Learn from Your Teenager
If you should happen to be the parent of a teenager, I'm sure you sometimes have to wonder if anything you ever try to teach them gets through. Well, that can cut both ways, you know. After all, what have you been learning from your teenager? Trust me, whether you believe it or not, there’s a awful lot there to learn. Let me explain.
The first thing you need to learn from your teenager is that sullen, silent, freeze-out stare he or she has perfected — the one that conveys to all unlucky enough to be within viewing range: I really don’t need anything you’ve got to offer. Just imagine how effective that reaction would be on that bore of a co-worker who feels his dog’s weekend antics are of overpowering interest to you. Or your annoying boss at inventory time. Or the local high school band kids that seem to appear on your front stoop each spring and fall hawking overpriced, underflavored nut bars of some brand you've never heard of. After a few practice runs with that glacial and glazed expression, you might even learn to reign in your overactive tongue and empathy impulse, keeping you out of a lot of conversational minefields with spouse, siblings or extended family.
Next, you could learn your teen’s impulsiveness: that hyperdriven hysteria devoted to extreme urges like 24/7 texting, global facebooking, driving together in large groups to go endlessly nowhere in particular, rap and hip-hop and emo and grunge and thrash and dubstep volume-dialed past 11, trashing nearby refrigerators and dens, and 42 changes of clothing per evening (all of them from the bedroom floor). You know that you’d benefit from getting out of your middle-years rut and taking a few risks now and then. Abandon routine. Try on something other than black socks; skip the 6:30 AND the 11 o’clock news for once; order Thai take-out, and actually eat most of it. Who knows? You just might end up being a little more interesting — to yourself and others — than you were before.
Groupies & Disdain
Does your teen seem to be merely part of a much larger, noisier and hungrier multi-headed, multi-limbed creature named Jordan-Jess-Dylan-Steph-Connor-Bree-Matt-Morgan? Well, here, too, you can benefit from adopting some of that cliquish herdiness. You’ve probably lost contact with lots of old friends over the years. Why not get back in touch? Remember how fun it could be when you got together in partying clumps of 8 and 14 and 30, rather than quiet dinners of 4? Go find your younger, more gregarious self and kick loose now and then.
So, your teenager disdains anything associated with old farts (that is, anyone past the age of — oh, say, 27?)? Well, you probably don’t have to reach back too deep in your closet to find that faded ‘Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30’ t-shirt yourself. Regenerate your perhaps long lost healthy skepticism about anything spewed out upon you by ‘more mature’ figures of authority and responsibility in our society. After all, we’ve got a lot to thank THEM for, don't we: a financial meltdown, two wars, rampant joblessness, an uncivil society, crass materialism, greed, and a drastically diminished future for us all. Seems like disdain for authority out to come back in vogue, eh? So go out and tell off an old person now and again, for your own mental health's sake!
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Learn to Live a Little (or a Lot)
Have you lost your teen(s) to another evening cruising the mall or the boutique shops and high-priced coffee bars of the nearby Outrageous-Lifestyle Center? This is but another lesson you can absorb: it’s not so bad to care just a bit more about your appearance, or your fun quotient, or to take time to live in the moment. Dare to look in the mirror now and then, realizing that all work and little or no play may have indeed made Jack and Jill a dull couple.
Finally, learn the best lesson of all from your resident know-it-all: the supreme confidence that you in fact DO know it all — cause, by god, you’ve just about lived through it all, got suckered by it all, seen it all, been afflicted with it all, paid for it all, and repaired it all already, anyway, so there’s not a single thing that life’s got left to throw at you that you can’t handle. Go live!
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