Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Protocol for Parents of Teenagers

Growing up for me, especially during my teenage years, was one long embarassing situation.  I totally understand that.  My dad was the definition of a nerd.  He's 6'2 and huge, but he always had the glasses with the tape in high school.  He's an engineer now.  He actually wears pocket protectors. I'm not kidding - he actually had one on his list for christmas one year. All during high school, on the weekends he'd wear too-short gym shorts, either red or green, a too-tight t-shirt, and knee socks to match that came up to his knees.  Coupled with bed head and those huge glasses it was just humiliating.  Sometimes my stepmom would come and pick me up in her bright red bathrobe and bottle-bottom glasses.  Sometimes my dad would be blasting opera music when he picked me up.  I completely understand wanting to crawl under the closest rock and die because your parental unit is such a dork.

Having now raised or been around at least four teenagers now, I think I'm getting the hang of it.  Of course, as many of you know, if you're a parent of a teenager it is your job - your devine right - to embarass them at will.  Its hilarious, and fun as heck.  However, if you're feeling kind on any given day, there is a protocol to follow when you enter their world.  Here's just one set of rules for the following situation:

Dropping off and/or picking up your teenager at school/the mall/a friends/the corner:

1.  Look your best.  Have your hair brushed, wear appropriate, acceptable clothing (to be determined by the teenager), and have make up applied if applicable.  Glasses are not to be worn, period.

2.  Do NOT have any music playing.  Even if it was a cool, acceptable song yesterday, it may not be today.  Acceptability may vary by hour or minute, so the safer route is not to have your radio or CD player on at all.  This is applicable even if the CD belongs to the teenager.  Just turn it off.

3.  Do NOT make eye contact with anyone.  Do not make any gestures, friendly or otherwise.  If one of their kind chooses to grace you with conversation or dialogue, use only yes or no answers, or keep it as short as possible.  NEVER reveal any personal information or opinion.  Ever.

4.  Pull up into an acceptable drop off/pick up location (acceptability once again determined by said teenager) and park.  Do NOT draw attention to yourself.  If you find it necessary to wait for any reason do not do anything to occupy your time.  Don't read - that's nerdy.  Don't fix your makeup - that's embarassing.  Don't sleep - they could just die of embarassment.  Don't look at anyone (see #3, above).  Don't eat - you'll look like a pig.  Don't clean - you'll get a "jeez mom".  Sit there, be very still, and read the numbers on your spedometer.

5.  Do not express affection of any kind.  Do not say I love you, or I'll miss you, or get the heck out.  Do not touch your teenager for any reason.  For the love of all things living, please do not ever say 'make good choices!!!' (one of my personal favorites...heh heh heh).  The consequences could be fatal.  When they approach the vehicle, do not make any inappropriate gestures or say a word.  Occasionally, "hi" may be acceptable.

6.  If, for some reason, it is necessary to get out of the vehicle and go into the school/mall/friends house/etc to approach the teenager, stricter protocol is in order.  Carry yourself in such a way that no attention will be drawn to you.  If possible, get your teenager's attention from a distance WITHOUT drawing attention to yourself.  If that proves impossible, approach your teen quietly, professionally and swiftly.  A tap on the shoulder followed by a speedy retreat should do.  Do not attempt to walk with your teen.  Three steps forward or three steps back is always the rule.  Remember above rules about eye contact, gestures, and bodily contact. 

I have made the following mistakes:

Dropped a teenager off in an unacceptable vehicle.  It was a 1973 Dodge Dart that was rusting and had miscellaneous replacement parts, like fenders.  It was at least five different colors.  Thereafter, the drop off/pick up point was approximately half a mile from the school.  (HEY it ran and had a/c.  People parked far away from me.  It worked at the time and was much better than the 1970 Datsun Honeybee I drove my freshman year.)

Had music playing loudly.  Once, on purpose, it was Elvis.  Ok...maybe more than once.  Usually its music she listens to.  Still not acceptable.

Read a book/magazine while waiting.  (GASP!)

Filed my nails and/or applied lipstick while waiting.  (DOUBLE GASP!)

Used an armorall and/or windex wipe to clean while waiting.  (EEK!)

Waved or honked at someone I knew while waiting (EWMUHGAWD).

Went in to fetch her or waved or honked to get her attention.  (She almost passed out)

On quite a few occasions male versions of the teenager species will run up to me and hug me (I've known these kids since they were 5).  That will earn you an eye roll, an 'ewmuhgawd', and mad dogs (dirty looks).  Its ALWAYS your fault in these situations.  Just accept it.


Consider this a PSA.  Its taken me a few years to get this all figured out, and I'm passing the knowledge and wisdom on.  They usually grow out of this by the time they're juniors or seniors in high school, but it could take up to five years after that, depending on the individual.  Olivia hooks arms with me now, and actually wants me to go to school things with her.  Kayla's still at the cool age where she'll not only want me to play Elvis, but she'll do the lip curl with me while we sing to it.  She holds my hand on the way in to school.  I love that age.  ANYWAY....

Coming attractions:  proper phone call answering etiquette, family outing protocol, and providing transportation for multiple teenagers.

(...they're gonna kill me.  heh.)

1 comment:

phlskygirl said...

Ooooh... so THAT's why I've never had children.  I think I'm sending this link to my mother, in case she ever starts hinting for grandkids.  For now, I think I'll just double up on the pill.  You know.  In case I actually get laid anytime soon, or if you can become impregnated by rush-hour traffic.