Since school got out I have been asked by Jake to have friends over almost every moment that he didn't have a task, which since school got out has been almost every moment. Finally on Thursday night I gave in and agreed to an impromptu party. We went downtown to see my cousin's band "Pert Near Sandstone" perform and then went back home for a bon fire. Only one of Jake's friends was able to go to the concert but a couple more came over around 8:30 after we got home. At first it was a normal bon fire, friends chatting, roasting marshmallows, adding logs, etc. Then they got the idea to burn homework. Jake had just dumped his backpack and desk in the trash and it was full of schoolwork memories they were ready to rid themselves of for the summer. Then something went...wrong? weird? One of them rolled up a sheet of homework and lit the end. It seemed like a cigarette and the next thing we knew they were all "smoking" homework. It was beyond hilarious to watch and John and I just sat there laughing. I, of course, ran to get my camera because what else would you do?
Even as I was photographing I was thinking about my sister and how she would never understand this. We have had several conversations essentially about how the seemingly innocent experimentation of her youth became a stepping stone to actual bad choices and therefore she is very careful about what she lets her children be exposed to. While I certainly understand and agree with her thoughts for the most part, and I am in no way picking on her parenting here (she reads this after all), but it got me thinking about the choices we are making as parents of a teenager and what kind of relationship we are going to have with his friends.
As I am going into this stage of parenting (am I going into it or am I firmly ensconced in it?), I feel like more important than establishing our rules for both Jake and his friends is to establish relationships with Jake and his friends. Not wimpy relationships that accept any behavior to maintain the friendship but an actual respectful and loving relationship with our son that began long before the teen years hit. And a relationship with his friends that shows we care about them and enjoy them and do not fear them or their influence on our son.
The teen years can be tough and no mater what we do as parents our children will make a few bad choices. Some worse than others but nobody goes through life without making a few mistakes along the way. John and I would like to have a relationship with our son that assures us that when the mistakes happen and he is suffering the consequences we can be there to help him over come them and get back on the right path.
Of course as we laughed about the homework smoking we were able to ask them if we should be concerned. And while it didn't turn into a big anti smoking love fest they did express a disgust with actual smoking which made us feel much more comfortable.