March 22nd, 2016 § 2 Comments
It didn’t go as I had hoped. It rarely has since he’s become a teenager. A discussion turned into a fight, and then anger and disbelief. Before it was over, I was chasing him up the stairs, yelling the stupid question, “Who do you think you’re talking to?”
The next day, I was with a trusted friend. THANK GOD for trusted friends. This friend happens to be a licensed marriage and family therapist. THANK GOD for marriage and family therapist. He hears me out and then says, “Sounds to me a lot like a thinker vs feeler thing.” Now, I have a cursory knowledge of Myers-Briggs psychological type indicator, but not much beyond what the letters represent.
Okay, what do you mean?
As my friend began to explain it to me, it was like someone calmly lighting a candle in a room darkened by hopelessness.
The gist of it went like this: A thinker – that would be me – processes the world through the mind. Things have to be explainable, reason must govern decisions. Conversely, a feeler processes reality primarily through their feelings. How one feels is a prominent, reliable source of motivation. To a thinker, a feeler sounds … frankly, a feeler sounds dumb. To a feeler, a thinker sounds narrow and overbearing. And here’s the kicker, they both believe they are right.
No, wait, here’s the real kicker: In many cases, they both have reasonable cause to believe that they are right … because, because there may not be a right. Crazy, right?
So, this friend tells me, “To a feeler, a thinker comes off like a bully — a reason bully. Your kid could feel cornered by your reasoning. He may feel dismissed. Try this: Try listening, drawing him out. Resist the temptation to offer your understanding.” Later, my friend’s wife added, “No matter how dumb it sounds to you — you have to remember, it may only sound dumb because you lack the ability to process things the way he does — try to find things in what he is saying that you can affirm.” They agreed that once he feels heard, you may find him much more open to your input.”
Seriously, it’s been like magic.
March 10th, 2015 § 2 Comments
I got a problem with dating. Not all sorts. I’m not one of those who use words like “courting”. I don’t think you have to be thinking marriage before asking a girl out for dinner and a movie. So don’t clump me in with that group. But when I see a pimply faced thirteen year old who couldn’t find his own butthole with a map, draped on a twelve year old, drowning her in his slobber as he tries to eat her face, I think, “There’s something terribly wrong going on over there.”
First of all, what exactly is dating? No one knows. Everybody is doing it, but nobody knows what it is. And let’s get this straight: Everyone calls it dating, but it’s not just going on dates. It’s having someone be your girlfriend/boyfriend. Yours … my – it’s about possession. A pseudo commitment. And who decides what all this looks like? The majority. Everyone from that thirteen year old kid to Kanye and Kim – they set the status quo.
The whole thing is bought and sold, totally unexamined. It bothers me. But what bothers me more is the pressure it puts on kids. Like I said, dating is really an illusion of commitment where a real commitment does not exist. It’s making yours that which is not yours. Insecurity is built in. The last thing a teenager needs is help feeling insecure. Grasping for security, they’re left reaching and overreaching for a distinguishing mark. “I guess we better get physical.” Hold hands. Hang on each other. Make out … and then there’s unleashed one of the more irreversible forces in the universe – a teenage boy with a hard on. Your average fifteen year old is not prepared to deal with all the stuff swirling around once the spit gets swapped and the “I’ll love you forever” gets dropped.
I don’t know. Can’t we get some sort of legal age limit going? A thirteen year old can’t just walk up and drive a car. Why should he be able to walk up to a girl and say, “You’re mine”? Can we get a petition or something started? Get it on some sort of ballot? What age? I don’t know … how about … how about like twenty-four?
February 28th, 2015 § Leave a Comment
As a parent of teenagers, I get this sentiment a lot. “They’re mostly good kids. And with these things, you have to be realistic.” Be realistic. The trouble with reality is that far too often it sucks. I have no intention of being realistic.
That’s not to say I am unsympathetic to the harsh realities of being a teenager. It can’t be easy being judged by a jury of your peers when your peers happen to possess the devastating combination of being the most judgmental of people while being of the least sound judgment. Walking that five-year gauntlet would be rough without having to do it while everything about you is changing. Mind, body, and heart are shuffled about. Hormonal effects are real. Girls become women and boys become men – the body first, while the mind usually lags. And how do they feel about all this? Who knows? So, yes, we can all agree that teenage life is not all roses and cupcakes.
All the more reason not to be realistic, no? Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about style or availability. They’re going to dress funny. I get that. They’re not going to want to hang with Dad. A given. Nor are we talking about a dumb decision here and there. Of course that’s happening. What I’m talking about is accepting as a part of their nature things like being self-absorbed, like they can’t be bothered to be considerate, respectful. I’m talking about their acute vulnerability to be people pleasing, to go with the crowd. Treating them as if they are incapable of courage, sacrifice, self-control.
“They’re mostly good kids. With these things, you have to be realistic.” Have you seen reality lately? It sucks. “Realistic” is not where I intend to lead my teenage kids.
January 21st, 2014 § 2 Comments
This may be old news to you. Or you may have never considered such a thing. Come to think of it, there’s fair chance that I’m “Out in the woods” babbling about things that do not exist. For what it’s worth, based on my observations, here’s what I think. You be the judge.
Around the age of eight or nine, an awareness of self develops. “Hmm … I am me.” This awareness, prompts a question: “Who am I?” I’ve written before about what I believe is our initial “look” inward. In case you’re interested
The brutally honest self assessment done secretly, internally yields a vague, and at best an unsatisfying picture of self. A picture then that must be changed, upgraded – one, we can live with. It is this quest to formulate a better answer to the question, “Who am I?” that shapes the teenage experience.
What does an amnesiac do? He looks at himself in the mirror and asks, “Who am I?” The mirror reflects back to him, at least in part, the answer. The image of self. I believe it is why peers become so important to teenagers. They reflect back an image that is alike. When the question of self is the most pressing question, a teenager cannot see himself in an elder or a child. He seeks a reflection bouncing off someone like himself. And what a teenager does as he sees the image coming into unalterable focus is he desperately tries to manipulate it into a better answer.
A teenager is consumed by a need to formulate a better answer to the question. Like others in search of an answer, he naturally turns to a mirror and asks, “Who am I?”