In an attempt to prevent our sons from making the same mistakes we did as teens, The Rational One and I have compiled the following list of ‘Things We Wish We’d Known When We were Teenagers’. We do know that they will immediately discard this advice as out-of-date tripe provided by out-of-touch parents, but nevertheless it is our God-given right, as the parents of teenagers, to dispense sage and timely advice to our offspring that they will blatantly ignore.
Number One: Stupid stunts and risky activities will land you in one of two places – jail or the emergency room. It would be hypocritical of me or my husband to simply say “don’t do it kid.” You have to live life, and that living can result in a nasty bump or two. Like the time I went over the handlebars of my bike and face-planted in the asphalt while racing down the biggest hill in Clarkson, despite repeated warnings not to race down the biggest hill in Clarkson on a bike in case I went over my handlebars and face planted in asphalt. I believe it was Sir Isaac Newton who said an object will stay in motion unless acted upon by another force. This isn’t just a physics lesson in Grade 9 – it’s also the unofficial motto of every hospital emergency room. My ‘other force’ was asphalt.
Number Two: Slow down and double check your work. This advice works equally well in math tests, city politics and during income tax season. Two weeks ago, my son complained that he knew the math topics well, but did poorly on tests. He provided me with a rare opportunity to give him some coaching. We discussed how to study, how to assess the most important questions on tests and finally, the good advice above. Slow down. Review your work. Double check your answers. They were the last words I said to him as I dropped him at school for the test. Yesterday he texted me from school telling me he didn’t do as well as he’d hoped on his math test. I was a good mom, and commiserated via text messages. When I asked where he’d made the errors he texted “I think I rushed it and didn’t double check my answers.” He was serious. I thunked my head silently against the refrigerator.
Number Three: Be careful who you sit next to on the carpet. This pearl of wisdom came from a Grade 2 teacher. She offered it up following my son’s first so-so report card. It seems that he’d been socializing more than studious. During key learning moments, sitting on the carpet, he was less listening to the lesson than being entertained by his friends, the class clowns. She had hurried to add that he wasn’t being the clown, but by sitting with the clowns, it was a clear case of “clown by association.”
As a full-fledged ‘I’m going out it’s Friday night’ teenager now, he was recently reminded of this lesson by another member of our community, a member of our city’s police service. Just like in Grade 2, the good cop shared that our son had been very cooperative; the bad cop hurried to add that the choice of who to socialize with on Friday night was worth a review. I guess we could add to the life lessons list, that in real life there really are good cops and bad cops; it’s not just a parenting technique used in our home.
Number Four: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. My favourite book ever is written by Anthony Wolfe about parenting teenagers, called Get Out of My Life, but First, Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall. If you are not yet the parent of teens, buy it now and read it thoroughly. Your loving and appreciative pre-teen child will begin to morph into a teenager who speaks with a lot of tone, misses curfew, disrespects their siblings, and passes French but fails their native tongue, English. Immediately following these four things (because this all happens Monday night over dinner) he will turn to you and ask for a raise in allowance, if he can begin driving your car in the spring and an extension on his curfew. He will consider it abnormal that you can’t see it in your heart to grant any of these requests, because you’re still so hung up on that curfew and police thing from last weekend.
We know the boys will never take any of this advice, just as we didn’t take it from our parents when we were teens. This article will end up underneath a beat up pizza box that slides underneath someone’s bed, and isn’t found until a strange smell begins to bother him at night.
But that’s just advice for another day.