This holiday season found us introducing Edie to one of the best TV shows ever made about being a teenager – My So-Called Life. The show tackles some serious issues – drinking, drugs, sex, guns in schools – and admittedly, when Edie came and asked me if we could watch it, she pulled the “Daddy said it was okay” and rather than asking him myself, I assumed that he had done the research to see if it was appropriate. We all know what assuming does. Turns out it’s not entirely appropriate for a girl who’s going to be 11 in a few short weeks, but as we cringe our way through certain scenes, we realize, we are not that far away from them being appropriate, so perhaps we should consider it starting the conversation early.
What I loved about the show when it first ran practically 20 years ago was how realistic it was – that was MY 15 year old self up there – as if someone had access to my experiences & inner thoughts and actually made a tv show about them. Watching it all these years later, I still think that’s my 15 year old self up there on the screen, but I also had this earth shattering moment where I realized that I’ve gone from being Angela Chase to being Angela Chase’s mother. On about 10 different levels.
It’s not just that someday in the not-so-distant future, my own daughter is going to be 15 and will no doubt be very much like Angela – I can already see similarities between them. I could see her identifying with the character, I could see her realizing which of her friends were Sharon & Brian, I could hear her & her father talking about how uptight Angela’s mother Patti was, and I could see Edie already identifying with how she just sometimes doesn’t want to talk to her mother, how her mother could just not at all possibly understand what she’s going through. I know that stage is unavoidable, that it’s part of her development and it’s not personal. Heck, it’s even one of the running themes in the show how Angela so completely dislikes her mother.
The very first episode has a scene where Angela wants to sleep over her new friend Rayanne’s house – and storms off when her mother says she doesn’t know who this person is, or her parents. How can she let her sleep over when she doesn’t know these people?
Right there, I realized I had totally forgotten how it drove me absolutely nuts that my parents gave me the third degree about my friends – where did they live, who were their parents, what did their parents do for a living – I remember thinking back then it was some value judgement on the part of my parents, after all what did it matter what someone’s parents did for a living or where they lived? I’d have to say that at least half the arguments I had with my parents, if not more, were because of all their questions about who I was hanging out with. About why they always wanted everyone to come over to our house, why wasn’t I allowed to go anywhere?
We all have things that we swear up and down we’ll never say or do as a parent. Then, as you become a parent, you realize exactly why your parents said those things. The ‘because I said so’ stuff. You know what I’m talking about.
Worse than forgetting exactly how much it bothered me was the realization that I do that. A conversation that keeps coming up among my mom friends, especially since the kids have moved up to the next level of school – 6 neighborhood elementary schools combine into one pseudo-middle school (it’s called an upper elementary, but for all intents and purposes, it’s middle school.) is how exactly to handle your kids being friends with kids who’s parents you don’t know. How to handle when they are invited somewhere by these kids. How to explain to your kids without sounding uptight, controlling and possibly even slightly wacko that it really would be better if we could just host that child and their parents could come pick them up and maybe stop in so we could get to know them.
Because no matter how old they are, handing them over to a complete stranger, letting them go out there on their own is slightly terrifying. And wanting to know where their friends live, what their parents do, that starts to fill in a picture – and you need a picture to be able to let go. I get it now.
Just today she came home from school and while she greeted me with a smile and a hug, she immediately went looking for Daddy and proceeded to do her homework near him while he was working – and open up to him about her upcoming birthday party and who to invite and not invite and why and who already told her they can’t make it, which throws the entire guest list into chaos. Things that Daddy probably doesn’t care about and really probably wishes I would take care of and listen to, but no, I’m chopped liver and he’s the one with all the right answers, even if he doesn’t think he has any answers. I suppose it’s all part of the march from bringing these helpless little creatures home from the hospital looking over your shoulder to see if they really are letting you leave with this thing to sending them out into the world as responsible, productive members of society, which really is what our job as parents is when you get down to it – and they like to help matters along by realizing that indeed, we can’t fix everything, don’t always know the answer and even resenting us a little bit for it. And there is not a damn thing we can do about it except realize it’s just part of the journey, that we were exactly the same way once and that someday, they really will understand.