Category Archives: Teen

Time to Fly

 

I haven’t written much about the oldest in a while. She’s eighteen now, spending most of her time elsewhere. Her story is increasingly her own, not mine to tell.

Today a chapter closed in that story, a new one begun not just for her but for the rest of us as well. Today I drove her to the airport and put her on a plane, a plane headed to the other side of the county where family will be waiting to receive her. She’ll have a new place to lie her head, a new job and new friends to find and make. She’ll finish the last steps towards acquiring her driver’s license and will look to continue her education. A fresh start in a new place, hopefully freed of some of the baggage that she just never seemed to be able to shake off here. She’s nervous but excited, sad but hopeful.

It was a reflective ride home, the twelve years since she entered my life rewound. The good times and bad, the mistakes and lessons learned, the transition from “girlfriend’s kid” to “daughter.” The paradox of how quickly that time seemed to go by but also how long ago my life before them now seems.

 

 

It was a time to wonder if I had done enough, if we had adequately prepared her for the challenges that she will inevitably face but also a time for pride, to admire the courage that she showed walking towards that terminal and her new life. Nervous but excited, sad but hopeful, feelings that I shared with her as I watched from afar, not ready to leave until she had passed through TSA and turned that last corner towards Concourse A.

It was a reminder to cherish this time with her little sister, the same age now as when I first met Kayla. A reminder that this time, this influence that I now hold, this opportunity to shape who she one day becomes, is finite, not to be wasted.

 

Upon returning home I had two messages waiting for me, one each on my home phone and my cell, as well as an e-mail, all from my own mother. She wanted to be sure that everything had gone OK, that Kayla had been delivered safely and without complication. She wanted to make sure everybody was feeling alright and that I was getting enough sleep. She wanted to make sure that I was aware of the upcoming snowstorm and was prepared for a potential power outage.

This was my last reminder of the day, that parenting doesn’t end just because addresses change and conversations turn from every day to twice a week.  That this is a life long job. That the particular responsibilities may change, the challenges and rewards ever different, but the worry remains.

Today I put the oldest on a plane, the little bird leaving the nest in the most metaphorically way possible. I have no doubt that she will fly, my main concern being that she remembers to brush her teeth.

Should I text her and remind her to brush her teeth?

 

ready to fly

 

 

 

One New Permit, Many New Gray Hairs

Sponsored Post

 

Another important milestone was reached here recently, another step taken towards adulthood and self sufficiency. The teenager is now officially licensed to begin practicing driving, written test past and knowledge of the state’s laws and regulations demonstrated. We are still a ways away from requests to borrow the keys and nights spent pacing with worry but the first steps there have been taken.

 

she’s more excited than I am

 

I fear that once again the reason for my trepidation lie in my own past, a sixteen year old with a car faster than he should have been driving and a penchant for showing off in front of his friends. She’s older than I was, nominally wiser, and faces stricter state laws than I did at the time. New drivers are prohibited from driving with other teens for the first six months and are only allowed immediate family under twenty years old for the second six. She’s old enough to not be required to follow the state’s driving curfew but still will remain beholden to mine.

 

this kid drove like a jerk

 

None of which changes the fact that motor vehicle accidents are still the leading cause of death among 15-20 year olds and that as a parent to a teenager worrying and nagging are how I spend the vast majority of my time. Anything that can be done to lower the frequency of either is going to be appreciated by us both.

One way I’ll be able to do that is by trying to put her in the safest vehicle possible. Once she leaves the house I can’t control what she does and even more alarmingly can’t control the actions of other drivers but I can control what she is driving.

cars.com  will help me with that, not only by helping me find a quality vehicle for sale in my area but by providing either an Autocheck or CARFAX report to review and by providing easy research options on different makes and models.

 

 

I’ll take all the help I can get.  I’m proud of her accomplishment and look forward to reducing my time behind the wheel of the dad taxi but not the dramatic increase in gray hair that I can foresee happening in the coming months.

 

I was compensated for writing this post, but all ideas and opinions are my own. 

 

Social Media and Teenage Stupidity

 

MGM/UA Entertainment

 

As sympathetic as I try to be towards the tribulations of other parents, I have no problem admitting to a preference that  my “teachable moments” originate from consequences suffered by other people’s children.

This past week offered just such an opportunity, a conversation with the teenager initiated by the news that Harvard had rescinded offers to at least ten potential new students for the crime of sharing memes that the Admissions Committee deemed too offensive. They had been posted in a private Facebook group called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” The university cited its right to withdraw offers “if an admitted student engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, morality, or moral character.”

I won’t share the memes here, but if you want to find them it’s not difficult. They’re pretty bad.

They’re pretty bad but to be honest, I’ve seen worse. They’re jokes. Horribly offensive ones that aren’t particularly funny, meant to shock and push back against political correctness.  They are purposefully cringe worthy, competitions  common where people vote on which are the most “dank”. I’m sure that it never crossed any of these kid’s minds that these actions could be considered bad enough to lose the right to attend a school that only accepted 5.2 % of applicants to the class of 2021.

It’s an important lesson, online presence something that more and more employers and universities are paying attention to. Whether fair or not, opinions about a person are being formed by what they post and share on social media. I asked the teenager who she would be more willing to hire if two applicants had similar qualifications, the one that posts pictures of her dog on Instagram or the one tweeting about how wasted they got the night before?

As important as it is for teens to use a little more common sense before hitting the “send’ button,  it’s equally important for those doing the judging to use it. Teenagers can be incredibly stupid and naive. It was true when I was one, when you were one, and when my youngest gets to be that age I have no doubt that she will have me shaking my head in consternation often.  What the people at Harvard missed was that these memes were being shared precisely because they were considered offensive. This is evidence of poor judgement but also shows that they are not indicative of the true feelings of the posters.

It’s a hard balance to find, as with all aspects of raising teenagers. Accountability must be taught but they also need to be allowed to make mistakes, to learn from them. Very few of us get to be be responsible adults without first spending time as stupid kids, doing stupid things.

Things become even more problematic when stupid adults try and legislate stupid teen behavior. With the intention of fighting child pornography, a laudable idea, the US House of Representatives has voted to mandate a fifteen year mandatory minimum sentence for anybody who shares sexually explicit photos of a minor.

Besides being against the idea of mandatory sentencing in general, I’m also unable to comprehend how it never occurred to any of these brilliant lawmakers that the law as currently written doesn’t exclude minors, the very people it is intended to protect.

That means a young girl who sends a picture of her boobs to her high school boyfriend could go to jail for fifteen years. If that boyfriend asks for a picture that is solicitation, fifteen years. If one of the boyfriend’s buddies told him to ask for the picture that’s conspiracy, fifteen years in federal jail.

Teenagers need to be talked to, constantly. They need to realize the consequences of their online actions and be taught to use as much common sense as we can instill. We need to use a little sometimes too.

 

 

 

 

Parents, Trying to Understand

 

I think that most people with teenage children will agree that they can be difficult to communicate with and I’ve found that sometimes, it’s hard to blame them for that reluctance.  We’re stupid, out of touch and think we know it all, while actually knowing next to nothing.  It’s been 28 years ( yes, you read that right ) since DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince ( whatever happened to that guy? ) released “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and it’s as true today as it was then.

 

parents just dont understand
Jive Records

 

We know nothing, at least not nearly as much as their friends do, the only ones that really understand them and what they are going through.  Other than to ask for rides, money, and food, there really is next to no benefit whatsoever to engaging us in conversation.  If told that their day was “good”, what other information do we really need? Their day was good.  They’ll be gone in another year or so anyway.

It would be easy to believe this.  To simply let them hide out in their filthy rooms, tapping away at little screens, living their lives as we live ours.  To trust that we’ve given them a strong enough foundation to handle themselves, that our relationship is strong enough for them to have no hesitation in asking for help if needed. To believe that they are “good.”

Easy, but in my opinion, in my experience, a mistake. I’ve stated many times that this isn’t a place where I give advice or where anybody in their right mind would come for parental guidance. There are things that I have learned however, and one of them is that for all the sarcasm at the beginning of this post, there really is a lot that we don’t know, that we don’t understand. Things that we won’t learn by texting upstairs when dinner is ready, that one day make us wonder how such obvious signs of trouble were missed.

It’s hard.  It’s hard to find the time, hard to fight through the shields they seem to automatically raise.  Hard to find some common interest that can be used as a wedge in the door they seem determined to keep closed.  A shared fandom of a sports team or musical act.  A television or book series to share. Harry Potter, Star Wars, the Boston Red Sox.  If they are more enthusiastic than you are, fake it.

 

bonding over buffalo
ready to eat

 

For us it’s been wings.  Weekend trips to different restaurants and eateries replacing the cinema as a more productive means of stimulating conversation.  Various sauces and flavors sampled as I try to establish this as a new tradition. A few hours away from home, her attention stealing little sister and the temptations of electronics.

It’s not enough, but it’s a start.  I still don’t know nearly as much as I would like to about what’s going on in her life, going on in her head. A parent still trying to understand.

But I know more than I did. There are several dozen more places that I have mapped out for us to try and with any luck I’ll continue to  pry that door open even further. If i have to make a few new holes in my belt to get this accomplished, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

 

bonding over buffallo
Bonding over Buffalo

 

 

Getting Closer to “When I Grow Up”

 

Like most people, My plans for what I wanted to be “when I grow up” changed many times over the years.  I don’t remember policeman, astronaut or firefighter ever being on the list, but rock star and cowboy certainly were.  Bounty hunter or private detective remained aspirations until around 7th grade when I decided my future lay in soap opera acting.

Upon reaching high school my plans grew slightly more realistic.  I made preliminary inquiries into what was required to attend West Point, the United States Military Academy, until a weekend spent on campus talking to Cadets led me to evaluate my level of discipline and find it lacking.  Dissuaded from seeking a leadership position in an organization of over one million people, I naturally decided to instead apply to the University of Maine and live a life of isolation as a forest ranger. That didn’t last long either.

It will be interesting to hear the different career paths that the five year old considers over the years.  She seems to have given up the idea of “superhero ballerina”, but rock star is still a consideration. She remains determined to help people, which I love, and has recently added hairdresser and librarian to her list, as she feels “everyone loves a good haircut and having books given to them.”  It’s pretty solid logic.

For the teenager, however, “when I grow up” is a time that is fast approaching. It’s been a bumpy ride but  graduation from high school will be upon us soon. Decisions about what the next chapter in her life will be are going to have to be made soon.  Afraid that she may not realize this and growing frustrated with our communication lately being limited to text messages to her room when dinner was ready, I used my secret teenager trap to lure her out and force her to sit down and talk for a bit. I took her out for wings.

 

close to grown up
to capture a teen, hot wings make good bait

 

It seemed a productive chat.  She assures me that she is on pace to graduate and that she has a plan. She wants to be a veterinary technician, a nurse for animals.

It’s not the worst idea that she has ever had.   According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, our state is predicted to have  19% job growth in that profession between now and 2024. There is no state required professional credentialing, so further schooling wouldn’t necessarily be required, though it would greatly improve her hiring desirability . Entry level salary of $26,000, with a mean of 37,850, won’t make her rich but it would keep her fed.

She won’t qualify academically for either of the two in-state schools that offer certification programs, but there are on-line classes that she can take to start.  Some sort of employment will be mandatory and maybe something else will inspire her.  Something besides “rock star astronaut” hopefully.