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All Grown Up.. You Sure About That, Buddy?


The note that greeted me on a particularly stressful Monday started this way:


Dear Mom and Dad: 

I am not a child anymore. I am 13, not 3. I do not like being treated like a baby because I am not one and I do not act like one. At some point in every parent’s life, they must let their child learn from their own mistakes. I think, along with many other parents and students, that time is now. I’m a grown-up so treat me like one.

There were several other paragraphs, complete with angry punctuation; it didn’t take a handwriting expert to see that the boy was mad. So what prompted my cherub to take pencil to paper and write his Monday morning missive? Me.. Yep, I had the audacity to make him go to bed before midnight on a school night. What kind of mother does that??

Now a little back story. We had just returned from Spring break where the rules flew as free as our hair on the beach, so having to tamp down on Sunday seemed especially cruel to Cole. The last straw came when I heard him VC’ing (video-chatting for the uninformed among you) with his cousin. At midnight. On a school night. I’ll let that sink in a moment.

After I went upstairs and took the laptop, he ostensibly went to sleep. Now I know he wasn’t sleeping; he was penning his mission statement.

The thing is, with a kid like Cole, “Because I said so” is as useful as lips on a chicken. It just doesn’t work. You need to be calm and rational and explain, in multiple steps, many times, why things are the way they are. And so that’s what I did when he came home.

“Cole, I have no problem with you setting your own bedtime. I think it’s a great idea in fact. But what you must know is that with privilege, comes responsibility. So you can stay up late but I think you’re going to be pretty tired from your job.”

“What job?”

“The one you’re going to have to get in order to pay for your part of the mortgage. There’s also the food you eat, the Internet you use, oh and let’s not forget the cell phone.”

Cole’s eye grew large as he mentally tallied what he was up against. I continued.

“Since, you’re not old enough to work outside of the house, what dad and I will do is come up with chores that will be the equivalent of those costs. By my count, you will probably be working from the time you get home from school until you fall in bed at night, which will probably be around midnight. I don’t think you’re going to have time for those other things and even if you did, you’d be too tired to enjoy them.”

Cole protested a little but like I said, when you explain things to him, he gets it. My boy got really quiet and introspective; this was not going at all like he had planned.

“Mom that’s not fair. What kid has to pay a part of the mortgage and all those other things?” I did not bring up the fact that earlier in the day, he had called himself an adult. In writing. Several times.

“Being a grown-up isn’t fair. Mommy would have liked not to face the health challenges I have had, but it didn’t work out that way. I would have liked for the last several years to be a bit easier on our family, but that wasn’t in the cards. Cole this is what life is. What being a grown up is. It’s not all fun; at times it’s really hard work.”

We sat in silence for just a few seconds though it felt much longer.

“Don’t be in such a hurry to grow-up, bud. There’s plenty of time for that. Right now enjoy being a kid and all the things that go with that. Yeah, you have to follow the rules and obey your parents but you know something? As parents go, we’re pretty cool even though you don’t think so right now.”

Cole didn’t say much but he got it. How do I know? Because later that night when he was sweaty from playing hoops and riding bikes, he lay down next to me and told me so. Reluctantly, he agreed to chill out on the growing up thing for now. I figure that will buy me roughly 45 days to work on my next eye-opening example.

What about you? Have you ever had a child in a hurry to grow up? What did you tell them?

More from GEM:

Why Reinvention Rocks!

New Strand: Second Acts

Eyes Wide Open!  5 Things I Learned While Traveling The World


I’m thrilled to be partnering with Hallmark in 2012 for its “Life Is A Special Occasion” campaign. Of course, the characters in my rantings are real and the opinions are all my own.


  1. Ella

    April 20, 2012 at 5:59 am

    The kids wake up in 19 mins, but I’m thinking of getting them up early to read this.


  2. Lamar Tyler

    April 20, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Nice work.

  3. Twane Grays

    April 20, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Rene Love it. I have a similar story. My son told me just after he turned 11 last year he didn’t like me “telling him what to do all the time”. As we ate dinner out that evening I told him I would be happy to treat hm like an adult and stop telling him what to do, but I continued on w/this message: As an adult the meal he was eating would be the last one I would pay for because adults purchase their own food. I also let him know that he would need to start paying $5 room and board per night to live in the house beginning that night. If he was unable to do so, I would take him to the homeless shelter because that’s were adults live who are unable to afford housing. I went on tell hm that he would need to find transportation to all his activities, school, basketball, orchestra, football, movies, birthday parties, etc., but told him not to worry about it… he’d probably have to stop the extra circular activities anyway because he wouldn’t have the funds to continue. After all, adults pay for their own entertainment. Over dessert, I asked him if he wanted me to take him straight to he homeless shelter or if he needed me to take him to MY HOUSE to pick up his things before going. I then sat quietly and let him marinate over that as he finished his dessert. Needless to say by the time the check was paid, he’d had a change of heart and decided being told what to do wasn’t so bad after all and that he would like to remain a child a little while longer.

  4. Lisa

    April 20, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Yup… sometimes a little perspective goes a LONG way… or at least “45 days”… haha! Well-played, my friend. 🙂

    P.S. — Keep the original note he wrote you… may come in handy later for blackmail material! Haha…

  5. Pontificating Brother

    April 20, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Well done Rene,

    My son is 14 and in 9th grade and because he won’t be reading this I’ll tell you what an awesome son he is. Last year he went to Australia for 15 days on an ambassador trip without us. He is an exceptional student and athlete. With hopes of playing college soccer and studying chemistry…both of which he will do with relative ease. He is a Christian leader in his youth group and just a all around nice kid. But with all that said he loses his mind weekly with us, he had the nerve to tell us recently that we were stopping him from developing as a young man. I about choked on the water I was drinking. I snapped off “Dude do you know all the things you are involved in and all the places you’ve seen that your mom and I only saw as adults. Do you know that programs you’ve been in that other kids dream about…” He looked at me and said but thats what you two are supposed to do. Thats when I lost my mind and said “Brother Please” (insert appropriate urban noun instead of “Brother”)

    I sat him down and shared with him, his bill from last summer (actually I told him to sit his “butt” down) Now that I think about it sounded like that scene from The Mack when Goldie tells off Pretty Tony over a game of dice. The end result was shock and he apologized. We then agreed to allow him to make more decisions and we wouldn’t bail him out if he made a blunder of a choice. Its been a couple of weeks and I’m still calling him “Mr Under Developed”…he just laughs at me when I say it. I’m glad he’s smart enough to realize when he losses his mind, maybe I can take a page from him regarding that. I’m sure my wife would appreciate it. LOL

  6. m.e. johnson

    April 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Good on you, Rene. Get ready for 3-4 more years of it. Then one day you will look at him and say, “Who are you and what have you done with my son?” 🙂

  7. Deon Smith

    April 20, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    (My mom would have would have used “physical matters” garnished with expletives…hehehe) You addressed this perfectly by getting him involved by thinking of the future consequences of his choices. Im astounded that you sought a GOLDEN opportunity to guide him in a manner he will later respect you for rather than instinctively acting on anger…(Our kids DO tend to piss us off sometime , but that comes with the territory of loving them even more.)

  8. Jose L. Villalobos

    April 20, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    We have a 14 year old in the 9th grade. He is my stepson, so for a while he was the alpha-male of the house until I came along. He is a good young man and I always say that his best quality is being noble. Nonetheless, at 14 we are also dealing with high levels of hormones as well.

    We recently had a nice one on one talk. He agreed to let me be the parent and make the alpha-male decisions, and I agreed to address issues with him behind closed doors and not in front of his sister or little brother. I told him that as he gets older, he will be given more freedom and more responsibilities. I told him that if he can’t handle the responsibilities he has now, it’s going to be difficult to handle more adult responsibilities. His current responsibilities are simple: put dirty clothes in the hamper, put clean clothes in the closet, do homework, and be a good influence. I explained to him that we, as his parents, want him to be the good man he wants to be and we only want to help him manage (not control, change or squash) his talents and person.

    It’s a process, but I think we’re getting there. 😉

  9. Juli

    April 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Word Rene.
    Right now I am working on the ‘No matter how old you get you will never be my peer’ lessons. Any insight?

  10. Rachel - A Southern Fairytale

    April 21, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I’m seriously seeing one of these in my future.
    Mine are still ‘little-ish’ 8 1/2 and 5 1/2 but holy hell do I ever have some independent minded kids.

    I may be contacting you in the future to get advice.. or really good drink recipes… either one 😉

  11. Rene Syler

    April 21, 2012 at 7:14 am

    @Rachel: put me on speed dial.. and yes, I will have tried out all the drink recipes by then, LOL.. yeah it’s really something navigating this phase.. whew..

  12. Jamie

    April 21, 2012 at 10:38 am

    I love this! What a real way to deal with your teenage son! Just giving him the practical truth!! It’s amazing how far that can go with a young person today. I’m truly one of your biggest fans! Keep doing it.

    Jamie B. aka J. Renee Lacour

  13. Liz

    April 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Excellent story, Rene! My 10 year-old is the youngest of 4 (her sibs are 18, 16 and 13) so, of course, she is most especially quick to want to grow up. Until watching her oldest sister land a part-time job, work 4 afternoons out of every week and then try to keep up with her school work. Best example, ever 😉

  14. Kristen

    April 23, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I remember having a similar conversation with my mom when I was, say, about 13! Does this mean paybacks are in my future?

  15. Ronnie_BMWK

    April 24, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Great post Rene!! I did this…my kids are doing this..I don’t know why people want to rush to grow up so fast!!!

    I am dealing with this exact topic with my 18 year old right now. He is in college and he does not want to listen. I can’t enforce rules from 600 miles away…but I there are certain things that I expect from his conduct and his grades..and if he does not want to follow them..then he can be independent..from my check book that is!!!

  16. TechyDad

    May 21, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Posting a little late but I’m in the same boat as Rachel. My 8 year old isn’t so much in a hurry to grow up as he is in a hurry to assert that I shouldn’t control what he does. (Granted “control what he does” means not allowing him to stay home playing Nintendo DS all day when we need to go grocery shipping and run errands.) He’ll also tell us how he’s got nothing to do and we never let him do anything fun… usually said after we’ve let him spend an entire morning playing and watching TV or said when we won’t buy him a new toy to add to the mound of toys in the living room. I keep threatening to be helpful and clean up those toys that he obviously doesn’t need since he’s got “nothing to do” and donate them to some kids who don’t have any toys at all.

    The way things are headed, I’m not looking forward to the teen years at all!

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