I am 16 and most of my friends are my age or a year or two older. My mother has always been a popular mom from when I was 8 or 10 years old, always welcomed my friends home, made us cakes and pizzas and all that. In the last year, though, I have this very uncomfortable feeling that she flirts with my friends. This may sound terrible to say coming from a son, but I don’t think I’m wrong in my reading. My friends too seem to be getting awkward around her. She teases them about girls, and talks a little too much, giggling and joking with them, even asking them if they like some outfit she’s wearing and such things. My dad is a quiet, remote and busy person, and may not have noticed. What do I do?
You have a delicate problem on your hands. Obviously your mom is not picking up on your extreme discomfort about her behaviour, which you must be showing in some way. Do you have an aunt or family friend you could confide in? Then she could find a way to communicate this issue to your mom. That’s one option. Otherwise you will have to simply square your shoulders and do it yourself. Well, there’s no really subtle way to do this, so you may have to be blunt (but not rude or nasty): “Mom, I think now that we’re grown boys, you need to modify how you talk to my gang of friends. How you talk just now doesn’t feel right, mom. It’s fine to be friendly, but please don’t become ‘one of us’.”
Be upfront: Talk to your mother about her over-involvement.
Ouch, that’s going to hurt when you say it, but you’re going to have to. If she gets the idea, she will be shocked and possibly hurt for a while, and perhaps withdraw from you all a little awkwardly, but she will come round to finding a more appropriate way of behaving friendly, but more in “mom mode”. If she doesn’t accept what you say and argues with you, and asks for specific examples of what you think is wrong, you could bring up the points about teasing about girlfriends, and mainly about asking your buddies’ opinion on her outfits, etc.
I’m hazarding a guess here that she doesn’t have too much companionship from your dad, and feels much more alive and happy around you and your friends. While this is understandable, it is not the solution, and your mother needs to find her own like-minded sources of fun and validation. This is something you could really gently and subtly try to get her to do—to go out and find her own like-minded friends. She may tell you that she’s lonely because of your dad’s preoccupations, etc. Again, while you should understand this, it is not something for you to fix or to accommodate. Your parents need to sort out these kinds of dynamics and needs without your involvement. And certainly getting over-involved with you and your friends is not an option or a solution.
Till you have tackled this with her, and she gets the point and modifies her behaviour, perhaps it’s best that you don’t get your friends over that much for a while. You’ll find that if you are upfront and gentle with your mom, she may take a little while to get over the shock of what she hears from you, but will find her balance—and you can then go back to the warmth and ease of before between her, you and your friends.
Gouri Dange is the author of The ABCs of Parenting.
Send in your queries to Gouri at firstname.lastname@example.org