It’s Not A Popularity Contest

There are times – and I think it’s more now that my kids are older than when they were younger – when parents have to make a decision and the outcome is an unhappy child.  We know what call they want – but it’s not a popularity contest, so sometimes they’re just not happy.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve run afoul of expectations of both of my girls.  While I can see their point of view on the issues in question – I’m comfortable with my thought process and decisions.

When the girls were way younger a temper tantrum would ensue, and that would be over quickly once they realized the low impact it had on me.  In the tween years, there would be a more sustained protest, perhaps even an attempt to argue.

But in the mid-to-late teen years – there’s a whole different approach, I’m not sure if its intentional or not – but now I deal with passive aggressive, displaced anger and the occasional dirty look.

But the lesson I learned probably the day 17.0 came home from the hospital in Boston – its called parenting.  It’s not a popularity content.

It would be great for my kids to applaud every decision and I’d love to be hailed as a hero every time I say, “No” to something.  At least in my house, that’s just not the way it works.

So, I’ll deal with a few dirty stairs and try not to laugh when one takes out their anger on the other knowing it’s aimed at me.  I’m a parent, not a politician – and it’s not a popularity contest.

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Next Step – Driving

We’re about to reach a milestone of sorts in our house.  17.0 is about to hit the roads as a solo driver.  I’ve purchased a second car, next step is driving for the older one.  Much as I did when I got them mobile phones six years ago – she’ll have to sign a contract of responsibility.

Here’s what I have so far – wondering if anyone has any additional thoughts:

Agreement for Using My Father’s Second Car

The following outlines terms and conditions Teen Driver freely agrees to, understands and acknowledges for use of the second car belonging to my father, Car Owner.  These terms as presented and agreed to should be seen as a contract between Leah and Ethan for use of the car.  Penalties are outlined herein.

Section 1 – Basic Rules

  1. The car belongs to my father, Car Owner, and my driving of it is a privilege I have earned. _____
  2. The car will be kept generally clean and in good running order at all times. _______
  3. The car will be parked either at the top of the driveway with Car Owner’s car having access to get off the drive way first or in a proper overnight parking spot. _______
  4. No more than four additional passengers are permitted in the car. _______
  5. There can be no additional drivers of the car without the express (and situationally) granted permission of Car Owner. _______
  6. House curfew will be strictly enforced. Failure to keep to house curfew will result in forfeiture of use of the car for a period of time to be determined by Car Owner. _______
  7. Teen Driver will follow and obey all traffic laws. _______
  8. Any incident related to the car or its operation will be disclosed immediately. _______

Section 2 – Car Related Costs

  1. Under terms of this agreement Teen Driver will pay monthly insurance costs of $ XX.XX _______
  2. Teen Driver is solely responsible for keeping gas in the car. _______
  3. Teen Driver is responsible for all maintenance costs of the car including but not limited to oil changes, tire rotation, tire replacement and general maintenance. _______
  4. Teen Driver is responsible for any traffic fines relating to tickets or violations. _______
  5. Should any fines or violations result in points on her license Teen Driver will pay any additional insurance costs on a monthly or annual basis. _______

Section 3 – Expected Driver Behavior

  1. Teen Driver and all passengers will wear seat belts at all times when in the car. _______

  2. Teen Driver will not use her cell phone at any time while driving. _______

  3. A ticket for texting while driving will result in loss of driving privileges for a time period solely at the discretion of Car Owner. _______

  4. Driving while intoxicated or under the influence will result in loss of driving privileges. _______

There’s not stopping the next step, driving. But at least she’ll know she has skin in the game.

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Surviving Travel With Teens and Tweens

ski tripAs the annual winter break comes to an end for the girls, and we get ready to get back on schedule and do the long stretch (relatively long stretch) to the spring break – I look back at how surviving travel with teens and tweens this week.

There were five days off from school (Monday to Friday), add two weekends and it’s nine straight days off.  We spend three night’s in hotels in two cities and five days on the road.  This is not the first time I’ve traveled with my girls, but I realized during our ski trip to Lake Placid there are things I do in the name of surviving travel withe teens and tweens.

Normally, I don’t do lists and top fives etc, but if you are a single dad, traveling with girls in the teen and tween years – I feel your pain.  So, here is the official Dad the Single Guy survival guide:

  1. It goes almost without say, but bring your patience.  Just because you are on the road doesn’t change anything.  Chances are as far as your kids are concerned you are still wrong.
  2. I’m not ready (financially or practically) to give the girls their own hotel room.  So get two keys and set expectations.  Respect privacy as best as possible and try to stay above the sibling fray.
  3. Make as many decisions as possible. Don’t open everything from timing of events to meal choices up to a debate.  It will only give you the chance to be a referee and you’ll never enjoy your time away.
  4. When you decide to cede a decision be ready to support several choices. Try to allow creative decision-making.  For breakfast before skiing I sent the girls into a store and told them to make a choice, knowing what the options were there were no bad choices, and they did not have to choose the same thing (although they did).
  5. These kids are from the digital era, headphones go in and phones are always present. It’s not a slight, its part of life today.  Accept it, and when you need attention ask them to disconnect.  We have a rule in the house, if you are not making money with you phone there is no texting during meals.  I enforce it equally.
  6. Share as much time as you can.  Remember this is still a family vacation, treat it as such and share the time and experiences.
  7. Teens and tweens are very different.  Where you can allow for those differences and respect them.  Let the teen be a teen while allowing the tween her space as well.
  8. Set expectations and keep your goals in reason.  It’s their vacation too, let them relax and feel like they are getting away too.
  9. Pay attention to what they pack.  We were in Lake Placid and neither of my girls had the right boots to walk through snow and slush.  And we had one emergency trip to a Rite Aid for a forgotten item.
  10. Expect help.  Don’t play servant.  My kids have chores at home, on the road they have responsibilities to make sure we all enjoy.

I have no idea if the above works with boys, and no thoughts on if having two parents present makes a difference (my guess is probably not).

And remember, these are official for Dad the Single Guy only – your results may differ.  It would kind of interesting to find out how you go about surviving travel with teens and tweens.

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The Tween Who Would be a Teen and the Soon to be Tween

Although the difference in age between my girls has not changed (and yes I know it’s not supposed to) at this moment in time it seems like the difference is a lifetime.  11.0 is a full-fledged tween, trying hard to be a teen and 9.0 is somewhere on the outskirts of becoming a tween, but not completely sure she wants to be all that all the time…

And so we’ll go into the new year as the tween who wants to be a teen and the soon to be tween-albeit perhaps reluctantly.

While this may have been clear to people on the outside looking in, it was Chanukkah this year that made it clear to me.  As I mentioned last week, the first night’s gift was a cell phone.  With the cell phone came responsiblity.  And with the responsibility, came a contract to sign.

I’ve fielded comments pro and con my idea of a contract, and as I usually do, I did just what I thought was right-although I do agree there were some good comments made by those who think my idea was a little over the top.

But when it came to the girls.  I went over each clause with them individually.  9.0 happy to have a phone initialed each of the clauses and signed her name.

11.0 did her best to negotiate with me.  She doesn’t have the experience yet to know she should not negotiate from a spot where she has no strength.  The biggest argument she had was her friends did not have to sign a contract for their phones.

When that came up, I tried out my mother’s favorite argument from when I was growing up and made the comparison a friend’s home life, “Go move in with them,” she would say.

I probably did not say it with enough conviction, because it did not resonate with 11.0 or with me for that matter, so I quickly moved on.  I tried to point out that 11.0 really was not in a spot to negotiate terms, since I could easily take the phone and put it in a drawer.

Knowing I would do that, worked and 11.0 reluctantly signed.

But the difference in attitude is duly noted.  11.0 just short of rebellious, and 9.0 happy to have a phone.

I guess I’ll be living with a teen girl soon-and with two teen girls before I’m ready, unless of course I can figure out a way to mess with their birthdays…but that’s not likely is it?

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