Thursday, 15 November 2012

Words for teenagers (and their parents)

I saw the following post this morning:

"Words for teenagers"

Northland College principal John Taplane has offered the following words from a judge who regularly deals with youth.  "Always we hear the cry from teenagers 'what can we do, where can we go?'

"My answer is this: Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons and after you've finished, read a book.  Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun.

"The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something.  You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in sickness and lonely again.  In other words, grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone not a wishbone.  Start behaving like a responsible person.  You are important and you are needed.  It's too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday.  Someday is now and that somebody is you!"

This fits right in with my thoughts lately on the "adult-escent" stage of life that has emerged in the past decade or so.  This term was coined by an author who defined this stage as the 20-something adults still living in their parents' basement playing "Call of Duty" video games (or an equivalent stupid pastime.)  It fits right in with the increasing self-centred universe we are creating for our youth and young adults, where "I" am the only one who matters and "my" happiness is the supreme goal of life.  It fits in with the epidemic of laziness that has settled over our society.  It fits in with the concerns we have had in the past about raising kids in a small town and the dangerous pastimes, or "wastetimes" (my term) they get into.

It also is relevant to our constant need as parents to fill every waking minute of our children's time with activities.  Part of my regularly scheduled days is time for the kids to play on their own or with each other, to come up with their own games, tell their own stories, find ways to entertain themselves.  I only sign the kids up for one extra-cirricular activity at a time, and I try hard to make it the same thing for everyone and all on the same night.  (That doesn't always work, but I try.)

I yearn for the days, or the type of town, where free play among children is spontaneous (think "Little Rascals.") Yes, I really do want my children to be little rascals, to head out on adventures, to find a little trouble, to weigh the decision of whether climbing something will be totally awesome or just might kill them.  I want them to make friends and fight with friends and make peace with friends.  I want their Wednesday night baseball game to be the result of kids riding their bikes down the street with their gloves over their shoulders and my boys run out to join them, instead of an organized team with adult supervision (coaches) and a set 45 minutes to be allowed to play.  (No, this is not idealic of a time gone by - a good friend actually witnessed this when she spent time with family over the summer in a small town out in Western Canada.)

I think these types of adventures and situations helped create children who were free-thinking and autonomous, and who didn't rely on someone else to give them something to do.  For all that our backyard is large compared to current town standards, I hate that I have to fence in my kids and restrict their wanderings.  (Okay, I would still have to fence in Benjamin at this age, because he really might get himself hurt!)  I constantly think about ways to help my children reclaim these things so that they will never be standing before a judge hearing words of like written above.  More than anything, I want my kids to know what hard work is, to believe that they can do hard things, and that there are things they can do that will make a real difference in the world.

1 comment:

Kevin H. said...


Knocking these ones long and strong and straight down the line. : )

An additional thought: the first step to keeping young people (or any kind of people) active and productive, rather than passive and wasteful, is making sure they're armed with a healthy sense of self-worth. Nothing leads a young person (or any kind of person) down the "wrong path", as it were, faster than making them feel worthless, unimportant and as if they're only in the way (of a day job or another interest or whatever). The kind of void that feeling ultimately engenders, the hole at the center of a person's being, is the kind that's always hungering for reassurance and validation, from any source it can get it, and it's a hollow that never, ever gets full. Destroy someone's confidence in themselves, their sense of self-worth, and all of a sudden they're not entirely to blame for the shiftless, chaotic or listless behaviour they adopt: it's become hard-wired into them.

Luckily, I think you're going to be raising some awfully well-adjusted children, T-A. Those kids are gonna be just bursting with courage and self-confidence, thanks in large part to just this kind of self-reflection. : )