No one should have to live with their own teenagers.
Don't get me wrong. I love my daughter and hope she lives with me until
her grandchildren turn gray, but this is not the case in all households.
Reports abound of teens fighting with their parents, getting grounded, running
away or being kicked out. Such confrontations are not unique to our times
and there are natural reasons for tension on both sides.
For parents it seems like just yesterday that these young adults were
totally dependent children. There is little evidence of the transition until
the dynamic has changed drastically. Babies and children have signals and
techniques for getting their parents to do what they cannot do themselves.
Parents are programmed biologically to respond. These means of control are
not lost when our children first mature. In fact they are often applied
in ever more sophisticated ways as our children's intellectual capacity
expands. For longer than they can remember, we have provided for all their
needs. It is not surprising that they expect this to continue as they make
the seamless transition to adult capability.
And what capabilities they are! Can those of us with teenage children
remember what becoming adult was like? We were already in control of our
bodies. We could run, jump, climb, carry things and intricately manipulate
objects with our hands. With the additional foot in height and fifty pounds
of structure and muscle there was little on the physical plane that we could
not do. Into our capable physical forms intellectual power incarnated. The
capacity to comprehend took on new dimensions. Sense could be made of anything
to which we turned our minds. As adults we take this for granted, but for
those to whom it is new, a sense of omnipotence joins the vigor of youth.
It will be another ten years before they truly appreciate that all humans
are extraordinary. In the meantime the feeling of omnipotence is eagerly
received by strong young minds not yet worn from decades of use. The wonder
and bravado only expands with the arrival of sexuality and its proven power
to overcome time and laugh at the trials of lifetimes and millennia.
So here we are with our omnipotent and very capable babies, unconscious
masters of the buttons and strings which biology programmed into us to assure
their care. They expect us to provide for their every need, yet, they are
capable of doing almost anything themselves and want to direct their own
lives. We are in charge, responsible for their well-being and somewhat better
informed about the consequences of actions. It becomes confusing as to who
should be telling who what to do.
No wonder sparks fly.
These same overgrown children, whose diapers we changed, are seen entirely
differently by other adults. When we relate with other teens (not necessarily
those next door who we have also known since their early years) we are not
encumbered by memories of their helplessness. We see them eye to eye as
we see any adult. We may have different interests and experiences, but there
are no major obstacles to communications. Other peoples' teenagers don't
have access to our buttons and strings and they are often eager to be accepted
as adults and will relate directly with us.
If circumstances make home life unpleasant, rather than letting aggravations
mount into dramatic confrontations with our closest kin, consider trading
teenagers for a time. Through friends, the Village Office or some community
organization, families that are ready for change could find each other.
You could exchange your overgrown child for someone else's young adult and
your child in turn could be a young adult in someone else's home. Such an
arrangement with another family could break the cycle that can lead those
dear to us to leave in anger, sometimes never to return.
Different families live in different ways. Experiencing the difference
in lifestyles can provide an invaluable cultural experience which would
serve them well as they move into our multifaceted world with its many challenges.
Young people change rapidly; especially in a new environment. It wouldn't
take many months to break old patterns and allow us to reunite with our
young people in a way that is compatible with the adulthood they are entering.