After reading a post from dohiyi mama, I felt inspired to write a little something about children and mistakes... well especially teens and tweens and mistakes.
WARNING: I will be disclosing personal information here, so if you are a family member - like my mom - please avert your eyes. Seriously. DON'T READ THIS!
OK Now I hope if you are my mom you have already gone far far away from here.
A lot of parents worry that their children might one day make the same mistakes they did, or worse. Generally, what happens is that the parent tries to avoid such a thing from happening by forbidding that what it is they fear the most.
When I was growing up, my mother's main concerns were smoking and sex. I remember her telling me over and over never to smoke. She herself had smoked, and so did my father, even after we were born and during both her pregnancies. So she kept pressing that I should never smoke, because it is a dirty habit and you're hooked before you know it and it is really difficult to quit.
Guess what? I started smoking when I was 14 years old. Secretly. After a long time, I told my mom, who obviously already knew, and then I was allowed to smoke around her - by that time I was about 20. I never smoked around my father, eventhough he knew too - he pretty much always was of the ostrich kind. I quit smoking when I was pregnant.
Second thing was sex. Oh I cannot count the times my mom told me to not have sex, to wait until I was older, until I had found the right person, blabla... result is that I got talked into doing it when I was 15 with a guy I didn't even love, actually hardly even knew, and never saw again after that (basically he dumped me right after that).
So I think we can safely say the the 'stricktly forbidden' approach does not work.
Another topic a lot of parents have issues with is alcohol. Some parents apply the 'stricktly forbidden' tactics here too, or the 'not as long as you're under my roof'. With basically the same results, children sneaking booze into their sodas, sneaking of to drink or going all 'spring break' once they are out of the reach of parental control.
Alcohol was not a big issue when I grew up. Actually, my father is a big wine fan and we were involved in the sunday tasting ritual that was generally the interlude of our sunday family dinner. I'm talking something like seven eight years old here, I can't quite remember. As we grew older, we were included in the apero and got a slightly milder cocktail.
I did drink when I went out. I did get totally pissed on occasion. However, I never had these booze fests end in the hospital (as my husband and many of my friends did). Sure I drank like a botomless pit when I was at uni (I was president at one point). But it never got out of control and ever since I ended Uni, I stopped drinking altogether, except on very very rare occasions. Most of my friends from uni now empty a bottle a day with their partner, after work.
So I'm thinking that the 'controlled allowing' approach works a lot better then forbidding.
But let's just put the 'how to approach this'-question aside and think about it a little further. Would it really be bad if your child makes some 'errors' in her life? It's even rather silly that we call those 'wild' things by such names like errors, mistakes, ... They are things we all learn from, experiences rather, that yield a lot of interesting conclusions and life lessons. What would life be without them?
Yes I had sex before I was ready for it, I smoked, I drank, I danced naked on a stage in front of a crowd on multiple occasions, I had several sexual partners, I fell in love hard and bounced back. I got drunk. I threw up and went back to drinking. I crawled home ...
But I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I am not ashamed of (most of) these choices many might call mistakes. I learned from them, I grew trough them.
Yes, indeed all parents hope that their children don't make irreparable mistakes. But please, let them make their choices, let them have their fun, and let them learn from their experience.
Image: foxandfeathers on Flickr