I AM VERY CROSS. I read an article in The Telegraph on Thursday that really shocked me. Written by Cristina Odone, a mother of several teenage boys aged 17 & 19 years old. She was admitting to underhand behaviour to get rid of girlfriends that her boys had chosen, but that she didn’t like. She blames her parents for this sort of behaviour – they did it to her, she hated it, but can’t help doing it herself.
I can blame my parents for most things in life – but choosing my friends? Deciding who I should or shouldn’t go out with? My mother had a thankfully realistic and healthy attitude to this – that who I chose to be close to was up to me – that telling me she didn’t like my friends was going to be detrimental enough, but to actually play a part in separating us would have been a heinous crime. She would never presume to know better than me who was suitable and who was not. That is not to say I haven’t had my fair share of “thank goodness for that, s/he was a bad egg that one – I hoped you’d work out that there was something wrong with them, but you had to do that all by yourself…..”
Interrogating our children’s friends and potential partners is one thing – bad enough almost because how much of a real impression are we as parents going to get from a slightly nervous prospective friend/partner whilst having dinner with them? That is not how they are in the real world. They will say what we want to hear possibly – especially if they feel they are under pressure – we don’t often see how they interact with their friends/peers/own families.
Cristina Odone openly admits that she had “gone out of her way to secretly sabotage her teenager’s relationships” and apparently she is not alone – one in five parents admit to doing the same thing. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?? When are your children entitled to make their own decisions in the world? Why should we as parents presume that the people we like are going to be any better than those we don’t? I know from experience it can be the most clean, shiny, trustworthy ones that break your heart or your children’s heart so why should we know better?
Being a good judge of character is one thing, but controlling who our children mix with is quite another. She says she knows “instinctively and instantly who is undesirable (almost all the girls who’ve darkened our doorstep) and I’m quick to take action”. She says she welcomes the girls in and pretends to be fine with them – one she fattened up over a six week period to the point that her son no longer found her attractive, another she called by her predecessor’s name. She believes that she has shielded her boys from “laddettes with more piercings than brains” for very good reason. That because we as parents “invest time, money and whole heap of love, teaching them right from wrong, personal hygiene, dress sense and table manners” she believes that it is “painful to see all that hard work go to waste on an unworthy romance”.
I don’t believe that sort of parental involvement in our grown up children’s choices is a good example of teaching our children “right from wrong” – it is controlling and devious and judgemental and frankly totally bigoted and ultimately a dangerous way to bring up your children.
So, I suggest that you let go a little. Let them choose their own friends. Nothing wrong with a tattoo here and there surely? Maybe you should sit down and properly talk to one of those inappropriate human beings your sons drag in – you might learn something – you might discover that they have good hearts and loving natures, perhaps they might look a bit wild to you but may be they are deeply in love with your respective sons and are planning to make them very happy.
You may find that your role of gatekeeper is going to be a very lonely place. I worry for you. I also feel very sorry for any future daughter in laws you might have – you will be in danger of losing your sons to their partners/wives forever with that sort of attitude.