“You just don’t understand!”
How many times have you heard that line from an unhappy teen? As the mother of two grown kids, I’ve heard it plenty of times. And for what’s it worth, many of those times, I heard it, but didn’t really hear it.
What I mean is, our teenagers have a point. We sometimes don’t understand. Oh, we understood at one time, but as we grew into adults, as we became parents, protective beings out to assure our children avoid the pitfalls of life. I think we forgot.
We forget what it was like to be a teenager. And I don’t just mean the surging hormones or peer pressure. But yes, that is certainly a part of it. What I mean is we forget that they are adults in the making. They have their own personalities. Their own goals. Their own likes and dislikes. That they have their own lessons to learn.
And yes, that last one is the hardest for us as parents. We want to protect them from facing anything close to dire consequences. And yet so many of the lessons we learned in our early years are the ones that helped shape us as human beings.
We often forget how hard it is be under the control of someone else. We decide where they’ll live, if they move from state to state, and where they’ll go to school. We decide if they’ll live with both parents or with only one.
Yes, so much of this is out of our control. And yet we forget how those decisions can affect their lives.
We try to oversee who they are friends with. What career path they’ll move into. We try to dictate who they’ll love. What clothes they’ll wear. How they’ll wear their hair.
And yes, as parents this is our job. We are meant to lead. To guide. And yet so often our guidance is directed by our own beacons and sometimes even our own prejudices. We neglect to remember how our own paths led us away from that of our parents. That an essential part of growing up is discovering who we are and how we differ from those around us.
Sometimes I think we forget a valuable tool we have as parents is the one to step back and not to crowd, to listen and not command, to advise and not rule. Yet sometimes even though stepping back is exactly what we need to do, we overlook that option. And yes, knowing the when it’s right and when it’s wrong sometimes feels impossible.
I think as parents we often forget that our children are not immune to our mistakes, our missteps, the consequences of our bad choices, and even the bad luck we encounter. Even when we have no fault, when life hits us hard, it hits them, too.
In my young adult books I plagiarize from real life and often from my own teen years. In my novel that releases March 26th, In Another Life, a young adult thriller, I write about how Chloe’s life is turned upside down by her parent’s bitter divorce and her father’s adultery. Add her mom’s cancer and depression and you have a girl who is more emotionally stable than her own parents.
In Two Feet Under, the second book in my Mortician’s Daughter series that releases in December, Riley lost her mother when she was young and is being raised by her father who is an alcoholic. A man who drinks to hide the pain of his past. A past that Riley senses holds secrets about her own life and now she’s determined to unearth them.
When I was asked to write young adult, I questioned my ability to do it. Could I crawl into the skin of teenager and relate? I believe I accomplished this by taking a long stroll down memory lane. Amazingly, I discovered that teens today deal with most of the same issues I dealt with as a teen. Yes, they have social media and it makes it’s harder, but the underlining issues are the same: parents, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and sex.
I wish I’d have gotten into writing young adult books sooner, when my children were younger. I think it would have made me a better parent to them as teenagers.
And just as writing these books opened my eyes as to how I could have been a better parent, I believe reading them can offer the same benefit to others.
Do you look back at your own coming-of-age time? Do you remember one thing in which you wish your parents had given you a little more leeway? Do you recall something that your parents did that felt so unfair and yet, now you see they were right? If you are a teen, is there something that you feel your parents just don’t understand?
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