Choose Your Battles

This summer, my youngest daughter has decided to stay home. And when I say "stay home" I mean stay on the couch in the sunroom with her feet up and headphones firmly attached to her ears during the vast majority of all waking hours. In other words, my worst nightmare.

Before the summer got underway, I was worried. I had a terrible feeling this might happen. She had refused to apply for any summer programs. No camps. No jobs. No nothing.

So I drew up a contract. I delineated all the Rules for the summer. I did not want her to sleep all day. I did not want her to stay up late every night. I wanted her to study math problems so she would be ahead next year and also prepare for the PSAT's. If she couldn't get a paid job, I wanted her to volunteer somewhere. And I expected her to practice her violin every day. At least 2 hours a day.

She signed this contract. But I soon discovered that her signature was meaningless. Because she planned to ignore all of my Rules.

In case you are not a parent, one thing you need to keep in mind is that parenting is exhausting. Not just tiring, but downright exhausting. Toddlers will wear you out physically, but teenagers will drain every ounce of your mental and emotional energy. And you can fight with them all you like, but you can never win. Because the bottom line is: you care and they don't. You are never going to stop caring and they are not going to start. Not until they are in their mid-twenties at the very earliest.

So what is a well-meaning control-freak parent supposed to do?

Give up.

That is all you can do. Just give up. Surrender. Once your kids are teenagers, it is too late. You can't force them to do everything you want. Not unless you make that effort your full-time job. And ain't nobody got time for that.

So, I decided to pick my battles. I gave up on everything EXCEPT the violin. And low and behold! It actually worked. My teenaged daughter now lies on the couch for most of the day, after sleeping in late because she stayed up too late the night before. She rarely puts on clothing besides pajamas. She has no job, no camp, no volunteering. She does not study anything and has not read a single book. She eats whatever she feels like (mostly mac and cheese from a box) at odd hours leaving dirty dishes and pots and pans in the sink. But she does practice her violin for approximately 2 hours each day.

I now consider this a success.