Boot camp meets nightmare mom


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Category: Reflections 25 Jun 06


Every now and then, when I tell a teenager to turn the music down, or fail to see the pleasure they take in openly displaying more gross bodily functions, or failing to understand how a Kevin Federline lookalike with his elephantine pants around his knees can become a role model, I put my hand on my hips and say:


“In MY time we never did that.” My husband looks amused, I start to feel, well, older and suck in my stomach a bit more, but turn to the cheesecake for comfort.


When did that happen? I still feel 15 inside, yet I am made to feel outmoded. Now, the stuff I grew up with (never take anything for granted; take responsibility for my own entertainment, use the holidays to work or learn a skill, never dare to be openly subversive with an elder, pay for my mistakes, respect the elderly) turns into shifting sand beneath my feet.


“Forget your time‚” says my husband. “Don’t you remember YOUR parents telling you ‘In my time?’”


So I succumbed to “being cool” by letting things slide to what was de rigueur around me.


So what if they got what they wanted. They deserved it.


I heard from other parents. “So what if they didn’t help too much around the house; they are only children? So what if they gave you back chat? That’s cute.”


But somewhere, the 15-year-old in me began rebelling against the “so what?”


Early this year, I began an experiment with some kids that lasted six months.


I started saying “No” to making teenagers feel good through THINGS—the stuff they wanted to buy and the stuff they thought they would buy one day, and stuff that they thought made others happy, and that would make them happy.


I began the journey towards making them feel happy about who they were, who they could be, and how that could make them feel happy.


Grew independent


It wasn’t fun. It involved taking away “privileges” such as computer games, restricting television, in fact, anything electronic, and giving them a six-month embargo before they could touch the stuff again.


It involved giving them a $50-cell phone. It involved not being responsible for their happiness.


It wasn’t pretty. It was boot camp meets nightmare mom.


I gave the teenager and younger one NO TIME for themselves, which meant taking no time for ourselves (the adults). Every minute was accounted for studying and reading books, for chores like making a light meal, changing light bulbs, taking out the garbage, cleaning the kitchen, washing clothes.


Down time were long bike rides; hikes; kayaking; a run around the Savannah; lifting weights; games like Scrabble that challenged their minds; and films, but only if they won something at Cannes (that was art).


(I know I’m sounding like a psycho).


No reward was offered for any of this new regime. It was just the way life was going to be.


All talk of material things was ignored. As time went on, the teenagers found they were doing better in school. That they were getting stronger and fitter physically.


They knew so much more stuff. They grew independent. They knew where the frying pan and eggs were, and how to put the two together.


Six months later, when I handed back the computer game, they weren’t so keen on it anymore. When we went out without them they said they missed liming with us.


They talked of travel, books, careers, issues, a big world. They became passionate about Iraq, for God’s sake. The best moment came when one of them stated that our old car was perfectly good enough, since brand names are just a marketing ploy for the dumb.


I excused myself, went outdoors and allowed myself a screaming, adolescent 15-year-old YESSS!


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur