Parenting On a Hope & a Prayer

I was a fantastic parent when my kids were young.

Okay, that sounds egotistical. What I mean to say is I felt confident in my choices. I knew exactly how I wanted to raise my babies—love them, provide structure, feed them nutritious food, expose them to new adventures and teach them to be kind.

When they turned 13 and entered high school, everything shifted. Instead of being a hands-on parent, I am relegated to the role of guide. I have to step back, loosen control and let them make their own mistakes. It’s terrifying because I’m never sure if I’m making the right choices.

- Advertisement -

Let me give you an example.

My oldest son’s bedroom has the best cell phone reception in the house. Thus my choices when I have an important or work-related call are to stand in the middle of the backyard or enter the odorous confines of my teenage son’s bedroom. On rainy days, I choose the latter.

My son knows I use his room as an office space occasionally and trusts that I respect his space and his “stuff.” I don’t snoop. I swear. However, there was one day when I plopped down on his bed, only to sit on something hard. When I reached down to retrieve the item from under me, I was absolutely shocked to find a vape pen.

Starting when my boys were toddlers, I made a point to nurture an open dialogue about anything and everything. For years, we’ve discussed sex, love, relationships, drugs, drinking and even vape pens. As a result, they’ve been open with me about their struggles, their friendships, their worries, and their experiences. I know about the fights they are having, when they’ve been drinking and when they’ve skipped school. Our policy is open honesty and transparency. No lies.

The fact that he had tried vaping wasn’t surprising. I know that part of a teenager’s journey is to experiment, to find their boundaries and define their values. What shocked me was the fact that he hadn’t told me about it. My naivety suddenly became undeniable. How foolish of me to believe I was privy to it all!

After finishing my phone conversation, I walked downstairs, placed the vape pen on the kitchen table and waited for my son to return home.

As he walked through the front door, I sat him down.

“We need to talk,” I said. “I know you are going to try things as you get older, but I thought you knew how bad vaping is for your body. I’m curious why you tried it.”

“Mom, I just wanted to know what it was like. Sometimes I’m a dumbass and make stupid choices.”

While I asked a few questions—What did he like about it? How often did he smoke?—my son actually did the majority of the talking. He knew all the right things to say. He spoke about the repercussions to his athletic potential. He acknowledged the fact that addiction runs in our family and that he, himself, has an addictive personality. He liked the “community feeling” of smoking with his friends but mentioned that he wanted to stop. At the end of the conversation, he asked me a question I hadn’t been anticipating.

“What are you going to do with the vape pen?”

It felt like a lose-lose situation. If I held onto it, he could simply buy another one, but it didn’t feel good to give it back to him either.

After sharing this moral dilemma, I told him I needed time to think about the options.

While driving home from soccer practice the next evening, he brought it up again. “Have you decided?”

“Well, I’ve always said that I wouldn’t try to control you. I am here to educate and to guide, but ultimately, your life and your choices are yours. I think vaping is dangerous and stupid, but if that’s what you choose to do with your friends, you will have to live with any potential consequences. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m going to give it back to you.”

Once home, he walked in the house and retreated immediately to his bedroom. As I passed his doorway on the way to my own sanctuary, I overheard him on FaceTime with his girlfriend. So, I stood at the door and listened like a ninja. Wouldn’t you?

I could hear his girlfriend asking, “So…. she just gave it back to you?”


“She doesn’t care if you smoke?”

“Well, she said that she hopes I make the right decision,” he explained.

“Huh,” the confusion in his girlfriend’s voice was palpable (and laughable).

“Ya,” my son answered.

Then, there was silence as they both digested this unexpected outcome.

I giggled quietly to myself as I walked away. At least I gave them something to ponder!

In truth, I don’t know if this was the right parenting choice to make. I wonder if I give my boys too much leeway to make mistakes. I wonder if I should impose consequences or react in anger or disappointment. I wonder if I should send a stronger message of unacceptance. At the end of the day, I want to preserve my relationship with them. I want them to know I will always try to reserve judgment about their choices, so that if (and when) something truly problematic or tragic occurs, they will feel safe in coming to me for help or guidance. I suppose I’ll find out the consequences of my parenting choices, whether they were nurturing or naive.

Parenting teenagers is a crapshoot. It’s a toss of the dice and crossed fingers, hoping for the best possible outcome. All I can do is hope, pray, and wait.

Kelly Cleeve
Kelly Cleeve
Kelly Cleeve is a best-selling author and an educator. More importantly, she is the proud parent of 2 amazing sons.