I am the child of Mexican immigrants and, although I love my parents dearly, I hated how stifled I felt during a good deal of my childhood and teen years. I had absolutely no freedom—family was the only thing. I swore I'd never do that to my own kids. I am now the mother of four children; the oldest is a 12-year-old girl who hates me because I won't let her walk home from school with her boyfriend, go to the mall with her friends, or even sleep over her best friend's house. She can only see her friends when they come to our house. I know she wants freedom, but how do I let go just a little without giving her permission to just go crazy'?
Dear Mami 2.0,
Sucks when we open our mouths to yell at the kids for driving us crazy and hear our own mother's words come out, doesn't it? Has she told you yet that she hates you and that you're the worst mother, like, EVER? Because if she hasn't, you're doing it wrong.
I'm pretty sure you and I had the same childhood, so I get where you're coming from. I planned on being way cooler than my parents because the punch line is I had a curfew when I was 21 and dating the man I eventually married. As the oldest of five girls, mami and papi were hell-bent on using me to set the example for the rest of my sisters to follow. That meant high school was a social status nightmare with no adult-free mall trips or movies with my girlfriends and absolutely no boyfriends or make-up until after I turned quince. My mother even went so far as to chaperone my high school senior all-night party because, well, obviously.
Then I had a child, realized how horrible the world is and how diligent I was going to have to be in instilling the same self-respecting values and sense of responsibility I grew up with. And then I went to the mall and saw all these bebitas showing way too much skin and holding hands with their boyfriends and ay, Dios mio, where the hell were their parents?
Here's the deal: your girl needs you to be her mami, not her friend. If you think 12 is too young for solo time at the mall and a novio, then that's what she's gotta deal with whether she likes it or not. As Latino families, we have our own ideas on how to do things, and what we hated as kids we tend to embrace when we have our own.
Just let loose on the leash a little bit, okay? You remember what it felt like to be a 12-year-old girl with prison wardens for parents, so figure out where you are willing to bend. My suggestion? An afternoon at her BFF's house is a great start. Just set the ground rules ahead of time so everyone's on the same page (at least one adult has to be in the home, no boys allowed or she never sees daylight again...blah, blah, blah) and you can baby-step your way to the occasional sleepover.
Trust and respect must be earned, which means you need to give her a chance to prove herself to you. Just make sure to print this column out to save for when she has kids of her own. —That's when she'll really understand.
Pauline Campos is Latina Magazine's #DIMELO advice columnist. Email her your won question at dimelo@latina,com. Connect with her on her blog, www.aspiringmama.com , facebook, and follow her on twitter: @pauline_campos.