Teenagers Make You Crazy
By now I think everyone has seen the video of that dad, Tommy Jordan, shooting his daughter’s laptop. It has elicited strong reactions. I have discovered that the people fall into three basic categories: those who feel what he did was completely abhorrent and abusive, those who think he’s a model parent, and finally, those who are currently parenting teenagers.
And those of us in the third category laughed when we first heard the story. Go on. Admit it. Whether you agree with the man’s actions or not, you laughed at the idea of shooting the laptop of a teenager because they posted something bad about you on their Facebook page.
The reason we laughed, and I am going to speak for other parents of teenagers here, is because we all know that parenting teenagers makes even the most sane of us act nuts. I once stood on a chair in my kitchen in the middle of an argument with my teenage son so that I could be at eye level with him while I yelled. For the record, it didn’t make him take me more seriously. Unless laughing and also standing on a chair is evidence of being taken seriously? Maybe?
So if peaceful, ordinarily calm people, can be driven to do things that might look crazy to the casual observer, what happens to the people who have their own issues with anger or impulse control before they have teenagers? Well, I guess they do things like shoot their children’s laptops with a 45.
Teenagers are by their very nature selfish creatures. Every single friend that I have with teenagers has the same complaint: they are so self-centered. It really is all about them. On the one side as a parent you can see the people that they are going to become– the smart, funny, caring people that fill you with pride and admiration. This is the side that makes you buy the teenager their car, iphone, laptop, what have you. But then there is the other side, the one that you want to punch in the mouth. And I say this as someone who is opposed to corporal punishment and has never in fact punched anyone. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to!
We, the parents of teenagers, share our stories with each other. We commiserate. We laugh. Sometimes, on those particularly trying days, we give each other high fives for simply allowing the teenager to still be alive. It is like a secret society that you are not privy to until you have a teenager of your own. Then all the veils fall away and you realize all those times you said things like: my teenager will do… my teenager will never…I will (won’t) allow my teenager to… you realize that all of those proclamations are worth nothing more than the ones you made while pregnant about the kind of toddler you were going to raise. (A sleeping, well-behaved, non-picky eater, non-tantruming version, right?)
An important thing to remember is that you can not judge what it feels like to parent teenagers based on your own recollections of what it was like to BE a teenager. You can’t. I have stood in front of my teenagers and listened to things come out of their mouths that sounded exactly like things that I remember saying at their age. But instead of feeling a warm kinship and a bond of mutual understanding, I felt horrified at the realization that I was just like them at their age and the memory that I too really thought I had all the answers and my parents had none.
In my life, more often I see parents who are the opposite of this father. They seem to be more concerned with being their children’s friend than being their children’s parent. I see children who are free to run wild and do or have whatever they want with no consequences, or have parents who bail them out time and time again. I see kids who are caught cheating or bullying at school and parents who make excuses and shift the blame onto other people. Parents who are teaching their children through their words and actions that they do not have to be accountable for their behavior.
Sometimes you have to be tough on your teenagers. Sometimes you have to step out of the way and not save them so they can learn the lesson for themselves. Sometimes you have to enforce consequences for actions, even though you really don’t want to.
So while I don’t personally applaud the act of destroying the laptop (so wasteful!), I understand why many parents are. It is as a knee jerk reaction to all the non-parenting that is going on out there.
Also, all of us who laughed are just thankful that there really is someone out there crazier than us.
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