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Cause of Death: TEENAGERS
Little Jimmy once pestered you for candy… and you thought sugar rush was already a big headache.
But the time will come, when the lollipops will fail to bring a smile to his face. Just when you thought you had gotten used to parenthood, life ups the ante and makes things more interesting. CHANGES and CHALLENGES will arise. There will be episodes that can make a grown man groan in the fetal position.
In 10-12 years, it will outgrow Kool-Aid and doggie bag, and create a world of its own. A world of pop stars and the latest artefacts. A world where parental supervision is cancerous. One that involves a room with more security features than Fort Knox.
This will be a time of strange behavior, questionable choices, and horrible fashion sense. Father & Child will converse like 2 deaf people in a vacuum, engaging in psychological warfare and verbal ballet with cruel insults, threats and recently made phrases. In all this the battle for CONTROL is underlined:
— ‘Oh, by no means wear it! Go back upstairs and turn back time, now! No daughter of mine will look like a 40 year old woman standing in some corner chewing gum! ‘
— ‘Get out of my room! Who told you you can come here? Have I summoned you to my chambers, father?
–‘This, your room?! Look above, Miss. It’s my roof! And while you breathe under my roof and eat and vomit my food, you will do as I say! Now hand in your clothes so I can wash them by hand!
–On the phone: ‘Go home right now! Don’t tell me you’re with Jenny. I’m looking at her with these petrified little eyes right now.
–‘I hate you! I hate you! Thanks for ruining my life!!!’
–‘I can’t wait to be 18 and get out of this prison!’
— ‘This is my body, and I will do what I want with it! I’m getting this tattoo and there’s nothing you can do about it son!!!’
Slipping your work shoes off your tired feet, you ruminate on where all the change came from. Because you sure haven’t changed, and your style has never caused a ripple before. I used to revere curfews. Now, he’s threatening a class action lawsuit! (When was midnight too early to go home?!)
You better pick up the nuances fast. Because if you still believe this, ‘Go to your room!’ it’s corporal punishment, you’re in the wrong era. You’ve just sent this rebel on a merry-go-round with all that’s great and good because he’s crammed it all into this room!
These turbulent years will be the real test of fatherhood. Things can easily get worse. While everyone agrees that having a teenager in the house turns Eden into the set of Jerry Springer, it’s still unsettling for parents who can’t understand how hormones can throw off a relationship so carefully built over the years.
You were comfortable being his “Number 1”. Now, you feel like #2: an affair relegated to the toilet. You obviously don’t deserve the treatment because you’ve done nothing but love this guy, and the Law of Reciprocity demands that it become a love fest. Instead, it’s shooting pellet guns at you.
(Surprise, surprise, your pet starts thinking you’re a snack. Who would have thought? I mean, that almost never happens.)
Do you miss that once sweet child who teased you about where the sun rises at night or “Why does grandpa have white hair?” Now, he knows where the sun goes and has been following it every night.
You may live in the same house, but your worlds are tearing apart like Aunt Lily’s sash. It’s not like you two aren’t trying to bond or anything, but every day you’re finding less and less common ground and more and more space between them. So much so, that on days of peace, the hum of silence in the car or at the table can be so uncomfortable that it’s almost rude. You wish something would happen. You’ll be tempted to broach a touchy subject, just to break the silence. Because here’s the thing: you know her well enough to realize that you have nothing in common that merits a real conversation.
You miss that little girl who would venture into your room and climb into your bed on Sunday mornings begging to be taken to the park. You cherish those sleepy mornings, because now, the only delight he has in you is when you hand him this week’s diet.
You are 40 years old. She’s 14. That should sum up everything that’s wrong with the world. She cries, “The night is young and so are we!” You shout: ‘No, the lambs are dumb and so are you!’ You’re mourning his next freedom…he’s celebrating. He feels invincible…you’ve seen how accidents can sneak up on the stupid. They are excited about the world…you are tired and let down. Of course you won’t see eye to eye! How can you match someone whose party philosophy is “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission”?!
Can you imagine a Russian ballerina… lithe. But she’ll still think you’re too stiff. You can be a great parent, even her friends might think so. But not to the person who matters most. And it doesn’t matter if you boast a thousand great qualities, she’ll fixate on the 1 or 2 that make you the worst human being alive. (Think your sadistic boss is hard to please? Try a hormonally unbalanced teenager.)
Yes, you were great once, but not anymore. You stopped being cool when you punished her for lying. And now you don’t like it so much. After all, you’re the middle-aged alarmist-pessimist who’s ruining his social profile.
Father: Aren’t you too early for this party?
Daughter: No dad, we said we’ll meet at Jessie’s at 7.
Dad: No, I meant, aren’t you 5 years too early for this party?
“We’re only doing this because we love you, baby!” – Well, that line never works! This is one of those cases where the sweetest and most absolute of truths sounds like a big joke. Because if you really loved him, you would have increased his diet, you would have allowed him to attend that party. Instead, you locked her in the house when other parents took their child to the concert. So where is this “LOVE” you speak of?!
TEENAGERS: are not considered children. Already at the age of 10, they stopped joking. It’s the parents who seem to suffer from the ambiguity when they look at the furry friend who still needs to be reminded to brush his teeth. So for comfort: when it comes to cleaning their rooms, they’re adults. If it’s a road trip, they’re just a bunch of kids with fake licenses who won’t slow down if their lives depended on it.
‘Child or adult, it doesn’t matter. I’m older, so that fixes it,’ you reason.
While being bigger gives you de facto power, it may even seem like a convenience; it really isn’t. Age is indeed a curse. A curse because it gives the father a vision of the future. Dad knows what would happen if Lizzie didn’t drool over her books under a study lamp, or if Johnny didn’t really apply himself. A father has calculated the odds of a band making it big, making a living from a squeaky guitar. Wisdom and life experience can only give one the feeling, especially when dreams are measured against realistic odds.
Make no mistake, age does not favor you, because in this very subject they will masterfully turn you around: HE WAS 16 ONCE!
And this statement does not have enough parental defense, because it is as valid and true as Woodstock ’69. You were 16 once and you should make it. You should identify with the upheavals of a teenager’s life, instead of brandishing your own life experiences that you are an egomaniac. You made some mistakes, so why couldn’t you? It worked out pretty well for you, didn’t it? Not to mention the fact that it’s his life. If it hurts, so what?!
Hell is full of teenagers, with astonishingly high IQs, with the uncanny ability to argue a non-bailable offense. (You are witnessing the makings of a fashionable lawyer. Isn’t that your dream?)
In the battle between Experience and Youth, the Young man shouts: We are young and fashionable, you are old and gray. Get out and we’ll change the world!
Very cocky, experience the whistles – you will die without your allowance, shut up and clean your room!
Old people always bite those who follow them, painting a picture of saints in high school. “We bowed to our elders, religiously followed all the rules and had no vices. We were great!’ This nostalgic memory is backed up with increasingly told stories of how idyllic it was in the old days. “In my time, things were very different.”
But as human history could bear, things are much more alike than different. And no, there was never a holy generation in high school! Always! Teenagers rebelled against parents. Parents wish they had drowned the ungrateful bastards years earlier. It’s still the same point of discussion.
It will always be like this.
At every time and age, parents the world over will always struggle at first sight with that bumpy “friend” their daughter drags home. He may be holding it together for her sake, but in the back of his mind, the guy is mincemeat. Because to a father, every boy Lizzie sits with in the school cafeteria is a future son-in-law and therefore deserves to be castrated. As he smiles, he’s thinking, “Touch my daughter once and I’ll make sure you walk through my front door in a horizontal position! Oh yeah, try me.
Parents will always be like this.
And since the drama ‘Parent vs. Teenager’ has been fought for many generations, we are familiar with the end result: the same side always wins. The parents finally relented. If not…in time, the kids would have outgrown them, anyway. Their knees would go weak and their boy would put them to shame not only in basketball, math and technology.
Nature wanted it that way. And so, while we still have that roar in our spirit, we try to cram as many life lessons into their young minds, hoping that one day those seeds will bear fruit. That at the crucial points of life, our voices will come calling to their consciences. So we make great speeches, whether they listen or not. We punish, whether they appreciate it or not, because that’s all we can really do. Like it or not, a parent has to release their teen into the world of sex, cigarettes, booze and pot, and trust that they make the right calls.
(The reason parents bring their genies to college for the first year isn’t just to help carry stuff or check on the school and living situation. It’s because they don’t trust the kid to survive the trip home in the bedroom.)
Towards the end of these tumultuous years, the issue ceases to be POWER and CONTROL…which would have been resolved by then. Then the topic would be about LETTING GO.
Look at the boy with the nose ring. It’s not easy to concede defeat to that one, is it? But you have to let it go.
We have to let them go, like bowling lets the ball go, although the world is not as smooth as bowling alleys. We have to let them go…with a prayer that they don’t touch the channel.
ALL THE FATHERS OF THE WORLD IS A PRAYER.
***[This article is an excerpt from ‘THE FAMILY MAN: Get me outta here!’]
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