My Teenage Babysitter Is My Favorite 'Parenting Expert'

teenagerSometimes it feels like being a mom means being terrified of the other shoe dropping. There are so many unknowns, you can't help but be afraid. Case in point: the teen years. Until you have one in your house, you have no idea what to expect.

Which is why I have stumbled onto a brilliant plan ... moms, find a teenager, any teenager! And milk her (or him) for all the information you can get.

Hey, it worked for Oz the Great and Powerful star Michelle Williams. The mother of 7-year-old Matilda ended up shooting a whole movie with 13-year-old actress Joey King, and as King told The Stir, she took full advantage of it!


Joey, the feisty 13-year-old who plays the China Girl in the new Oz film, let slip that Williams was like a mom to her on the set (while Mila Kunis was more like a big sister!):

She has a daughter Matilda, and she wanted to know things, like, what age I got my phone at, how old was I when I got to wear heels?

It's just another reason I relate to Michelle -- she's a mom who has no problem admitting she doesn't have all the answers.

Here's the thing: we don't get starter kids to practice on. I've heard from more than one mom with two kids that she feels like she is doing it "better" with the second one because she worked the kinks out on the first. Every single one of those moms has wished there was a better way.

And, well, maybe there is.

More From The Stir: My Daughter Loves Her Babysitter Too Much

I do more or less what Michelle did on set ... only I don't use my 13-year-old co-star. I use my 16-year-old babysitter. I ask her questions, sometimes too many questions, and I take mental notes of what I think her mom is doing right (which I will say is pretty much everything).

This kid has already made me feel a lot better about the biggest teen issues. Behold:

1. Boys. I didn't date a lot in high school; my first truly serious boyfriend turned into my husband. So I worry about how to ensure she balances boy time with her time. I knew I found the right role model for her when my 13-year-old (at the time) babysitter invited my little girl to the same birthday party that her boyfriend would be at ... and then made sure to spend time WITH my child. The key seems to be raising a kid who values herself first and foremost ... not in choosing some arbitrary age when kids can "start" dating. Noted and logged!

2. Drugs. Maybe I was clueless or maybe times have really changed, but I only recall there being pot in my school as a teen. Now I'm hearing about meth, heroin ... and my babysitter doesn't touch any of them. Why not? She doesn't want to screw up her body. I can work with that!

3. Social Media. The sitter has been my "friend" on Facebook since she started working for me, three years ago. She's also friends with her mom and has been the whole time. It works out well enough that I'm probably going to allow my daughter to do the same once she's 13 (if Facebook is still around?).

4. Cellphones. Like Michelle, I'm wary of introducing a phone too soon. I used to be of the mind that kids don't really need one. But the sitter has had one for as long as she's worked for me, and I have to admit it's been useful ... for ME, her employer. She convinced me that, yes, teens do need cellphones. 

So how about you? Do you have a "starter" teenager you're using to map out how to parent a teen? 


Image by Jeanne Sager


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