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Kids these days

January 30, 2011

I have two teenagers.

This statement alone is enough to make most people wince. Shudder. Offer condolences. Teenagers, you see, are difficult creatures to live with (or teach or motivate or….fill in the blank).

Certainly, these things can be true of teens. But they can also be true of adults. Toddlers. The elderly.

Parents.

Yesterday, my two teens–those kids you see above, marveling at a hummingbird–accompanied me to help set up the Souper Bowl, which is a fundraising event put on every year by our local food bank. I woke them up early and they grumbled. Dragged their feet. Complained about having to get up so early on a Saturday.

Then, they rallied. We got to the event, got our shirts and nametags and work assignments, and the kids flew into action. They didn’t need encouragement. Didn’t need things explained more than once. Together, we organized paperwork, distributed vote-collecting containers to the various food booths, folded programs, and sliced bread and cheese in large quantities. We laughed together…and discussed with each other how lucky we are to have reliable access to good, healthy food, unlike so many residents of our town (not to mention all the starving people around the world).

When we left, we each took with us that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that can only come from giving back in some way.

Later that afternoon, I clicked on a news site and read the awful story of a depressed and frantic mother in Florida who, apparently, decided that the only way to deal with her teenagers was to kill them.

It broke my heart.

It also got me thinking. The news is rife with stories of parents who lose it entirely and kill their kids. This mom said her teens were being “mouthy.” And for that, they apparently deserved to die. Of course, this mother is mentally ill. The article says this woman’s own mother told police her daughter was depressed. I think we all know that sane rational people don’t shoot their kids for mouthing off. Anyone who would kill their children has deep-seated problems of their own. The kids in this, and many other unfortunate situations are, I daresay, the trigger, not the reason for the violent parental reaction. That said, I have suffered from depression, and I know what it feels like to be in a desperate space as a mother. I can understand on a visceral level the urge to hurt a child. To hurt my child. I know what it feels like to walk up to that lip of self-control and feel like hurling myself over the edge in desperation. I just haven’t done it. Thankfully, I have never felt that desperate.

This sad story also made me think about how we, as a society, see kids–particularly teens. Further, I pondered how we as parents see our kids…and how we interpret our roles in their lives. Truth be told, I think about this stuff constantly.

The net has been buzzing, especially lately, with opinion pieces about parenting styles. “Tiger” parenting is the latest philosophy being discussed and inciting strong emotions on either side of the spectrum, but it is certainly not the last. We humans are passionate about the subject of parenting because, on a base level, I believe we all understand that our children are the future.

Not to get all sentimental and Whitney Houston about it or anything.

I hesitate to write about parenting philosophy, though I am certainly filled with opinions about what works and what doesn’t. My writing style tends to run toward sharing personal stories by way of inspiration, I hope, rather than prescriptive how-tos. This is certainly something I will continue to do, but I am also going to write up a piece or two about parenting. About why I do what I do and, most importantly, why I spend my weekend days happily conversing with my kids and doing volunteer work with them instead of, say….falling apart and dragging them down with me. I take this sad story of desperation and murder as a leaping off point, but I am also motivated by the Tiger Mom phenomenon…also a recent piece by Erica Jong on the subject.

Part one will come tomorrow. In the meantime, I have a teenage daughter to parent–she’d like to discuss the list of things she wants from the grocery store. Then, yes, I must trek to the store….these kids eat and eat and eat….

and eat and eat and eat….

More reflection coming. Soon.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 1, 2011 12:06 am

    The eating is the thing that worries me with our boys…the nine year old already eats more than his father, and the five year old often as much as me…
    I know lots of gorgeous teenagers, and all of them AP kids of some variation – go figure!

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