The Mum Network

An Open Letter to My Children – The Teenage Years

Hi Kids,

Hopefully you’re teenagers when you read this and hopefully I’m still around to see you read it, take it in and process all the good advice Mum is giving you. I also want to write this advice to myself because from what I am hearing from my friends who have teenagers, you lose your mind when raising teens and I don’t want to forget my idealistic views and attitude that I will be the perfect mother of teenagers.

I’m writing this now, at the ripe old age of 35 years old because I am still cool enough to see the world through a young person’s eyes (I work with people who’s average age is about 23) and yet old and experienced enough to give you some sound advice because I work in the digital industry and with social media and I can see some very scary things happening that I want you to be aware of. So, here are the rules and the the hopes and dreams of a mother who will be about 45 by the time you’re all in your teen years:

  1. Get a Job – When you turn 14.9 months I want you to get a job. I don’t care where you work but you must work. Since I’ve been employing people of any age, I’ve found anyone with training and experience from McDonalds have always had the most promising careers afterwards. They’re taught process, sales, marketing, upselling, quality control, teamwork and work ethic. When you’re earning your own money, you will then be expected to pay for things yourself. I’ll still pick up deodorant and a few clothing items as long as you don’t look like a homeless person or a scrag in them but from there on in, you need to pick up the cost of your phone and your social life and any other things I deem ridiculous and will therefore not pay for, this includes the midnight calls that I used to make to my mother asking for $20 in the letterbox to catch a taxi home because the trains had stopped (I’ll be well aware of the time the trains stop and taxi’s home to our place at the moment are $130 from the city so it’s not going to happen ok!).
  2. Get your Drivers License – as soon as you are old enough I am taking you to the local RTA to get your learners permit and you WILL do the hours required to successfully obtain your Provisional license. You will also learn on a manual car. Not being able to drive a manual car is like thinking you can drive an F1 vehicle because you have the game on Nintendo Wii. It’s not the same. Either Dad or I will teach you how to drive and we’ll put you through defensive driving courses but you must get your license as soon as you are able to.
  3. Car – as soon as you have your license, you cannot use my car, ever. There’s nothing worse than an adult being stranded and not being able to go anywhere because the teenager has the car. IF we can afford it, we may help you buy one if you’re a good kid as we’re putting aside a paltry amount of money each week for you at the moment but this is dependent on your maturity and sense of responsibility. Keep in mind that if the eldest is responsible and gets assistance, it is NOT a given that all will receive so behave. If we do assist you to purchase your first car, it must have airbags and safety stuff in it, I don’t understand any of that but Dad does, I’ll make sure he mentally makes note of this now.  Additionally, if yuu are fortunate enough for us to help you buy a car, you are then my slave forever and must assist me in driving the younger kids to sport, ballet and after school things. Don’t whinge, my mother did this to me and it was the best thing ever, I certainly learned to respect the car and became a better driver because of it.
  4. Mow The Lawns: You will learn how to mow the lawns as soon as we can trust you not to run over your own foot with the mower.  If we ask you to mow the lawns, you’ll just do it without whinging or having other plans.
  5. Sport: You will not be tied to a computer for the rest of your life.  The only reason we have so many computers in the house is because your father is a geek by profession and needs the latest gadgets so you’re lucky to start with BUT you must play a team sport in your teenage years. Even if you don’t think you’re a sporty person, even the most inner geeks have the ability to play something. Team sports teach you more life skills than most things, there’s give and take, teamwork, taking time out , taking the glory and sharing in loss. It’s SO important (Boys, Dad would prefer you chose rugby union if possible)
  6. Doing the dishes: At some point between now and when you are teens, I will manage to be consistent enough to show you that dishes don’t end up in the sink but in the dishwasher.
  7. Washing: If you’ve not learnt to put your things in the dirty laundry basket by the time you are all teenagers, I’ll be making a point of showing you directly where the washing machine is so you can do your own washing. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
  8. Don’t smoke: I mean this, it’s one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you and hopefully it’s illegal by the time you read this. Do not ever let a cigarette pass your lips. You come from a family that’s very good at addiction. Food, booze, ciggies, work, gym, you name it, we exceed at addiction, be aware of that, it’s not a good thing. It’s a gene within your system and at some stage medical professionals will prove it. Do yourselves a favour and never try the bloody things because giving up is the most horrible thing to go through and they will kill you.
  9.  Respect: Always remember the family you have come from, we love, we laugh and most of all we respect ourselves and each other. My Mum (your Nanny) has always said that an adult does not automatically deserve respect from a child, it must be earned and visa versa. At present I am trying to respect you all by not yelling so much because in turn, at the ripe old ages of 7,5,3 and 1 you’re all doing a lot of yelling back at me. Hopefully by the time you are teens we will have a lovely quiet house where no one yells (I can’t see it happening but I really want you to know that I’m trying REALLY hard right now not to lose my cool). The most important gift I can give you is a strong self-esteem and respect for yourself because you are entering a very different world to the one that Dad and I grew up in. You have more information at your fingertips than we could ever have imagined. It will be hard to shelter you from hurt, pain, bullying and overly sexy video clips but please remember the values you are being bought up with. You are an amazing human being and to have confidence in yourself that you can do anything. You are being bought up in a generation where everything is online, even your own little lives have been posted online since you were born but there is a line and we will teach you the fine lines between right and wrong  and how to determine the good from the bad and make good decisions along the way.
  10. Sexting: Don’t do it. I’m not sure it will still be around in the years that you are teens, perhaps they will have moved on to something more risqué by then but keep this in mind, ‘don’t post it if you think Mum, Dad or anyone outside the addressed attendee would not be happy seeing it’. The person you are with in your teens is highly unlikely to be in your life forever and you never know how or where something you send to someone now could end up in the wrong hands. Plus, it’s tacky – keep the fun times for real life.
  11. Pick up the Phone: Just a tip, online communication is great but  occasionally picking up the phone and talking to people gives you a real sense of who your real friends are.
  12. Drugs: People who offer or pressure you to take drugs are not your real friends, there are a number of stories behind that which require explanation and a face to face chat but take it from me. Not worth it, ever.
  13. Online Language: Keep two rules in your head 1: Don’t post anything online that you couldn’t say to the person’s face. 2: Don’t use language especially the c word as a form or humour or as an excuse that ‘everyone does it’. It’s not cool, never will be and you will be judged, if not by me, by others and keep in mind that at any time a social network can, by law, make anything you post online public. Keep it clean and have some self respect.
  14. Social Media: I live online now so I know what goes on in teenagers lives and it’s not always fun. It’s often dangerous and hurtful and you have a world of people claiming to be your friend. If you don’t like your parents one day, you’ll have 25 people “like” your status and be parent haters too. It’s a world of peer pressure and just because someone ‘likes’ a status, doesn’t mean they like what you’re saying or you. Always be honest and don’t let yourself down. An online friend is not your friend unless you actually catch up with them regularly so be very careful who and how you ‘friend’ someone on social networks. If you’re on these networks, you must be my friend and you must only have one profile per network. I promise I won’t stalk you and I won’t make embarrassing comments on your page or comment thread as long as you respect the fact that I’m your Mum, I care about you and you my friend too. I also know that other teens can post some ridiculous stuff, I’ve seen it all before so it’s ok, you are my main concern. You will also adhere to the age restrictions on sites like facebook – they’re there for a reason. You are never to bully another child or to make them feel any less of a person. If you see another teenager your age, older or younger in trouble, tell someone, I can’t tell you how important this is.  If in doubt always think “could I say this to this person’s face”, it’s a good rule to live by. Too many people hide behind words they’re too afraid to say out loud.
  15.  Talk: I don’t care how uncool you think I am, if there is anything you ever want to talk about, I’m here for you. Doing coffee is my favourite thing in the world and combined with talking to my kids about anything and everything, that’s my version of heaven. If you need me at any time of night or day, I would go anywhere to be there just to chat. No problem is too big or small and there’s not much you could tell me that would shock me. My teenage years were fun and challenging too. I promise to be there for you always. You can talk to me about anything and I will understand and you can choose to keep things private because I respect that everyone needs a little bit of their own life to stay their own. I love and care about you all and I know that the teenage years can be tough but I also know from my own teenage years, they were some of the best of my life. Choose your friends wisely as the good ones stay with you forever and remember you are from a family who loves and cares about you so deeply that nothing could get in the way of that.

Love from Mum

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