I found it in the bottom of the waste basket as I emptied the trash — a crumpled copy of her weekly sociology assignment. Not in the waste basket in her room, but in the no-really-serious-secrets-here computer room/spare bedroom wicker container. It was fascinating reading. I perused with great interest our sixteen-year-old daughter’s take on the things that sway society. As she expounded on the cultural entities that have negatively influenced today’s youth, I was amazed by her insight. She seemed to truly grasp the “garbage in, garbage out” concept, sighting numerous examples of how less than wholesome input resulted in less than moral, upstanding behavior. All in all, she sounded much like a younger version of her father and me!
When she went on to note an example from her own life, where she had been nearly swayed by negative influences toward a dangerous mindset, well, frankly, it’s a good thing I was already sitting down! While the self revelation was a bit surprising, what really astounded me was the acknowledgment of her firmly held beliefs and in writing no less! It seemed she had been hearing us all along. Our admonishing that everything in our lives influences us one way or another, us insisting that song lyrics DO matter, repeated cautioning that just because something or someone is popular, has a great following, and is “cool” doesn’t mean it/he/she is moral, just, or constructive.
Somehow, through fingers jammed firmly into her ears and in spite of loud chants of “I’m not listening!!”, our words had made it into her brain matter and had been mulled around sufficiently for her to reach conclusions that bore a very close resemblance to ours. I was speechless yet thankful; dumbfounded yet very, very grateful. Maybe all the slammed doors and episodes of the silent treatment had been worth it. Maybe we weren’t doing as lousy in the parenting realm as I sometimes, late at night, feared.
Lest we become too big headed about our parenting skills, not much more than a week after discovering her discourse on modern society, she fought with us to the death over something even more basic than the truths she had acknowledged in her assignment. Our pleas of reasoning and requests to just consider our viewpoint went completely unheeded. Another round of the silent treatment followed. But this time I had renewed hope that all the time spent not talking to us might just possibly be used instead to chew on our sound reasoning with the hope that her conclusion would, in the end, closely resemble our own.
At least we had the assurance that some of our wise counsel was finding a home in her heart and mind. The truths we tried so hard to instill in her were in fact making an impact. We steeled ourselves for more “discussions”, more beating our heads against the brick wall of parenting, more of the frustration that goes with turning teenagers into responsible adults. It’s amazing how a little proof in black and white can encourage the weary souls of parents.
So, what kind of teenager were YOU?