Is there a difference?
You see them shuffle down the street, eyes cast downwards (glued to their phones), unaware of traffic or anything else in their path. You swear you can hear a low droning utterance of “braaiiinnnnssssssss” in the air. Are these teenagers or zombies? Sometimes the only difference is a pulse. Some of the clothes are just as shredded and tattered as those worn by the undead. This is fashion?
I’d like to update the expression of ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ to ‘keep your enemies close and your teenagers closer’.
Almost every parent struggles and strives to be with their babies when they are young. The idea of daycare, to some, is almost akin to neglect. How dare you allow a stranger to care for your child during their early years? Yes, parental contact is so critical during those first few years as you see the milestones achieved and lay the groundwork for future behaviours. One of the first words a child learns is “no”. They hear it time and time again coming from their parent’s mouths. When My kids were little, instead of saying “no, don’t touch”, I’d say, “that’s just for looking”. Same message but with reinforcing a positive action.
I’d like to propose a second maternal/paternal leave during the teen years. That is another time when they really need you. They need to know someone cares and is there for them. They need to know there is a safety net of unconditional love and support. That’s not saying let them do what they want. That’s being there when they need you. Provide structure and boundaries and stand by them. Isn’t that what a parent does? We all know some parents who are trying hard to be their kid’s friend. No. They have those at school and in the neighbourhood. Their friends are the ones they can complain to about how strict/lame their parents are and how they have chores to do and how their curfew sucks. Dancing the fine line between parent and buddy is a tricky foxtrot and it’s easy to get the steps wrong.
Depending on where you live, you have some sort of emergency contingency plan. Or at least you should have one in place. Such as flood preparedness, earthquake supplies and so on. Many people do not think these things will happen, so they don’t discuss where to meet if there is an earthquake or how to get out of the house alive if there were a fire. Humans are reactive. Very few are pro-active and have their ducks in a row. Those that do are often viewed as eccentric or talked about with much eye-rolling.
Cue Hollywood. They have given us movies about the end of the world, zombies, vampires, plagues and so on. Fear of sharks, bees, hospitals, dreams, fires, clowns, the list is endless. “The Walking Dead” comes along and people take notice. Now people talk about how to survive a zombie apocalypse. Some of them are even quite serious in their plans. Like I said, most people have a ‘reactive’ nature. When something bad happens, a flight or fight response kicks in. Some folks take charge of a situation, others run and hide and some do as directed.
We sat around the campfire one night, extra teenagers on hand as is often the case, and the conversation rolled around to just that, surviving a zombie apocalypse. What would we do? Well, we explained our survival plan, which is quite similar to almost every other catastrophe survival plan we have. The surplus teenagers announced if it ever came down to it, they wanted to hook up with us as ‘we had a plan and were obviously going to take care of things and get s#*t done’. I took that as a pretty big compliment. Bigger than “thanks for dinner”.
I don’t mind being the house where they get together, or being the parent who will drive a truckload of girls to the mall or, boys and longboards to a neighbourhood with a lot of hills. When you have them in the vehicle, listen. When they are sitting around the campfire, listen. Take them to the beach and listen. Know the names and faces of who is sharing your kid’s life. Their friends know our house is a safe place where they won’t be judged and they can say anything. I know things about these kids I am sure their own parents do not know. I would never break this confidence unless it was of a dire circumstance and had no option. Some rules have been broken at my house by friends, and proper amends were made so those parents never needed to be told what transpired. My kids were brought up with the understanding that no matter how heinous the crime, tell the truth. Punishment will be adjusted accordingly. They each have done some bad stuff and ‘fessed up 100% as soon as it was possible. Sometimes, half the punishment was waiting for me to get home from work to tell me what they did earlier in the day.
Catch ’em being good.
Is the glass half empty or half full? I don’t think that matters. Either way, there is room for more. Pass the bottle please. . .