Kids Can Learn from Your Mistakes But You've Got to 'Fess Up

Janelle Harris

Teenage years

Wouldn’t it be nice if life came with an allotment of control z privileges? That is, after all, the most convenient command in my limited techie knowledge: the ability to undo. Why can’t I get a shot at a do over from last week when I sped past that cop tucked way back in the cut and spared myself a $250 ticket? That was a control z moment if there ever was one.

With any hope, those whipper snappers over at Apple are conjuring up some crazy new application thingy that can zap away bad decisions as fast as we can delete wrong moves on the computer (don’t let me down, Steve Jobs!) Until that hits the market, we should probably keep trying to avoid making mistakes — and sharing our hard-learned lessons with our kids so, now that they’re getting older, a morsel of knowledge might seep in and thwart the same mishaps.

So… if you had a chance at control z, what would you do differently about your teenage years? 

If the benevolent gods of back to the future granted me the ability, I’d listen to my own mother more often. Yes Mommy, this is a public acknowledgement that I should’ve tossed my bullheadishness to the side (which I got fairly and squarely from the Harris family tree, might I add) and heeded your advice a bit more closely. OK, a lot.

She warned me ahead of time about quite a number of things that my stubborn tail ended up having to learn the hard way, including the toughest lesson of all: my love story was not an exception to the rule about having a child before I was married. Boy, did I ever think my relationship was going to turn out so very differently than hers did. She cautioned me not to become a single mother like she had been for the 18 years before I grabbed the baton and ran with it. She begged me, actually since I was a kid, to finish school first, become a mother second. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Janelle with a baby carriage. Too bad I didn’t listen.

As far as I was concerned, my love affair was built to defy every supernatural and manmade law because this dude and I were in deep. I knew we weren’t the first people to fall but it sure felt like we were doing something groundbreaking in the area of emotional connections. My mother’s advice be darned: me and my boo were going to get married as soon as we graduated from college and raise the girl child we’d made together in one happy little statistic-defying family. 

Ah, the invincible stupidity that comes packaged with teenage years.

Part of the reason I was so quick to dismiss my mother’s pearls of shared wisdom was the fact that we were always butting heads. Always. She used to tease me by saying the nurses gave her the wrong baby in the hospital. Judging by how different we are personally, even physically, I’d be a little nervous to get a DNA test at this point. But my teenage years exacerbated those extremes to the point where literally anything, from what we watched on TV to which college I narrowed down to my first choice, was fodder for a potential blowout. So man advice? Please. I was so not trying to hear her.

There are tons of things I’m trying to impart to the Tween Girl Sensation before she’s officially old enough to wiggle out from under my thumb of rule. But this one? This is the lesson I’m desperately trying to make stick. Single parenthood is a cycle, one that’s super easy to repeat just because there’s so much emotion involved. Not only does love make you feel invincible — even against your own mother — it makes you feel like everything you’re doing is original when in actuality, ain’t nothin’ new under the sun. And that’s something my mama used to tell me.

I just hope my daughter listens to her mother way more closely and sincerely than I listened to mine. Control z, anyone?
If you had one thing to do over about your teen years, what would it be?

Image via C. G. P. Grey/Flickr

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