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Mistakes I'd Make All Over Again

What to tell, what not to tell -- how much do I need to confess about the escapades of my former adolescent self?
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Perhaps it's not as easy as we'd think to muck up our kids' lives. And conceivably as parents, we should just chill the eff out about the whole obsession over every last detail of our kids' existence.

As a mother of five, with the eldest a 13-year-old daughter and four others lagging not too far behind, it's time to get my story straight. What to tell, what not to tell -- how much do I need to confess about the escapades of my former adolescent self?

I'm not the product of a dysfunctional home. Neurotic, yes, with parents totally incompatible, but for all intents and purposes, it was your typical suburban middle class upbringing: uneventful and predictable with a lot of kooky in the mix. My parents weren't a couple of laid-back hippies. In fact, to my brothers' and my disappointment, neither one of my folks drank alcohol (ever!) or smoked pot -- despite years of pleading with mom to give it a shot so she'd relax a little.

In retrospect, I don't think my parents knew what we kids were really up to. To their oblivion, I put myself in some pretty precarious situations. Yet, somehow, for some godforsaken reason, l was fortunate and turned out okay. Alright, maybe not normal, but I did manage to avoid prison so that's gotta count for something.

In all seriousness, I've had a successful life. Was always a high-achiever, had lots of friends, played tennis and went on family vacations. Since 2000, I've been happily married and birthed five wonderful children. My burgeoning career is purpose-driven, rewarding and I boast of a few initials after my name.

Growing up, we all knew dangers were out there and what they were. Especially after Adam Walsh disappeared in 1981 and the Tylenol cyanide scare began in 1982. But none of it seemed to overtly change parenting styles much. We still wandered the streets till dark and knocked on neighbors' doors to borrow their phones if we found ourselves out too late.

Nonetheless, here are some things I did that would send helicopter moms and even a few of us satellite moms into cardiac orbit:

1. After homework, I'd set off on my bike alone and head to a deserted track tucked behind a school in a semi-shady neighborhood. I'd do laps till nightfall, then jet home for dinner. No cell phones. No one knew where I was. Just took off and returned. Day after day. With no reflectors and no helmet, of course.

2. Fought with my parents and not only threatened to run away, actually did. Several times I sprinted barefoot through dark alleys to friends' homes. And there I'd stay for days mooching clothes and food and refusing to call home.

3. Smoked pot with my boyfriend and his parents. All the time. Then made quick-runs to the corner convenience store -- driving 10 mph, stoned, of course.

4. Purchased a fake ID (OK, several), and snuck into clubs from age 15. All I wanted to do was dance. I'd climb onto one of the giant speakers stage-side and gyrate till it was time to go.

5. During my tenure at UF, I drove home to South Florida by myself in the middle of the night up and down Florida's highways with no cell phone or tire jack -- confident that my AAA card was enough to get me out of any kind of trouble.

6. Got separated from a friend while traveling in Ecuador. Spent my remaining week tagging along with the Haitian National Soccer Team and their groupies, having decided eight minutes after sizing the crew up at a bar.

7. Snuck out my bedroom window to let my boyfriend in or escape to his or a friend's idling car, while my parents slept soundly.

8. Had. Unprotected. Sex. Many. Times.

Just because I was lucky to emerge (relatively) unscathed, doesn't mean I'd encourage my kids to take such liberties. The point is: as parents, how do we leverage honesty about the (poor) choices we made with what we'd want for our own kids? Look, I made some bad decisions. However, I learned and evolved from those very experiences, and had tons of fun along the way. Truth be told, I'd go back and do it all over exactly the same way if I could -- but that's one confession I'm not yet willing to make to my brood.