I wrote this post about my teenage daughter ten years ago. In the last few weeks, I've started a new job working in a High School, and I've been reminded what funny, contradictory and fascinating creatures teenagers are!
If you can’t laugh…it’s not funny
The Little Big Picture – Published Port Lincoln Times, Fairfax Media, May 2008
I am drinking my morning coffee and watching my daughter lean against the open fridge door whilst staring intently at a carton of orange juice. What is going on in that head of hers I wonder?
“Muuum, where’s the orange juice?” Hmmm…not a lot it would appear.
My understanding is that during the teen years, the brain does a bit of a strip and rebuild. Some connections break down and others are constructed as the brain rewires itself into its adult form. And there are times when I reckon you can almost hear connection ‘A’ desperately searching for connection ‘B’.
Along with surging hormones, this explains a lot about teenagers – why some days you feel like you are trying to communicate with an alien from the planet ‘Vagueon’, while on others, they will tell you about their day in excruciatingly minute detail. Then there’s those times when ‘A’ and ‘B’ connect in a blinding flash, and they astound you with their wit, brilliance and insight.
It could also be why sometimes they quite literally haven’t got a clue about what they want for breakfast. A well-known educational psychologist reckons parents of teenagers could save a whole lot of time in the mornings if someone just marketed a breakfast cereal called ‘IDunno’.
All this helps me to understand my teenager better, but knowing what could be going on up there (or rather, not going on) is also pretty scary. Today’s teens are growing up faster than ever before. My daughter and her peers with their jelly-like brains, are physiologically not that much different from me at 15. However, they are navigating a world a whole lot more complex and sophisticated than the one I faced at the same age.
The life of a teenager in 2008 is a fast and furious affair, with instant communication and unprecedented access to information and entertainment. Relationships, social plans, fashions and whole peer groups can flash by with the click of a send button. There’s precious little time for consideration or reflection. The sheer volume of ‘stuff’ going on out there is staggering.
So, it seems to me more important than ever that we keep the lines of communication open with our young adults. As is usual with parenting, I’ve learnt the hard way that the more I ‘nag’, the more she’ll ‘drag’. And that just like those torrid toddler years, trying to win every battle is just a kamikaze mission. Certainly there are times when a foot put down has to stay put, but sometimes it’s just as effective to take a deep breath, and have a good laugh. And heaven knows it’s not too hard to laugh around these contrary, contradictory, brutally observant, frustratingly self-absorbed, funny and fascinating creatures!
When it’s 8.40 am, you’re trying to get out the door to work, the washing machine has just overflowed, the puppy (that you didn’t want and teen swore she would ‘soooo’ look after) has spewed on your just ironed black pants and had diarrhoea in the bedroom, and teenager is still shoeless and staring vaguely into space deciding what she wants in her sandwich; you can either scream in frustration or... you can laugh. And in the words of Frank Zappa, ”if you can’t laugh, it’s not funny!”
© Kristen Lawler 2008