Before my teens were teens, but just on the verge, I remember a nice summer evening when Jeff and I finally had a chance to go out to a quick dinner and movie. I don't remember what movie we saw but I remember what movies we talked about seeing and one of them was one of those "funny but raunchy" movies recommended by a few people. There was a much better choice out there and that's the one I (we?) chose. I won't say we didn't discuss going to the "funny but raunchy" one-we did, but that night we chose the other.
When we got to the movie theater there was a group of "almost teenagers" we recognized and said hello to. One or two of them Jeff coached. They asked us what we were going to see and we told them. We asked them and they told us. It wasn't the raunchy one (thank God), but I remember one of them mentioning that movie-saying they heard it was funny. When we got into the movie theater Jeff and I said to each other, "Aren't you SO glad that we chose this movie? What if we had to say the other one or they watched us walk into that theater?" We thought with cringing embarrassment what kind of example that would have been, and how icky we would have felt about that in a million different ways.
I went to a another movie later that year with a friend. We chose a movie that was a PG-13 chic-flick but I was majorly uncomfortable through some parts of it. Years ago, I wouldn't have thought one bit about the 13 part of PG-13, and most likely wouldn't have been uncomfortable, but I had a soon-to-be 13 year old daughter and that number become something real-not something far away in the distant future. Before I wouldn't have noticed the younger girls in the theater watching that movie star jump in bed with her boyfriend on their first date, or the "cute" sexual jokes scattered throughout. But this time, I found myself rolling my eyes, peering around at the ages of some of these junior high and high school girls in the theater. Thinking about the messages it was sending ruined the movie for me, yes even the cute and funny parts, darnit!
I recently came across a video of a song I've always liked on the internet. The woman (I hesitate majorly to ever use the word "artist" anymore) singing has such a pretty voice but the entire sex pot demeanor and drinking and drugs and ick of the video...all of it...I can't listen to that song anymore. It made me angry. This is a song on most teenage girl's Ipods not doubt and I'm sure many of this singer's fans watched what I watched. Would have been that difficult to make the video as pretty as the song and the voice? Is there anyone with true talent in either the music or movie industry anymore? Anyone can come up with crap, but it takes originality and talent to come up with the good stuff- that's true artistry, not a cheap, ugly sell-out.
I take things much more seriously now that my kids are older. I think I should. The pressures today that teenagers face-don't they need anyone and everyone they can get standing in their court-telling them that they are worth more? Don't they need to come home consistently to a refuge away from all the crap they here and see today? Teenagers are smart-they figure out really quickly where you stand-whether it's on little things like movies or big things like alcohol-and they are not gullible enough to just listen to what you say and not watch what you do-they notice every inconsistency for sure-we need to give them much more credit than for that than we do.
I think one of the gifts of mothering pre-teens and teens can be the chance for US to reevaluate our moral compass...on every issue, big and small. When I became a mom of a teenager I started seeing things through the eyes of a teenager. Did I want to settle, did I want to go with the flow and what it seems everyone else is doing, am I willing to deal with feeling different, and am I willing to set the bar at the highest level and then walk the walk not just talk the talk? That certainly was what I was telling and hoping my teenager would do-was I willing to do it myself?
I think the greatest gift that parents can give to their impressionable teenagers in return is the gift of strong morality and high expectations-and there is no other more obvious influential way to hand that gift to them than by example of the life choices we, their parents, make every day.