Friday, July 11, 2008

Oh, To Be Young and Entitled

My 17 year old thinks her dad is going to buy her a Mercedes for her first car. She thinks that because he said he would. Daughters have always had powerful manipulative skills with their fathers and she is no exception.
This is a girl who has pretty much had everything handed to her all her life, and trust me when I say that I take my share of the responsibility. That's what parenting out of fear gets you.

I've raised her by myself since she was old enough to walk (although her father and I were married until she was six years old, as a parent, sadly he was less than useless).
Over the years most of my parenting has been based on these two questions...
1)What did my mother say to me in this situation that made me never want to discuss anything important with her ever again? and...
2)What do I wish she would have said?
Well, that's nice in theory. And I must admit that due to my lack of over-reaction, I have a daughter who tells me more than most - the good, the bad and the ugly. She's told me some things that made me want to plug my ears and hum "Oh Happy Day" until she stopped talking. And I'm thankful for that part of our relationship. The downside is that when you parent out of fear, you're always one step behind the teenager. They can smell it and they immediately start circling the waters.

Then they think they own you.

And apparently, if you're her father, the next thing you know, you're promising them a Mercedes.

This is a girl who has never had a job. My first legal job was when I was 14 at Del Taco down the street. I walked there four days a week in my dorky little uniform, just so proud that I had a job. I say my first "legal" job, because when I was 13, some lady who owned a children's boutique hired me to stock shoes for 10 hours a week and paid me under the table. The point is that I had the balls to go into that boutique and ask her for a job. She recognized this and respected it. So she gave me a job that she probably never even needed filled and taught me a great lesson about taking initiative.

Anyone who knows me knows that I would rather dive head first into my own vomit before I admit to my mother doing something right as a parent. She's the "What Not To Wear" of parenting. But to give credit where credit is due, that woman taught me about initiative and hard work. She talked me into walking into that boutique at 13, because I had nothing to lose (she also talked me into stowing away on a cruise ship and tried to get me to move to Hawaii during a family vacation when I was 18, but that's a whole 'nother post). So why didn't I get that parenting gene? FEAR!
First and foremost, in fear of "becoming" my mother (orphaned Tupperware lids aside), I threw the baby out with the bathwater. Second, fear of losing my daughter - forcing her out of her comfort zone to the point that her reaction was to blame me for the discomfort. The same person, who at 13 boldly walked into a store asking for a job, now at 41 is sometimes unable to stand up to her 17 year old daughter. Out of fear. Don't get me wrong, she doesn't walk all over me, but this issue is not only present, it's rearing its ugly head right about now.

So now she feels entitled. To a Mercedes. To car insurance. To a gas card.

Now, there is no way I will let this happen, and after today she knows it. Her attitude towards the car and all the accessories - her basically sitting back and waiting for it all to be handed to her - is what has kept me from getting her driver's license thus far, even though she's over 17. But I can't ignore how we got here.

I know I'm venting and this post doesn't really do her justice. As far as teenagers go, she's put me through very little stress. She's very loving, she's honest, she respects my rules even though her curfew is earlier than her friends (I checked). This is the only area in which she and I will go to the mat. But oh boyyyy do we.

But I do have to wonder - how do I undo the damage that I have most certainly contributed to?

3 comments:

Slim said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. Your daughter has been raised in an entire generation of entitled youth. Trust me, I work with adolescents and have discussed this with my coworkers on numerous occasions. I was like you, babysittying at 12 years of age, at which point my mom told me that since I was making money, it was now my responsibility to buy my own school clothes...a strong work ethic and frugality followed that responsibility (for better or worse, to this day I agonize over every penny I spend). I think people who grew up this way want better for their kids but it's hard to find middle ground between letting your kid be a kid and teaching them responsibility.

Maybe you and your daughter can volunteer some time at a homeless shelter, or a shelter for battered women. That may help give her perspective that your words will never accomplish. It may be a powerful message that her life is filled with good fortune, and that maybe her focus could use some tweaking.

The Lovely and Talented said...

WOW...you're doing great...

If she wants the privilege of a car, let her earn it. I'm sure you put your foot down. It doesn't sound like you communicate with him (the ex) too much but I suppose if you do, you could communicate that it's your job as parents to make sure she's a functioning, responsible adult.

Let him match her at whatever she earns towards a car. If she wants one so badly, she'll make it her priority to get one. I'd hold firm on the driver's license as well.

I let my grades slip in school and guess what, my mother didn't do a thing to help me get my driver's license. Clearly it wasn't my priority, even though I'd been working since I was 12. I got the license on my own when I was 18. She helped my buy my first car at that point.

Don't engage in the conversation about the car until you see what YOU need to see regarding responsibility. If she has to earn it, she'll take better care of it, and subsequently make better driving decisions (since it was HER money...)

I think teenagers by design, need to push the envelope.

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