Anytime I'm around a preteen or teenager, my mind splits down the middle. One half of my brain identifies with the child while the other half of my brain observes the action as parent. "Going to bed" and "getting ready for school rituals" are especially problematic for me.
I can clearly remember being 7 or 8 and waking up, taking a shower, getting ready to go to school by myself. My sister's bus was earlier than mine (she was older and in junior high school by then) and my parents left for work very, very early in the morning. It was just me and, as a result, I went through a number of memorable incidents growing up. There was the time that I was so excited by the falling snow, which is a rare oddity in Western Washington, that I ran outside to look at it and locked myself out of my house. I had to knock on a neighbor's door to call my parents at work and ask them to come home and unlock the door. Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention the morning when I couldn't find my shoes. I looked everywhere for them: in my closet, in the hallway, under the pile of clothes in my room. I started crying. I knew my Mom and Dad would be so angry with me for asking them to come home from work, but I couldn't go to school without shoes. I finally broke down and called my Dad. His fury is clearly embedded in my memory, when he threw off the covers to my bed to find two pairs of beaten-up tennis shoes sitting there. It looked like I had purposefully hid them. I hadn't. I just couldn't find them.
Then there is me as a parent. The constant worrier. The one that marvels: they really go to bed all by themselves? You don't need to tuck them in, read them a story, make sure they turn out their lights?? Older parents usually look at me like I've grown two heads. They mutter, "She's a teenager! She can put herself to bed. Last time I tried to tuck her into bed she turned her back to me and asked me to close the door on my way out." In the mornings, I'm even more flabbergasted. To me, it's amazing that 10 year-olds can wake themselves up with an alarm clock, dress themselves, get breakfast, get all their books together, and walk to the bus stop, even though I was doing the same activities at an even younger age. Seeing them walk out the door with a jaunty little wave and an enormous back pack is enough to bring the parent-me to my knees. I want to yell out: "Come back. I'll drive you to school. Do you know what kids will do to you on the bus? Someone could hurt you while you are waiting at the bus stop!" This is regardless of the fact that I once walked a mile to my elementary school after waking up to hear the bus thunder down the street outside my house.
I couldn't have ever predicted the duality of being parent. Child-me is in constant battle with parent-me and I'm thinking about restricting my privileges until it can start showing me some more respect.