TEENAGERS, THOSE SHAPE SHIFTING ALIENS THAT SOME OF US HAVE AND SOME WILL HAVE IN THE FUTURE

“You don’t understand”

“I am 14 and you don’t get it”

“What’s wrong with going to the mall”

“All my friends are doing it or wearing it”, (real classic)

“Its okay to wear this to school”

“I asked auntie so and so and she said Islamically it’s alllowed”

“I am not being rude, it’s just the way I am”

“Why am I not being allowed to do this, give me  a reason”

“Well maybe it’s a bit on the shorter side, but it looks good on me” (well so would going au natural but that doesn’t mean we should)

“I’ll do it in 5 minutes”(on multiple occasions those elusive 5 minutes remain, you got it, elusive)

“You asked like a gazillion times, and I will do it”, ( Its technically not feasible Einstein. I’d much rather undertake the offending task myself because saying something a gazillion times is a herculean chore and quite simply impossible)

“I know I am right”

“____________’s parents are so mean, they don’t allow him or her to do anything”, (this  is a psychological tactic meant to obtaining whatever is their desire du jour by shaming)

“I asked your permission, and you said yes”, (never mind the fact that you don’t ever recall agreeing to anything. They have a trick here too, they catch you when you are at your most vulnerable, and are temporarily unavailable to the world, and would agree to just about anything short of cannibalism).

Blessed are the parents who’ve never heard any of these heated and passionate proclamations. I remember the golden and simple times when my teenagers were little, and all I had to worry about was the latest gymboree or gap outfit, read to them, feed them, teach them manners, help them brush teeth and tuck them in for the night. However, if those times were comparable to an unending, soft Summer breeze or a pleasant fall morning, now it’s more like a category 5 hurricane. Their demands are relentless and ruthless.  They are merciless in their judgment of adults, they want answers and explanations for everything. They are always the wronged party even if you catch them with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar.

Honestly, there are days when I seriously think they are aliens from another planet because they are ever evolving and very scary to deal with. Occasionally, I have resisted the urge to simply elope from home, assume another identity and live peacefully ever after. However that’s a pipe dream because remember they are aliens with super-natural powers , they’ll use those amazing powers to find me  anywhere on earth.

While it is difficult to deal with them, one fact I would like  to point out is that the times we are living in are unlike any other, and the challenges we are facing in raising our kids are also very, very unique. The most prominent of these challenges is the internet. The easy and cheap access to the internet,  and the tremendous amount and variety of information available at finger tips cannot be quantified, and the dangers posed by this limitless data cannot be overstated enough. For example, there are numerous platforms for connecting with others in a multitude of ways, aka social media outlets. These social media outlets provide a real window to outsiders, living in faraway places, in our lives. Personally, I am not fond of these because I feel they can be very  intrusive in the best of circumstances, and downright dangerous in the worst situations. But  most teenagers love to share practically every aspect of their waking life with others like them, notice how I said them, (brings home the alien concept nicely, doesn’t it).

Now I am going to steer away from the internet topic a bit, but we’ll touch on it later. I am noticing a very troubling trend, and it is straight from one of “them”. What my daughter tells me about  her friends and friends’ friends is that when teenagers feel they are being denied the right to do their heart’s bidding, they are finding  ways to achieve their goals in  all sorts of clandestine manners. And any parent who thinks these forces of nature can be stopped in their tracks, I’d like for them to solve the minor problem of world peace. Kids have been hiding things from their parents for an eternity.  In  my opinion,  ongoing minor and  hidden acts of rebellion eventually lead to major acts which in turn create a major ideological divide between parents and the children. And one day, the unsuspecting parent is faced with the devastating realization that they don’t know this person.

One example, a young girl who doesn’t want to wear a scarf will wear it to school but take it off when she reaches the school. Later, she might decide to do other things without telling her parents, and the list goes on. The way I see it, it’s not a simple matter, but that’s not the real problem. Eventually, it will lead to a personality that becomes adapt and even expert at deception. And in my opinion, this deceptive personality is by far the worst of the damage, damage that will last over a life time. And that’s a how we end up with these perfect, well-groomed, well-mannered yes men and women in front of moms, dads, friends and relatives but entirely different people with different values in front of friends.

The way I am learning to deal with this is I pick my battles. As they say, not every hill is worth dying on and not every battle is worth fighting. A give and take has been established between me and my kids. And this is what I would tell any parent, develop a relationship with your teenager because they are at a very delicate junction that hovers between adulthood and childhood. It is very simple to  tell your child the right and the wrong, but it’s not the way this works in their world. Telling them to stop doing  something from the “religious” perspective, or the “right thing” perspective or the classic, “you are not doing this because I said so”, (although I hope to God no sane parent is using the last one) simply does not work.  And let me share something else, when obedience is won by anger or force, the expiration date on their compliance lasts as long as the eye contact.

The rules of the game have changed. Twenty or thirty years ago, we could physically restrict  their movements and achieve some results.  Now everything is inside our home, the devil is everywhere so to speak. There are ways to deals with this, and trust me restricting their phones, internet access, and television viewing will not get much accomplished. The “restrict everything”  tactic will only work if you throw them in the dungeon and lose the key.  They do go to school, and  have friends who in turn will likely have the smart phones and the net access that you denied your child. Think about it, it’s like you are trying to avoid a communicable disease but constantly coming into physical contact with it. One way to get them to kind of submit to some of your smart phone, net and television rules is to have no offending devices at all, if you can manage to tear yourself away from them. Again what we’d like to do, and what we can do are two entirely things. Even in my own home we have not been able to get rid of the devices, not that we have even tried. Our home is practically a one stop shop for used apple devices.

What I have managed to achieve is to have a comfortable relationship with my kids, which entails allowing them certain latitudes despite my dislike for those allowances. However, there are times when I will put my foot down and issue an absolute, unequivocal no. It does produce some severely unpleasant weather. Since these nays are few and far between, there’s no changing them.. Now I can comfortably say that I know pretty much everything that’s going in with my kids’ lives, but that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Only request/advice I would have for the parent of  a teenager is to reach out to them, engage them. Whichever approach a parent takes, I don’t see any route not going through the hearts  that will reach the mind. Only by making them feel comfortable, accepted and loved can can we start the dialogue with them.