I will make no more bones about this. I am sick of people moaning about teenagers. I hated it when I was a teenager, and, now that I have a teenager, I still hate it. In fact, I wish that the words "teenager" and "adolescence" did not even exist. If we couldn't stuff them in a category and slap a label on them, maybe we'd treat them like real people and stop moaning about them.
Here's the serious part. I was talking with a bunch of moms the other day and they were all worrying about when their kids become teens. I know that being 13, 14, 15, 16 can be difficult, confusing, frustrating. There's a depth and intensity, though, that I think is precious, valuable, golden. I wish people would cash in on that intensity they way they exclaim over precious baby toes and teeny-tiny fingers, they way they all reach out to hold the little bundle in its early years. Nope, teenagers don't want to be treated like little bundles, but, I think they want to be treated with joy, love, respect. I remember hating being looked down on as a teen, everybody expecting me to rebel...assuming I was rebelling at the slightest statement of opinion. Are adolescents what they are because we expect them to be so? Their emotional volatility makes it difficult to know what to say sometimes. And, yet, there's so much life in a teen. So much intensity. Does it scare us? Do we hate to be faced by the emotions we learned to push down and master somewhere along the way?
We watched a video in Bible study, and the speaker had just done a book signing for a children's book she had written. The book was about royal people in a castle, and the children were invited to come in costume. The girls dressed as princesses and the boys as knights. That's just what they chose. And it was completely natural for them. Small children assume that they really are royal. They have no trouble believing that they are special, destined to be great, heirs of a great inheritance. The rest of the world is pretend for them...dull, boring, nothing like who they really are.
Somewhere along the way, we all become convinced of something else about ourselves. Growing up is hard. But, just when they need to know they really are knights and princesses, we begin wishing the years away. We want them to be young again or to grow up already. We do not like the painful process of growing and becoming.
What would happen if we rejoiced over teenagers, invited them into the stuff of growing up, talked to them about life and love. What if we told them what we really thought, dug deep in ourselves to be vulnerable and intense just as they are. Perhaps, we hate those years because they hurt us. But we have put up the walls. We know how to hide. We are not emotional and vulnerable. We must not let them see who we are. But...if we did. If we did? How would it change things?
I am practicing. I am practicing with a girl who was raised by someone else. She is sweet, honest, deep, emotional... I didn't raise her, and I cannot take credit for who she is. She is not demanding. She doesn't insist on having things her way. She wants to help. I cannot take credit for this, and, yet, I can't help but wondering if, when Mane gets this old, I can be the same way with her, if it will take the pressure off that dreaded adolescence. I *tell* Vespera when I feel like there's something wrong but I don't know what. I tell her what is painful for me. I tell her what I wish about myself. I tell her how beautiful she is, how talented and creative and funny. I tell her how happy it makes me when she's happy. I sit in her room when she studies. I ask her to keep me company in the living room when we're home alone. I tell her what I want for her and what I expect from her.
And I can't help but wondering if this isn't the way it's supposed to be. If we open up the communication wires, could we ease the transition? If we let them in on our own struggle, would it help? If we tell them what is on our minds, would we all feel better?
Of course, my therapy training tells me it's important to not put to much pressure on them, don't expect them to be adults, don't create a situation where they feel responsible for how you feel, guilty for your own hesitation and pain. You cannot force them to talk, and I suppose some won't.
As with everything in life, I suppose there is a balance. I suppose we are in trouble if we go to either extreme.
I suppose I am idealistic and I know nothing about parenting a teenager. As I have said already, Vespera is someone I cannot take credit for. I will visit this post in ten more years and know if it holds true for the child I have raised from birth.