Face it — you are stuck with us, at least for the next few years! And avoiding spending time with us, rejecting our hugs, and refusing to talk is not going to change that. So in the interest of peace and harmony, I am going to share a few things with you that you probably don’t know in the hopes that they may help you to better tolerate us.
1. We are not perfect. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t even know all of the questions! But we do know some of the answers, we know how to find the ones that we don’t know, and believe it or not — just like you know more now that you did just a few short years ago, so do we.
It is often said that children don’t come with an instruction manual and there is no “one-size-fits-all” parenting model. Each child is different and so is each parent. Together we have to figure out how to navigate a journey that has no roadmap and no pre-determined destination.
If you are looking for a “perfect” parent, you are going to spend your life in eternal frustration. And you will make this relationship much more difficult than it has to be. So when we make a mistake (and we will), please try to forgive us just as we forgive you when you make mistakes. We are both, after all, only human with flaws, limitations and weaknesses. But thankfully, we both also have individual strengths and characteristics that make us interesting and likable if we would take the time to get to know one another.
2. We are not cool…but we used to be! I know it seems that we are so out of touch with your world. And truthfully, many of us probably are. You may even see us as boring with no capacity for humor or amusement. But we were once the rulers of our own universe.
We were artistic geniuses, star athletes, musical virtuosos, popular cheerleaders, brainiacs, techno-geeks, gifted leaders and opinion-shapers. People actually liked to be around us, sought our advice and hung on every brilliant word that came out of our mouths. We were you, your friends, the people you admire and the people that you now ridicule.
In short, “cool” is a relative term whose definition changes with every generation. And as hard as it is for you to believe right now, one day you too will be “un-cool”. So go easy on us; we are still trying to figure out how we went so quickly from being on the top of the world to something you want to scrape off the bottom of your shoe!
3. We are evolving and growing— just like you. We are all a work-in-progress. At each stage of our lives, we are thrown into situations we have never before experienced. And because no one likes to appear stupid or unprepared, we often make the mistake of muddling through without asking for help from someone who has gone down that path before us.
So we fall down, skin our knees, cry a little, and get back up on the bicycle of life. We live, we learn, we impact those around us, we change, we grow (and grow up) — one experience at a time.
But hey! You are smarter than we are, aren’t you? You do ask for advice, don’t you? You recognize when you are on unfamiliar ground and you seek help — right? Surely you have learned from our mistakes! (Whew! That makes us feel so much better about leaving you in charge of your own life)!
4. We don’t know what it feels like to be you(but we do know what it feels like to be your age). Even though it was eons ago, we were once your age (and it really wasn’t as long ago as it seems). And while many things have changed, all teenagers face the big five challenges: Sex, Drugs, Alcohol, Independence and Education.
How to deal with all of these is generally where we run into problems. We don’t always agree with one another’s approaches to these life-changing issues. And this is where we have to ask you to go out on a limb a bit and trust our life experiences. We have walked these paths before, and we have learned a few things along the way.
So talk to us! We might actually be able to help! And since we still believe in miracles, I’ll go out on a limb here myself and make a prediction—if you will let us in on how it does feel to be you, you may just find more love, acceptance and helpful guidance than you could have ever imagined. Besides, what have you got to lose?
5. We are not too old to understand love, sex, and temptation.Yes, Virginia, there is Love, Sex, and Temptation after high school and college. In fact, unless you have been hiding under a rock lately, you have seen that the headlines are full of it! (Besides, how do you think you got here?)
Adults and yes, even parents (even your parents) experience deep passion and have our own moral dilemmas. We know the pain of having our hearts broken by someone we loved. We have all made some foolish choices in the name of love. We have all done things that our older, wiser and more mature selves would do differently.
We are regularly tempted to “throw in the towel” and move to Tahiti in pure Gauguin fashion. But we don’t. Not because we are not tempted but because we have a greater blessing right under our noses — even if you are currently not speaking to us!
6. We have dreams, too. Inside each of us is a greater version of ourselves trying desperately to get out. Within our collective hearts we are giving birth to the great American novel, creating a work of art that will move millions to tears, building an empire that will change the world and playing the perfect game of golf, basketball, or tennis.
Just because we have become Wives, Husbands, Moms and Dads does not mean our dreams have died. They may have changed, they may even be coming true, or we may have buried them under layers of self-flagellation.
But in the innermost regions of our minds, at the core of our very being — we dream them. For to stop dreaming is to die ourselves. And if we teach you nothing else in life, please let this one message resonate with you — never stop becoming a better version of yourself. Never give up on your greatest dreams for yourself. Never stop believing that you can do anything you truly love and want. When God puts a dream in your soul, He will also provide the opportunities to make that dream a reality, but only when you are truly ready.
7. We were also misunderstood by our parents. Do you think that you are the only teenager whose parents don’t understand them? Au contraire, my usually wise young friend! Your Grandparents didn’t understand your parents either.
Or is it possible, (and I am just throwing out a theory here) — is it possible that your parents appear not to understand you when in reality, you aren’t sharing your hopes, dreams, innermost thoughts, fears and expectations with them?
Perhaps if you would take a leadership role here and guide your parents to a greater level of understanding, you might actually achieve more respect, independence and control because you will have educated your parents regarding your motivations, your readiness, and your ability to make wise choices. You can actually earn the right to make more decisions for yourself by earning their respect and confidence in you. Try it; you might be pleasantly surprised!
8. We really have gained some wisdom by our life experience. Just like you now know more than you knew when you were younger, we now know a few things that you don’t. Life is like that. Experiences teach us, and the more experiences we have, the more we learn from them.
And since we are ancient by your standards, it is only logical that all those years of various life experiences must have had some effect on us.
Take the initiative to ask for help, ask for advice, and dare I suggest it? Ask for our opinion. By demonstrating the forethought to value someone’s life experience above your own, you will be displaying the qualities of maturity, level-headedness, humility and resourcefulness that would impress any parent.
9. We are not trying to control you.We are trying to teach you, to guide you, and to help you to stay out of the potholes we stepped in ourselves. All parents want their childrens’ lives to be better than theirs. We try to protect you from pain, make the path easier to walk, and keep you safe and happy. We can’t help it — it’s a job requirement.
But you can understand that on some level, can’t you? After all, even though you may fight with them, you also try to protect your younger siblings (or the neighborhood children) from danger. You know that the third rung on the monkey bars at the local playground has a sharp metal edge on one side. You know that because you grabbed it once and cut your hand.
Your life-experience (there’s that word again) taught you a valuable lesson that you now feel compelled to share with someone else. In fact, you probably feel a sense of responsibility, even an obligation, to pass along the knowledge you have gained. To do less than that would be to knowingly stand by and watch someone hurt themselves, all the while possessing information that could have prevented a potential catastrophe. Who could possibly do that? Certainly not you!
And likewise, your parents cannot in good conscience, stand by and stay silent when they see a potential danger lurking up ahead in your future. They simply must try to warn you, and even go so far as to stop you when they can’t convince you to stop yourself. It’s their duty.
When you were younger they wouldn’t let you walk out into the street without looking both ways. They taught you to be alert for signs of danger. They are doing the exact same thing now when they intervene in your life. You may call it “butting in” or “intruding”, but they are just doing what they have always done for you — trying to protect you from harm.
10. We love you more than you think.Sometimes our rules and regulations (and the resulting conflicts that arise from them) may make you feel that we don’t care about the things that you care about. Consequently, you may even feel that we don’t care about you.
Nothing could be further from the truth! On the contrary, we care too much. We know too much. We have seen, done and experienced too much. It has made us a bit fearful for your well-being.
So at times you may think that we are unreasonable, over-reacting, and being over-protective. At times perhaps, we are (remember number one, “We are not perfect”?).
But parenting means erring on the side of caution. It means utilizing our knowledge, wisdom, life-experience and any other weapon in our arsenal, to keep you safe, healthy and happy. It means teaching you coping skills for when we aren’t around to protect you. And it means that no matter what – we will always love you, and there will always be a piece of our heart that belongs only to you.
That is why we cry ourselves to sleep at night when you hurt our feelings or when we are worried about your choices and feel powerless to help. It is why we sometimes react negatively out of sheer fear and frustration. It is why we get angry when we can’t seem to get you to understand. And it is why we often say, “No”, when you are begging us to say, “Yes”. Not because we want to be mean, to deny you the things you want in life, or to punish you.
We parent the way we do because we love you so much that we want to give you more than what you may want today. We want to give you a future that is brighter and more joyful than you can even imagine. A future that is not marred by unwise, impulsive or destructive choices.A future that doesn’t rob you of any of your possibilities. And a future that will open the doors of opportunity for you to achieve the dreams that we know are now forming in your soul.
Being a teenager isn’t easy. But being a parent is even harder. We pray that one day (far, far in the future) you will have this experience for yourself. But for today, we are concentrating on keeping you free of sex, drugs, and alcohol. We are trying to help you get a good education so that you will have more choices open to you in life. And we are trying to prepare you for all that independence that you so desperately want.
But here’s a little tip that no one tells you — that independence comes with a price. It’s called age! No one gains independence without getting older. And we’ve already established that by getting older, you become less “cool”, lose touch with what’s going on, and generally become boring and no fun. So be careful what you wish for — you just might get more than you wanted! You might become old and irrelevant — like us!
So now that we have found some common ground — do you think we could finally have that hug?