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The A to Z's of Teenagers: N Is for Never

Remember—decades ago—in the heat of some knock-down-drag-out with your mother, when you swore to yourself: “I will never, ever do that when I’m a mother”? Then remember much later in life looking down adoringly at the sweet little face that was looking up at you? Your precious, innocent newborn babe, and you, tearfully, joyfully promising to be the best mother on the planet, and pledging silently to never, ever . . .

Okay, the day of reckoning is here. That innocent babe is now a wonderful-terrible, smart-smarmy teen who is taking you on the rollercoaster ride of your life. What better time to revisit those promises you made to yourself—and your babe. I just undertook this harrowing exercise. Here are 10 things I swore I would never ever do as a mother. (Spoiler alert: Never say never.)

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1. I will never, ever serve my child neon orange mac ‘n’ cheese from a box. Oops. What if somehow, I don’t know how, a box found its way into the pantry, and I’m running late, and she is a picky eater and in a cranky mood, and, well, the rest is history. Also, since it almost glows in the dark and has a long list of unpronounceable chemical ingredients, why does it taste so yummy?

2. I will never, ever allow my child to leave the house without eating a nutritious breakfast. Wow. Lost that one around 4th grade. Unless a handful of Cocoa Puffs counts.

3. I will never, ever let my sweet-faced, soft-cheeked child wear make-up until high school. Okay, until 8th grade. Seventh grade and not a minute sooner.

4. I will never, ever rifle through my daughter’s room or belongings looking for whatever it is she doesn’t want me to find. This goes for not looking at her diary, scrolling through her texts, stalking her on Facebook. Yea! A promise I am actually keeping, probably because I remember how close to matricide I was when I learned that my mother had pawed through my underwear drawer to find—and then peruse—my private journal.

5. I will never, ever argue with a coach or official during a sporting event my daughter competes in like some incredibly obnoxious parents do. Unless, geez, the coach doesn’t know squat and/or the official made the worst call ever.

6. I will never, ever pay my daughter for getting a good grade. Confession: I did, in fact, attempt bribery, but she didn’t get the A so I kept the 20 bucks.

7. I will never, ever say, “Just wait ‘til your father comes home.” And I never have. Because I am way tougher than he is.

8. I will never, ever allow my daughter to have a TV in her room. This worked great through elementary and into middle school. All programming was vetted, and whatever programming we watched, we watched together. But, by 10th grade, armed with a laptop and access to the family Netflix account, my daughter had her own private upstairs screening room.

9. I will never, ever assume she is clueless. My mother constantly underestimated what I knew and what I understood and the depth (and sometimes even maturity) of my feelings. This has been an easy pledge to keep, first because it is so obvious how clueFUL my daughter is, and second because, if I even begin to make the clueless assumption, she is all over me.

10. I will never, ever pretend I am flawless. Easy. I am not that good a pretender.

I will never pay for a smart phone for my daughter.

And now, a word from the teenage daughter:

Five things I would never, ever do as a mother:

1. I’d never go into my daughter’s room without her permission. My daughter’s room would be her sanctuary away from me, and the last thing I’d want to do is disrespect her special place.

2. Every day I see groups of young girls out together staring at their smart phones, updating their Facebook pages or Tweeting or Instagramming or whatever they’re doing instead of talking to each other. I won’t allow my daughter to be glued to her phone when she could be out there interacting with others. I will never pay for a smart phone for my daughter.

3. I will never get old. At least not on the inside. I don’t want to be that mother who doesn’t know what the modern world is about. I want to stay hip, energetic and funny, no matter what age I am.

4. I will try to never embarrass my daughter. For example, a kiss on the cheek when I drop her off at school might be a sign of love to me but to her (and to her friends who might be watching) it could mean an entire day of teasing. Or the end of the world.

5. I’ll never keep the “real world” a secret. If she’s old enough to ask the question, she’s old enough for an honest answer. She will know the facts of life before her school has a chance to mess it up.

Now here are the five things I will never let my daughter do—if I had complete control of her life. Ha.

1. I will never let my daughter be uncivil in public. I strongly believe in public decency, common politeness and courtesy. This will be basic law in my family.

2. I will never let my daughter get breast implants. I’m sorry, my daughter will be forced to love herself just as she is.

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3. I will never let my daughter be driven anywhere by anyone without my permission. I know from first-hand experience just how unfocused (and dangerous) teen drivers can be.

4. I will never let my daughter wear heels to school. Why ruin your feet for a stupid fashion statement?

5. I will never let my daughter leave the house looking like…how can I say this? A “working girl.” I’m talking too much make-up, too much cleavage, too little skirt.

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