now and then, when I tell a teenager to turn the music down, or fail to
see the pleasure they take in openly displaying more gross bodily
functions, or failing to understand how a Kevin Federline lookalike with
his elephantine pants around his knees can become a role model, I put my
hand on my hips and say:
MY time we never did that.” My husband looks amused, I start to feel,
well, older and suck in my stomach a bit more, but turn to the cheesecake
did that happen? I still feel 15 inside, yet I am made to feel outmoded.
Now, the stuff I grew up with (never take anything for granted; take
responsibility for my own entertainment, use the holidays to work or learn
a skill, never dare to be openly subversive with an elder, pay for my
mistakes, respect the elderly) turns into shifting sand beneath my feet.
your time‚” says my husband. “Don’t you remember YOUR parents
telling you ‘In my time?’”
I succumbed to “being cool” by letting things slide to what was de
rigueur around me.
what if they got what they wanted. They deserved it.
heard from other parents. “So what if they didn’t help too much around
the house; they are only children? So what if they gave you back chat?
somewhere, the 15-year-old in me began rebelling against the “so
this year, I began an experiment with some kids that lasted six months.
started saying “No” to making teenagers feel good through THINGS—the
stuff they wanted to buy and the stuff they thought they would buy one
day, and stuff that they thought made others happy, and that would make
began the journey towards making them feel happy about who they were, who
they could be, and how that could make them feel happy.
wasn’t fun. It involved taking away “privileges” such as computer
games, restricting television, in fact, anything electronic, and giving
them a six-month embargo before they could touch the stuff again.
involved giving them a $50-cell phone. It involved not being responsible
for their happiness.
wasn’t pretty. It was boot camp meets nightmare mom.
gave the teenager and younger one NO TIME for themselves, which meant
taking no time for ourselves (the adults). Every minute was accounted for
studying and reading books, for chores like making a light meal, changing
light bulbs, taking out the garbage, cleaning the kitchen, washing
time were long bike rides; hikes; kayaking; a run around the Savannah;
lifting weights; games like Scrabble that challenged their minds; and
films, but only if they won something at Cannes (that was art).
know I’m sounding like a psycho).
reward was offered for any of this new regime. It was just the way life
was going to be.
talk of material things was ignored. As time went on, the teenagers found
they were doing better in school. That they were getting stronger and
knew so much more stuff. They grew independent. They knew where the frying
pan and eggs were, and how to put the two together.
months later, when I handed back the computer game, they weren’t so keen
on it anymore. When we went out without them they said they missed liming
talked of travel, books, careers, issues, a big world. They became
passionate about Iraq, for God’s sake. The best moment came when one of
them stated that our old car was perfectly good enough, since brand names
are just a marketing ploy for the dumb.
excused myself, went outdoors and allowed myself a screaming, adolescent