Herding Teenagers? Unlocking The Secrets Of The Mo Code

School holidays.

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?

image from freedigitalphotos.net

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

    1. 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.
    2. 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.

    3.  During the lead up to the activity, eat and sleep well. You will need your strength.

    4. 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.

    5. 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?

    6. 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.

    7. Issue the one week to go early warning signal. For details, see A above.

    8. 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.

    9. 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.

    10. Keep up the good cheer, positivity and unflinching witty rejoinders… you’re almost there!

    11. 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.

    12. 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.

    13. Herding completed. You are now free to go about the business of making happy family memories.

Image from freedigitalphotos.net

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?