"I’m hoping it’ll dawn on them that I’m not such a terrible parent for insisting electronics be shut down at 9pm and they do one chore a week."
I call my kids to come and see this YouTube video of a father in the US who ends his rant against his teenage daughter’s “I hate my parents” Facebook post, by emptying the barrel of his gun into her laptop.
I suppose I’m hoping it’ll dawn on them that I’m not such a terrible parent for insisting electronics be shut down at 9pm and they do one chore a week. Instead they look at each other and roll their eyes. “Just proves what a dickhead of a father he is,” my son says in disgust. “Tragic,” my daughter sighs and saunters off to continue the intricate artwork of stitches, hearts and diamonds she’s been drawing on her left arm with a Sharpie marker over the past week. It’s only a matter of time before it evolves into a permanent tattoo.
Now that they’re teenagers, the exhausting years of claustrophobic motherhood have been replaced with this: me left feeling a bit silly. It’s not like I want to be worshipped, just respected. The problem is, I’m not impressive any more. They used to ask me things and take my word for gospel. Nowadays they know more than I do about too many things.
I need their help with iTunes, my iPhone and Foxtel. They snicker, as if I’m some nerd who’s been under a rock and only just emerged into the daylight of popular culture.
“Don’t come in, I’m filming,” my 12-yearold son calls down the passage, as if he’s Spielberg. I have no idea what’s actually going on in his room, except that later there’ll be YouTube uploads of his “gameplay”, which he then insists I watch – it gives him “views”, which is how he measures his selfworth.
We nearly came to blows over Call of Duty, which I refused to allow in my home (because I’m the boss), even though I was ruining his social life in the process. And he’s got friends in his room 24/7 on Skype.
I miss the good old play date where kids went home eventually. Parenting teenagers has come upon me suddenly. One day we were in parks, eating ice-creams and playing on the slippery dip, and the next my daughter was telling me to give her a break as she has PMS.
Time Out and Naughty Corners are obsolete and ridiculous. “Eat your broccoli” is usually met with a “You eat my broccoli” or “I’ve decided to give up green vegetables.”
When I insist, my son quotes the Convention on the Rights of the Child where he claims his right to eat what he wants has been recognised by the UN. I’m usually too tired to argue and, since no one’s scared of me any
more, raising my voice just makes me look like I’m the one having the tantrum.
My daughter used to love it when people said she looked like me. Now, at the age of 15, she scowls as if she’s been told she resembles Barney the dinosaur. When my son sinks a three-pointer, my whoops just embarrass him. “Be cool, Mum,” he grimaces. “It’s just a basketball game.” It’s my dignity I miss.
As I search for new meaning in my role as their mum, their need for independence stretches me to breaking point. They may be growing up, but I’m having to toughen up to withstand the shame of having to ask someone a quarter of my age what a meme is. My kids are changing, nightly, by the glow of their computer screens. They’re preparing me. With closed doors, private conversations and peer secrets, they’re letting me go.
They’re shrugging me off like old skin. But I’m slowly expanding my own horizons and dreaming up that life they keep telling me to get. Who knew of the secret deal between us – that as they grow into themselves, they give me back to myself and I get to watch from the sidelines as they unfurl into funny, opinionated, interesting people I like.
Joanne Fedler is the author of the best-selling Secret Mothers’ Business. Her new novel, The Reunion, is out on April 30.
From Sunday Life