’s the word!

They will be enchanted by this formality (and the pun at the end) and the fact that you’re so Old School.  Trust us on this. They’ll come over on the day, as requested. Your mother will be busy with her new group of friends while you steal her friends away in the comfort of your own home. Once her friends realise you can help them understand the intricacies of Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, they will be putty in your hands and revenge will be yours.

Once Mama finds out that her own group of friends has deserted her, she will want them back. She’ll dump her current lot, that is, your besties, and start hanging out with age-appropriate friends again.  Balance shall be restored.

The case of the accidental exposé

Dear AAC,

I have just had the most mortifying experience of my life. I am not exaggerating.

You see, I travel a lot on business. A couple of nights ago I arrived late at my destination city, checked into a hotel, stripped, and fell into bed. I was exhausted after a long day of travel, and I had a series of meetings the next morning, so I really needed my beauty sleep. I should mention that I have always slept in the nude; I hate the feel of pajamas, and I’m quite comfortable in my own skin. So to speak.

I woke the next morning, surprisingly rested and refreshed, and ready to face the day. As I always do, I jumped out of bed, strode over to the window, and threw back the curtains to greet the day. But instead of greeting the day, I found myself greeting a long line-up of cars and their drivers, right at eye-level, all staring at me in surprise and disbelief. And they really got an eyeful that morning—I honestly don’t know who was more shocked.

You see, unbeknownst to me, my window was exactly flush with the expressway that runs behind the hotel. I jumped back and whipped the curtains shut, but the damage had been done.


Why, hello there!

My first meeting took place twenty minutes later—I was meeting with several important clients in the hotel restaurant. Despite my rude awakening, I felt pretty confident as I strode into the room and found the table where they’d already been seated. For some reason, none of them would look me in the eye. Finally, one of them cleared his throat, and said, “Ah, Ms. Sneedley—we didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!”

At which point I felt myself flush scarlet; then I burst into tears and ran out of the restaurant. I’m writing you now from my hotel room. My question now is, how can I get out of this accursed hotel without being seen? And do you know any nunneries that are accepting new applicants? Please, AAC, you’re my only hope!

Samantha Sneedley

Dear Ms. Sneedley,

This situation is all too familiar to we who labour so…laboriously at  Awesome Advice Central.  You see, a few years ago, one of us (not saying which of us, but if you send $5 in unmarked bills to our address, we’ll tell all) was in a new city with new friends. They were fitness fanatics and they wanted go to the local pool for a leisurely swim, so invited her along.

A friend had mentioned in passing that this was a nude pool they were going to. This took the sister aback slightly, but she was still game to go. Oh, if only ears had been cleaned out before hearing that little throwaway sentence!

In the locker room, clothes were removed, back straightened, tummy pulled in. As She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named walked to the pool, a stranger pointed and made odd gesticulations.  Oh dear, it wasn’t a pool for nudists at all. In fact, what the friend had said earlier was that it was a new pool. The humiliation was complete.


It wasn’t that kind of pool after all. Sigh.

A jolly good laugh was had by all, and a bathing suit has been purchased. Once the fines were paid and the lawyers paid off, swimming has become part of the schedule again. Not at that pool though, as a life-time ban is now in force.

Anyway…sorry, what was your question? Oh, right. How to escape. That depends. Are you clothed now or still in the altogether?  If clothed, that’s awfully simple. Just walk out. If you’re in a less comfortable state, we suggest you go to the nearest toilet and wrap yourself shoulder to knee in toilet paper. Do not run, but walk in your most elegant manner, out the door, and no one will be the wiser.

And next time you’re in a hotel?  Bring jammies.  And ask for a room on the top floor.


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