The teenager doesn’t read everything that I post on here, but she reads enough to get the general idea and to realize that she is the subject of some of my writing. She’s OK with it for now, and I try to consider her privacy while musing on the challenges of raising a teenage girl. I think that because I can be found on the internet she might think that I am famous. I don’t dissuade her.
I recently posted my 10 Tips for Teens, a tongue-in-cheek guide for parents and teenagers to help them get along better. After getting picked up by The Good Men Project and seeing it’s reach move beyond what it would have here, I asked her if she had seen it.
The “look” was answer enough. Anybody that has been around teenage girls has seen it. Equal parts contempt and bewilderment, it’s similar to the look you give when checking a newborn’s diaper for the first time. Disgust and confusion at the same time. Apparently she not only had read it, but wasn’t as amused as I found myself writing it.
The problem didn’t turn out to be the content itself, but rather the perceived insinuation that we, as parents, never did anything wrong or foolish and that we unfairly hold our children to standards that we failed to reach ourselves at that age. The universal feeling among teenagers throughout time that they should be allowed to make their own mistakes and thereafter learn from them as we did. Her complaint wasn’t with the post itself, which she ultimately conceded was funny, but led to an interesting conversation about her feelings that her mother and I were being unfair and hypocritical when it came to some of the rules and expectations we have for her.
She’s both right and wrong. Her mother and I were both up to much more mischief at her age than she is and that is always going to be in the back of our minds. Some of it was relatively harmless, if extremely stupid in hindsight. My friends and I would sneak out and climb onto the roof of the elementary school, purposefully setting off the alarms so that we could jump down and run into the woods when the town police showed up. Brilliant.
Other times there were actual consequences. I was riding in the back of a pick up truck one night when I noticed we were being trailed by a police car. Being underage, it seemed prudent to dispose of the case of beer I had with me. Over the side of the truck. In front of the police car. Brilliant.
More times than I would like to admit, arrest or severe bodily injury to myself or others was avoided by nothing more than dumb luck. Very few times was it due to the extreme cleverness I would have attributed it to at the time.
These are the times that its our job to try and limit. The nights that leave scars, both physical and emotional. She’s going to make mistakes, we know that. Hopefully she will learn from them and come out of her teenage years with some good memories and funny stories. With as few scars as possible.