Life

Leona O'Neill: Why are my teens obsessed with 'other people's parents'?

It's hard enough being a parent to teenagers without being constantly asked to measure your decisions against other families. Leona O'Neill can't help but wonder if the super-liberal parenting units she keeps being unfavourably compared to by her teenage sons actually exist...

Parenting through the teenage years is rarely plain sailing

AS A parent of two teenagers there is one irritating phrase I hear far too frequently. It's one that makes me shudder when I hear it: if I had a pound for every time I've heard the words 'other people's parents', I would be able to afford to buy a holiday home in Italy with gorgeous view and a meditation room where I could escape teens making me feel like I'm the strictest, most uncool mother in the world.

I often ask myself if these 'other people's parents' are actually real or a myth made up by teenagers to torture their parents. These mystical perfect 'other people's parents' are cool, relaxed, have-it-all-together, with-it, on-trend, on-point folks who allow their 16-year-olds to drink beer or go to pubs. They allow their sons to stay out until 2am with no resistance. They allow their children to stay up all night and play video games on a school night.

 

These mythological 'other people's parents' pay for their child to go to raves in different cities on a bus that has blacked out windows and disco lights. These 'other people's parents' willingly pay £60 to £100 a week into their child's bank accounts and don't expect any chores done in return, they don't nag about homework or people fighting with their brothers. They allow them to go to really cool nightclubs when they are underage.

'Other people's parents' are not boring like we are. They are fabulous and fair, sound and hilarious and have bottomless pockets stuffed with money that they don't mind dishing out on their child's every whim. They don't give their kids any hassle about anything at all, not even tidying their rooms. In fact 'other people's parents' clean their teenager's rooms for them when they are out with their friends so that it's lovely when they come home. Other people's parents have no stupid rules.

'Other people's parents' buy the nice food, not all that healthy eating stuff that you can't fry. They don't put back all the chocolate biscuits that their children put into the trolley in the supermarket. They aren't shocked when the woman at the till says "£150 please" for the new pair of runners their child has put on the counter and they don't ask "can you not get that exact same t-shirt in Dunnes?" when asked to pay for the exact same t-shirt in a designer store for six times the price.

'Other people's parents' take their kids off on really cool holidays every year. They don't keep bleating on about going to flipping Wicklow again, to a wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere with no wi-fi, 16 miles from a shop that sells crisps and 40 miles from a McDonalds. 'Other people's parents' are not totally and utterly embarrassing, consistently, like every single day.

Who the hell are these 'other people's parents' that my teenagers use as a stick to beat me with? I've never met them. I've never seen them. Are they real? Are you them?

I can't stand it anymore, I need to know. I want to know if other parents are doing this parenting stuff all completely right and I've been doing it all wrong for all these years. I want to know if my kids spend their days secretly wishing to divorce me and go and live with these seemingly perfect 'other people's parents'.

Are 'other people's kids' doing the same thing and telling their parents that I allow all the stuff that they are not permitted to do, are they are also using me as a stick to beat their parents with, to make them feel guilty and lesser?

This was a community service broadcast on behalf of an 'other person's parent' – me. Don't believe the hype your kid is spinning.

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