Liz’ Story and Recommendations
As a kid, I was raised in a strict household. I had to obey my parents in every way. I had no exposure to pop culture, and there were few decisions I could make for myself.
After my parents were divorced at age eleven, I ended up living with my father and brother. Suddenly, I had all the freedom in the world. I could decide at what time I wanted to go to bed. I could drink soda and eat candy as much as I wanted. Life was amazing. But was it really? Looking back, do I still think these years were right for my development? How do other parents do this? Would I recommend letting your teenager run wild?
It was a steep learning curve, going from everything controlled to nothing controlled. It wasn’t that my father had no interest in us. It’s just that he had never planned on taking us into his household after the divorce, but the circumstances left him with no other choice. And it wasn’t that he didn’t love us enough, it’s just that he always had to work hard. His work as a nurse was irregular and intense. It left little time to raise children in their early teens.
I loved my new-found freedom. I literally ate so much candy; it made me nauseous. I didn’t even know this was possible. Being the night-owl that I still am today, I loved being able to go to bed at a later hour, instead of the mandated 20:15 it was before the divorce. This led me to be extremely tired and sleep-deprived, which I would correct by going to bed earlier the next week. Even now, nearing age forty, I still have trouble getting enough sleep.
My freedom allowed me to make friends and to stay over at their place whenever I wanted. I did so many times. I also went on outings with them, often together with their parents or with my father. My Backstreet Boys fandom was a direct derivative of this freedom. I was free to explore this to whatever degree I wanted.
Something else I explored during my teenage years was my sexuality. In a way that would be seen as highly dangerous nowadays, I chatted with many men online. This is also how I discovered I am into BDSM. Those were the fantasies that turned me on the most.
Last year, while listening to the WTF podcast by Marc Maron, I learned of a new term: ‘self-parenting.’ Without a lot of guidance from my parents during my teenage years, this is what I did. And no, I’m not holier than thou, doing everything by the book. As I said, I ate candy until I nearly threw up, I went to bed too late, I did nothing in the household. But I did put myself through school.
I remember thinking one day: the teachers don’t care if I do my homework or not, I have to do this for me. And so I did. With my new-found motivation, I worked hard in high school and got high grades as a result. I took a job distributing leaflets at age fourteen because I wanted to make my own money. This was purely my decision. I moved out at age nineteen because I wanted desperately to be self-sufficient.
Was It Okay?
Looking back, how do I feel about this time? Was it all right for me? Could it have been different?
As with every event in my life, my freedom in my teenage years made me the women I am today. Had I grown up with my mother, I wouldn’t have been a sex blogger today. I would have finished my degree and probably found some decent job somewhere. I’m convinced at some point I would have rebelled but at a much later age. I’m guessing around age fifty with my then kids leaving the household and wondering if this life really is all there is in the world. I don’t think I would have been truly happy.
I struggled a lot. There was a lot of drama, some caused by me falling in love unrequited, some because of my situation. It wasn’t always safe. Had my father been around more, or some other parent, some events could have been prevented. And yes, my father always made sure there was a babysitter around, especially to take care of my younger brother, but a sitter is not a substitute for a parent. When I had my first period, I had to go to the babysitter to ask for help.
Other Parents Do Give Guidance
Several of my friends have teenage children. I always marvel at how much they teach and guide them. Teaching their children how to cook and do the laundry, helping them through their menstrual pains. I never had such guidance. My mother said I shouldn’t whine so much during my period and my father only sent me to the GP for painkillers. He showed me how the washing machine worked only once, and that was right before I moved out. I don’t hold it against him that he didn’t teach me how to cook. I showed zero interest in it, as I do today.
Not That Free
Would I recommend to let your teenager roam free to do what he or she wants? No, definitely not. Even a little more guidance would have made things smoother and more comfortable for me. I shouldn’t have had to struggle with as many things as I did now. I’m confident that I would have made it through university with the right guidance and structure, and I would have gotten a degree.
It Made Me Who I Am
I am who I am today because of these years in freedom. I got to explore exactly what I enjoyed, and I got to structure my life around these things. That’s the upside. I’m not sad things have gone this way. My life could have been different in another way, but I’m not convinced it would have been that much better. After all, I’m here today, happily married, four cats in my household and writing about sex every day. I think my father would have been proud.