This is a special article for parents or any adults struggling to understand or deal with teenagers, and is also a cautionary message for teenagers. I am wearing two hats in this email, because I love both teenagers and parents!
You wake up one morning and find that where you used to have a son or daughter, there is now a strange creature that wears the strangest clothes, speaks a foreign language and appears to listen to you but never hears you, listens to the noisiest music, has mood swings that would be the envy of monkeys in the tropics... congratulations, you're officially a parent of a teenager.
Or, if you wake up one morning and your parents just don't seem to understand you, don't get a thing you say, are on your case about just about everything and anything, they want you to wear the dumbest clothes and they say your music is too loud even when it's going straight from muffled earphones into your eardrum...helloooo, welcome to your teenage years!
I have always found the battles between teenagers and parents to be a most fascinating one. I marvel at how the relationship went from infant coos, toddler cuddles, kiddie games to alien vs predator, and often the roles are switched.
Take *Jacqui and *Sean for instance, who were in a state of distress after they suddenly found their beautiful little boy had changed into a mythical-looking creature. One side of his head was shaved bald, while the other had been lengthened with purple and silver extensions, and a strange symbol had been styled onto the back of his head. His pants were either too big or were a bad cut as they could not seem to hold up any further than his backside. He even had a belt to help them hold, but they still looked as though they would just fall off at any moment. He was on his way to a party at a friend’s house, so the natural parental lecture began.
“Mom, dad, leave me alone, okay? Ain’t nothin’ wrong with my style, I got swag!” he responded.
Swag? Was that a drug? They hurriedly did a body search and emptied his bag, but found nothing. Where would a teenager keep this ‘swag’? At that moment, his cellphone rang – at least, they figured out what it was after listening to a few seconds of rude and crude lyrics about female dogs and garden tools. Turns out it was his ringtone! The conversation that followed was equally baffling.
“Dude…’sup?” as he greeted his caller, his hand waved up and down his chest, with all his fingers folded in a fist except his forefinger and baby finger, which pointed out. It resembled the shape of a horned head and appeared to assist his speech.
“Cool…” He specialised in one-word answers such as cool, yeah, and the best, ‘k’ was a full response! Hardly having said much, it appeared the conversation had been concluded as he put away his cellphone and raised his eyebrow at them.
“You done?” he asked, and then walked out to the car. They were stunned into silence as they drove him to the party.
“Shoutout to my new [garden tools], shoutout to my old [garden tools], I still wear that [donkey] out like a wardrobe, [female dog] what they gonna say?” he sang along to the music belting from his earphones. THIS is what he kept on his cellphone? He reminded them that they had allowed him to buy the L’il Wayne CD, which they had imagined to be a cute little boy in a suit and bow tie singing beautiful child ballads. Huh!
On arrival at the party, they were less than comforted at the sight that beheld them. More than thirty other teenagers filled the yard, and conversations were fascinating!
Girl 1: “OMG…how cute is X?”
Girl 2: “Shut up!”
Girl 1: “Totally!”
Girl 2: “He was like [does facial expression] and I was like hmmmm, and he was like mmmmm and I was like huh and he was like uhuh…we like soooo connected, how cool is that?”
Girl 1: “Soooo sick!”
Girl 2: “I know!”
Jacqui and Sean were sure they had crossed over into some other universal realm and had left humanity behind. Boys wearing pants tighter than some of the girls’ pants (“Jeggings, get it right!” their son would say). Girls and boys dressed similar, with half-shaved-half-long hairdos in abundance, or the infamous bedhead look…was this what gender equality had come to? Is this what feminists had protested and swung their bras to achieve? At various moments, the teenies would each bring out their impressive gadgets and their thumbs got busy flying up the screen at enviable speeds. Social media shareholders have so much to thank the teenage generations for! As the teenagers glared at Jacqui and Sean like they were alien invaders, the parents slunk away, jaws still dropped and eyes wide open as they digested the scene and sight before their eyes.
Flash back about thirty years or so, remove the gadgets and replace the current teenagers with their parents as teenagers….yes, dearest teenagers, your parents were once you! They were once the cool ones who thought their parents were so uncool, the ones who looked at all adults like they were horned creatures from another universe out to ruin the lives of teenagers worldwide! The hanging-pants look has plagued many generations of parents, as have miniskirts, tight pants, radical hairdos, loud music, rude lyrics, mood swings, bad attitudes, wishes that parents would all be swooped up by their mothership and taken back to the planet they came from coz, like, they just don’t get you! Most importantly, the language barrier that develops between parents and teenagers has appeared in many generations.
And parents, the next time you look at your teenagers and wish to trade them in for a more human model, remember that you’re looking at yourself in your teen years, just the way your parents looked at you. I can hardly recall hearing about a generation that successfully subdued all teenagers. As young children bloom into their teen years, they need to create their own identity, they are more outspoken and less subdued than we are as adults, and sometimes I personally wish we would not lose so much of that confidence. They struggle with developing bodies, changes in their chemical makeup, trying to fit in, be accepted and cool, finding themselves, all the while dealing with school and all the activities we encourage them to take up because we know it will benefit them in the future (and they usually do). They also have to deal with the techno boom, where there are apps for everything from study tools, entertainment, games to silencing parents! Okay, maybe not the last one. Yet. The point is, as parents we need to show them a little more patience, try to understand them and remember, one day, they will be YOU! And teenagers, remember that this is a phase. You will not be cool forever, no matter what you think, the day will come when you will morph into that alien your parents are today. You will understand why your parents tried to 'kill your fun.' They have been there, they know what its like, and they also know better now that they're adults. It’s called growing up. I like to call it, Mother Nature’s Revenge! J
Disclaimer: If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour or development, or if, as a teenager, you are struggling with all the challenges being a teenager brings, please seek help from professional counsellors or support groups.
*Not their real names.
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