Two seemingly innocuous words. School is a means of delivering education and education means empowerment. Holidays are fun, free, relaxed and something to look forward to. School holidays are therefore an opportunity for fun, free, relaxed empowerment, right?
If you are a mother of teenagers, like me, you’re now reading this sporting an all knowing grin. That grin that says you know otherwise, that years of experience has taught you that all the relaxing, fun and empowerment are on the kids’ side of the ledger and that you will be secretly applauding the day school resumes and your life returns to the track called S-A-N-I-T-Y. We never speak of this publicly of course, except to our closest confidants lest we be judged as anything less than wonderful parents. But tap into the roots of maternal realism and you will discover a world of secret code, secret handshakes and stories you won’t find in What To Expect When You Are Expecting. This is called the Mo Code.
After three weeks of mid year break, my teens are back at school. This three-week break was a little different to past holiday breaks for several reasons. My 17 year old, Future Baseball Star, was eight short weeks away from “Trials” which is the last big exam event/ practice run before the real deal starting in late October. My 13 year old, Geek God in Training, just entered “manhood”, a significant event which we have celebrated in the past by embarking on a coming-of-age trip. As a family, we needed time together before the Teens scatter to the wind of their own lives. So, it was with much hope and determination that I herded the Teens and the Italian Stallion together for a five day road trip.
After you have attempted to herd
cats teenagers a few times, you begin to learn the anatomy of the herding experience and as a community service to all of you would be mothers or mothers of teenage boys in training, I present to you the following extract from the Mo Code. Please treat this with the reverence and confidentiality deserving of a rare glimpse into the secrets of the Code. For all you experienced mothers of teens or adults, treat this as reinforcement and part of the duty to support each other in this most arduous part of the parenting journey.
Herding Teens 101
- Once you have decided on the activity for which herding is required, give your teens the two weeks to go early warning signal. This allows time for your teens to process the information (this will take about four days) and for them to feel that they have issued you with the required number of complaints about said activity.
Ignore said complaints or only deal with them by way of witty rejoinder. Never try to reason with your teens or state that contrary to their beliefs, your chosen activity will be fun, entertaining and memorable. Never show doubt or fear. Teens can sniff both a mile away.
During the lead up to the activity, eat and sleep well. You will need your strength.
Invite your teens to research the place or activity beforehand and to suggest any things they might like to do. They will ignore this opportunity, but it is important that you issue the invitation.
Subtly remind your teens to arrange or rearrange their schedules so that you have the required time available for the chosen activity. The key here is subtlety – you wouldn’t want them to miss anything really important to them, would you?
Sporadically drop into conversation some of the detail of the activity you plan, but do not respond to the complaints or if you do, use only the strategy in B above. Teens do not like complete surprises.
Issue the one week to go early warning signal. For details, see A above.
Reassure your teens that any hotel or place where you will stay has electricity and a WIFI connection. Trust me, you can’t fight this one. It’s better to go with it and make sure you spend time away from the hotel or place.
Have your teens pack their clothes etc. But do a quick check before you leave or you might end up with two T-shirts, three gadget chargers and one pair of boxers for a five day stay in winter! Have said teen take any necessary remedial packing action.
Keep up the good cheer, positivity and unflinching witty rejoinders… you’re almost there!
Pack any personal provisions you need to see you through the “Cacophony Of Complaints”. This is the first hour after you embark on your chosen activity where your teens will escalate their complaints to a crescendo and eventually come to realise there is no turning back. It is critical at this point you adhere to point B above and also that you drop a few fart jokes (as opposed to actual farts) here and there. Deflection/distraction – works for teens as well as it does for toddlers, only the level of (non) sophistication changes. As for provisions, I suggest, as a minimum, an I-Pod, chocolate, chewing gum, reviews and info on the latest teen movies, games and bands and a water pistol.
Playfully engage with your teenagers for the next couple of hours, humorously lamenting with them about how much being away from their usual routine does actually suck. Reminding them about world poverty at this point is not a good tactic, although reminding them about similar suckiness their mates had to endure at the hands of their parents seems to work.
Herding completed. You are now free to go about the business of making happy family memories.
There it is, the thirteen steps to herding success from the Mo Code. Successful herding will give you immense satisfaction and wonderful anecdotes. Trust me, I know…I’m a professional.
Have you ever had to convince a less than supportive group to come along with you somewhere? Do you have any great herding stories? Any refinements to my extract from the Mo Code?
17 thoughts on “Herding Teenagers? Unlocking The Secrets Of The Mo Code”
Love this! I remember one road trip where my oldest daughter decided to give me a puppet show from the back seat. This consisted of her putting both of her feet on each of my shoulders and then carrying on a conversation with foot one and foot two. It lasted about 10 miles. She and her sister then decided to talk with different accents for the rest of the ride, this was long before hand held computer games, i pods or anything that might make the trip quieter.
Great suggestions! Love it. DAF
Watch this to know you aren’t the only one to see kids go back to school: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwcYbo7pjto
Oh, you’re speaking my language on this one. Letter D made me laugh out loud, because my husband and I have tried this to no avail–my kids always ignore this suggestion. And I feel no shame in asking, “Is school starting up again yet?”
Seriously Jude, a water pistol in the vacinity of the Italian Stallion after the Ninja attack from the roof top? That is brave!
Good piece Jude.
I am laughing out loud!!!! Giving “notice” is key. I told my son yesterday that he has a doctor appointment Friday…Friday! It wasn’t enough notice and “no one goes to a doctor on Friday” It’s a miracle we are NOT rocking in a corner. I LOVE the packing scenario …. gadgets are a much bigger deal than boxers!! I must re-read this…see ya!
hilarious and so true 🙂
This is so funny and so accurate. I kept thinking of my children saying, “you did not tell us we were doing that” after I had. You have hit the proverbial nail on the head with this story. I felt like I was reading Erma Bombeck who had that same wit and observation talent down pat. Well done.
In the past I have toyed with the idea of bringing along a cattle prod, but you can’t get those through airport security anymore. Pity.
My boys are almost 21 and 24, and many of the same rules still apply to them! The good news is that my older son is starting to appreciate family time more now. Though once I reminded him to bring a dress belt during a flight home from school, and that was all that he packed. I agree with btg that this was written in the style of Erma Bombeck!
Certainly brought back memories for me, but we only had one teenager to ‘herd’ so it was a relatively easy task. Enjoy them while you have them for all too soon they will disperse upon the winds of their adult destinies.
You really are a professional – I am bowing down now. Very acute observations. Personally, still haven’t worked out how to stop the physical fights in the back whilst driving, now they are both bigger than me and the added complication of one with ADHD (with no filter) really spices things up! The joys!
You have it down to an ART. I only had ONE teenager and that was tough enough. You deserve GOLD for being this organized since you have BOYS. I had a girl–they cannot be broken–if you’re not lucky, they might break YOU.
This is my house to a T with three teenage boys. So funny yet so painfully true. I am either accused of failing to tell them the plans or repeating myself when I try to get us out of the house. Loved this.
This is brilliant and I was laughing all the way through, while also admiring the skill and wisdom of all your advance planning and strategy, followed by successful execution of actions necessary to always stay one or even two steps ahead of your teens. Loved the herding teens is like herding cats analogy, because it’s funny and also oh so true.
You are a very wise woman. And while most of us have heard about The Three Wise Men, have you heard about The Three Wise Women? None of them wanted to marry me! LOL – Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist! 😀
You laughed all the way through, for reals? If that’s the case, then I must be doing something right. As for three Wise Women… they certainly would have brought something more than frankinsence, gold and myrrh, Probably something like swaddling cloth, a donkey poop scooper and chocolate :).
As for your wife, I think she’s a wise woman indeed ;).
Yes, I absolutely did, and there is much that you did right, here. 🙂
Lol @ what you think The Three Wise Women would have brought, and yes, these would have been far more practical under the circumstances. And yes, even the chocolate, because as a man of experience, I know that women should always have high quality chocolate close at hand. They will be much happier for it, and as a result, so will I. Lol 😉
Thanks for what you said about my wife being a wise woman, in this particular context. There is no doubt that she definitely married a wiseguy. And if only you lived closer, I’d ask you to come over and reassure her that marrying me was a wise move.
But then maybe that wouldn’t be the best idea… because it would give her the chance to tell you all my worst secrets. Lol 😀
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