I’m just going to throw it out there that I am so grateful I am not raising daughters. I say this because raising teenaged sons is enough drama for me.
I cross the threshold into my own home each night after work, and almost cringe as I ask the question, “So how was your day?”
My sons are not melodramatic, it’s just that living with teenagers is like living with people who enhance the ‘hue’ on their televisions so that the reds are redder and the greens are greener and the blues, well, they are really, really blue. Every comment from a rival is a call to arms, every piece of feedback from a teacher a trauma, and every escapade with a friend the most glorious of adventures. It is all so present they have no sense that another emotion is just around the corner. This emotion is forever.
What complicates things for parents is that it is incredibly difficult to remember when the hues were ever that vibrant. It is challenging to remember when you felt that much, with such frequency. Okay, I’ll admit it … I cry when the Canadians win the World Junior Hockey Championship, and a 21 year-old winning the Masters? Well, you’re just not human if you don’t weep a little as the leader walks to the 18th green in the final round. But teen life, with the omnipresent intensity of just being, is sometimes hard to recall.
And you need to recall it if you’re going to be a good parent. Telling your kid that their emotions are not the facts, or to not feel what they’re feeling is like throwing a match on dry kindling, and only ends in an annoying diatribe from your teenager that you just don’t “get it.” Rookie parenting mistake. Having the wrong shoes, being talented at something that’s not cool, or being grounded are situations that, to these amped-up pseudo adults, are diabolical injustices the likes of which rival Mandela’s 30-year imprisonment.
So to benefit all parents of teens, to reconnect with your inner teen, I offer you the following highly unscientific experiment titled “Experience life as a teenager again.” Let’s see if we can’t reconnect to some pretty powerful teen emotion.
Step one: try to remember what you ate for dinner yesterday. We’ll call this part of the test the “adult memory norm.”
I certainly don’t remember. I’m lucky if I remember the internet password for my house, because we have to change it each week to keep online gaming from destroying our sons’ futures, but that’s a story for another day. We cannot remember because we’re 50(ish), and our hormone bank is running dreadfully close to overdraft.
To reclaim that feeling of the powerful emotions of being a teen, try the second part of the test, below.
Allow your mind to travel back 20, 25, 30 to 35 years. Can you recall what song was playing at the party/dance/campfire/in your dorm room/in your car, when you kissed the first real love of your life for the very first time? Maybe it was in high school, or maybe it was a little later. What was the song? Where did that kiss take place? What kind of car did your true love drive (or borrow from his/her parents)?
If that test doesn’t recall strong teen emotion, try this one: What was the worst fight you ever had with your parents when you were a teenager? Do you still feel the burning anger of being denied whatever it was you wanted and they wouldn’t give you?
I know in my heart and soul that somewhere, in a warehouse, there is still a pair of those “fur on the outside” winter boots, that made everyone look like Chewbacca, and that my mother refused to buy me. They were the ticket to my acceptance into the cool group in Grade 9. She ruined my life.
Those feelings? Those are how powerful those teenage hormones are. We can still recall those details with incredible intensity, and with such clarity, 30 to 35 years later. We couldn’t do that if those memories hadn’t been super enhanced with that teenage hormonal hue. They imprint on us and never let us go … I will never be able to hear Stairway to Heaven without remembering the Grade 9 dance and watching the love of my life put his hands on the Wrangler-clad arse of my arch rival Cindy, and slow dancing with her for seven long minutes. Never, never, never.
So when the drama is escalating in my house, I try to recall the teen emotion, and remember how intense the feelings are for them right now. As the American author Jessamyn West said, “At 14 you don’t need sickness or death for a tragedy.” Every day, all day, the super-hued intensity of everything anyone says to them, kind or unkind is being imprinted on them. Every joke the most funny thing; every new door opened, a wild discovery. They are right. Their grad trip was the best time of their life. Their friends are the funniest people ever, and their life really is awesome, or awful, if you just wait until tomorrow. Turn up the brightness and the hue; it’s life with a teen.