I am heading towards 45 years old in October. Since I spend a lot of time picking on my teenagers here I thought it might be fun...and only fair... during the upcoming month to spend some time revisiting myself as a teen. Do I remember being a teenager? Yes I do. Vividly. And I have some help with that. Being a pack rat can sometimes be useful. Having a mother who was one also can be useful. I took a little visit to my cardboard box where I have my teen years recorded in poetry.... and the beginning of a (really bad) historical novel that I began when I was 17 and was going to be a writer...or an artist....or a Broadway/rock star....or make a career out of drycleaning...anyway.....
When Biggest was 14 and was starting to go wild she was grounded and of course gave me the line that I "didn't understand."
You know how it goes...you're a fuddy duddy and probably was one of those girls who volunteered to scrape gum off the bottom of the desks for teachers. Yep, that was me....volunteering.....ok
This was my answer to her.
My Dear Biggest,
You have more in common with you're mother than you want to believe. One thing is being a pack rat. This is one time that it has come in handy for me. When you think I don't understand or know exactly what & how you're feeling you are wrong. When you tell me Grandma didn't treat me this way you are wrong. I have proof. Before you read these you must know that I would have said anything to go skating again. Most of it is manipulation to get my own way. It didn't work. Thank God. I am older and wiser now as Grandma was then. We do know where you are coming from. I love you.
I didn't get my response until 5 years later and it is very personal but I shared a very tiny part of it here.
Somewhere around the time I was freaking out because I couldn't believe my child was making such poor decisions my mother gave me these reminders of THE BIG GROUNDING. This would be the one when I was 14 and left the skating rink and went to a party and drank some beer with an unapproved boy. And got Busted by a tipped off, ticked off mother when I returned to the parking lot.
A Letter From My Mother
Dear Miss G,
If you do not stop talking to Unapproved Boy on the phone and write him off -I am afraid you will never again be allowed to go skating and I will never again trust you. I really don't want that to happen. This would make me unhappy and make you not only unhappy but but might possibly cause you to cheat and lie and cheapen yourself by sneaking around behind my back. You are a beautiful and smart girl. You do not need to waste time on someone who has no regard for your safety or reputation. You deserve better and should aim higher. I love you very much, though you don't seem to think I do - and I'm not an old senile lady who has forgotten what it is like to be young. I AM old enough to have learned a lot. Some of the things I have learned should help you make the right decisions now. When you are a little older you will have plenty of time to learn things for yourself first hand. You said something about "not being able to handle much beer at your age" ( This is a digression to explain that I believe I had explained that I only drank a tiny amount of beer before I realized my mistake because I was afraid it would hit me me too hard--A' La Richie Cunningham) This is true of many things besides beer. Don't try to be tough and hard. Stay soft and sweet for as long as you can. I love you very much. I will not always be around to watch over you and you won't always need me to. But for now that is how it is. So relax and enjoy life while you can without the complications that come from rushing everything.
My mother was very wise and of course she was right as I realized when I was older.
I also possess my answer to this missive.
Dear Mrs. Mom, ( I actually addressed it to her surname!)
I am afraid you are sadly mistaken. I have not been talking to 'Unapproved boy' and have written him off as you put it. I had not stopped liking him but he has moved away to live with his dad so I figured it was not worth the trouble of fretting over him. I am now in the process of liking: 'different boy' an amazingly adorable hunk that goes to my school. I have even put him above "approved boy" (who was the one that called my house and got me busted) since whenever I go out with him I am just practicing for my hopeful future as an actress. Because all I'm doing is playing a role. Being mature, stiff, fake. Not all the time but most of it.
Skating is the ONLY (I had it underlined) thing I enjoy doing. I love it to such an extent that if I ever went back I wouldn't step foot off the curb in front of the door. For not wanting to keep me from skating and stop trusting me you're doing a pretty good job of making yourself miserable. I don't think I'd readily sneak behind your back because every time I have ventured to do so I've been caught. ( yeah right) Don't you think if I ad left the rink other times somebody would have called? Even though I've almost completely put " unapproved boy' out of my mind I don't appreciate you degrading him. What I did was my own sorry, poor judgement. He was probably a little bit to blame but I am equally responsible and a little bit more so. I realize I don't always do the right things but I can tell for myself when what I did wasn't smart and know better than to do it again. I have made my own decisions in these areas before, successfully for that matter.
Shouldn't I learn something now to be a responsible adult. How will I ever get anywhere being naive? I'm not saying you should let me do what I want or that I was right doing what I did. If you thought that I'd be disappointed in you. (The nerve). I'd be even sadder than I am now because I'd get in alot of trouble (hear the violins?) I'm just like everyone else my age curious and confused (isn't that what the film at school said?) You say someday I won't need you but if you try to keep me from the bad things in life I'll always be here. Always coming to you with everything! (The clincher along with a thinly veiled threat)
I'm trying to enjoy life now but there are complications now too. There's no hiding me from that. I'm not rushing anything. It's all coming at it's own pace.The good and the bad are there. I try to do right. Sometimes I slip. Everyone does. It's only human and punishing someone for being human isn't.
Ms. Very Grounded (age 14)
Recognize me in there? ; )
I'm pretty sure my Mom laughed her ass off when she read this. And yes it is just about the biggest bunch of hooey ever written. Except for one thing. When I went skating, I never stepped off the curb in front of that skating rink and went somewhere else behind her back again.
I would say I was going to the movies.
This knowledge of myself as a teen has made me a wiser parent. It also leads to some of my mistakes as a parent. We have to point them in the right direction. We have to be watchful and aware because we may need to step in. But we can't always prevent them from making mistakes. They do have to learn to make the right choices on their own.
"I am old enough to have learned a lot. Some of the things I have learned should help you make the right decisions now. When you are a little older you will have plenty of time to learn things for yourself first hand."
My mother was right.
"I'm trying to enjoy life now but there are complications now too. There's no hiding me from that"
So was I.
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