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Hi. My name is Molly and I'm a mean mom. I'm not letting my 16-and-17-year-old kids hang out with friends – or have friends over – during the pandemic crisis.
Last Monday, one of my sons asked if he could have one friend come over to play cards. At first I said yes, but the more I thought about it, I had to take it back and say no, determining from that point forward we were officially social distancing.
However, later that day, three of his friends got together at another friend's house. My son said their moms were cool with it as long as they were in a group smaller than 10 and didn't sit or stand close to one another.
This made me feel angry and sad, not wanting my kid to feel left out and also feeling alone in my decision to say no to teen socializing. I texted my sister who lives in Atlanta with two teens, and she informed me she, too, was not letting her kids treat the quarantine like a vacation even though many of their friends were. "The girls are constantly mad at me," she texted.
I started to look online for more moms who were also being "mean" and wound up interviewing and commiserating with four Milwaukee moms-of-teens. Together we tried to understand their feelings and figure out what, if anything, we can do to make it easier for our teens, many of whom are already struggling with everything from acne to anxiety.
Teens are gonna teen. Always have, always will.
"My kids are responding this way because they're teenagers, and most teenagers want and need to be social," says one mom. "It's in their nature. And maybe because they thought they were untouchable since we all heard that this virus really doesn't affect their age group."
And although our kids are acting dismissive of the severity of the virus, they aren't complete a-holes. It's more of an impenetrable indifference. Probably similar to the attitude I had about AIDS in the 1980s and early 90s.
"When I look back to my own teenage years, I didn't think I was mortal," one mom says. "They probably think this way too. My kids are good kids; they're not trying to hurt anyone. They know now that their actions can affect others. I hear them talking about it with their friends. I can hear them listening to news stories on their phones."
Many can comprehend the seriousness, but when it comes down to it, they just wanna see their boo.
One of the teen's "jobs" is to experience new bouts with independence so they are able to handle full-on independence when they go to college or move out of the house for the first time as an adult. Suddenly, with social distancing, they have no control over their time and this goes against the grain of everything that a teen needs and wants at their age.
Many teens are also out of part-time work, which means the little money they earned that once boosted their sense of independence is gone, too.
"Having teens ratchets up the anxiety because parents of teens want to encourage them to be independent and now we have to take some of that independence away. Most teens do not want to spend much time with their parents, so there's some tension here at home," says one mom. "One of my teens is in college, and they have experienced seven months of absolute freedom. Now they're home and feel like they're back in high school. I had to move them out of the dorm this weekend. I ended up in tears because this is not how freshman year of college should go."
At the same time, saying no to socializing doesn't mean we are punishing them or that we can't have empathy towards what a teen is experiencing during the quarantine. One wise mom reminds that they are grieving their old lives, often even harder than adults and younger kids are.
"I'm trying to accept that they are going through the stages of grief: anger, depression, denial, bargaining and acceptance," she says. "I'm really trying to listen to my teens."
One mom says finding a group of online moms has made her feel better about her decision to uphold social distancing.
"My kids were making me second guess myself and like maybe I was being too strict. It has been mentally draining having the same discussion and trying to reason with them," she says. "Talking to like-minded moms online was reassurance that I am not alone, and I am doing the right thing. Now I’m fine being the 'mean mom' – I can live with that."
So what can we do to help our teens feel social and connected during this isolating time? Here are a few suggestions:
- Encourage teens to do something active every day: walk or a run around the block or neighborhood or an in-home workout.
- Encourage teens to socialize through Facetime, Zoom, SnapChat, etc.
- Keep reminding them that this will pass and by staying home this will hopefully end faster.
- Give them physical space if your home allows for it.
- Find celebrities they respect who are in favor of social distancing and send them links.
- Give teens the facts, including statistics that prove this is not just a virus killing "old people."
- Remember that sometimes our kids need the most love when their behavior makes it the most difficult for us to give it. Love 'em up anyway.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.