A Rant About Juvenile Ageism

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

 

As I write this, I am enjoying my long Thanksgiving weekend, feeling thankful for the opportunity to study for upcoming midterms and thankful that my parents are around to take care of the household crisis that our family dog caused this week (don’t ask). Yes, that’s right. I’m thankful for my parents–and not just when they’re solving a crisis. And yes, I really am a teenager.

One of the common (and erroneous, at least in my opinion) beliefs about teenagers that I most loathe is that all teenagers fight with their parents 24/7 and they’re nightmares to parent. ”Forget the terrible twos, it’s the terrible teens!” people proclaim. I remember my mom telling me a few years ago, when I was just turning 15 and my brother was turning 12, that an acquaintance at a dinner party had said to her ”Two teenagers; good luck! You’ll see, the next few years will have you pulling your hair out.” In the human development course I’m taking this semester, my professor emphasized a few classes ago that the teenage years were when the unresolved issues during childhood came back to wreak havoc and haunt teens and their parents.
Lovely. If you were to believe everything that’s commonly said about teenagers in the past, you would think that my peers and I would be keeping ourselves busy by blasting music loudly enough to give neighbours’ headaches, making intricate plans for sneaking off to school in the most distasteful clothing found at the mall, and, without a doubt, screaming at the top of our lungs in yet another one of those famous teenage drama queen fights against our parents. Don’t misunderstand me–I believe the teenage horror stories I’ve heard/seen first hand. However, I don’t extrapolate them to be common occurrences within all families with teenagers; I don’t think it’s the proper outlook.
I have the occasional squabble with parents–as does nearly everyone I know in my age group. However, I had squabbles with my parents when I was still in elementary school and even when I was in preschool–as did nearly everyone, if not everyone, I know. From what I’ve seen, even adult children, who see their parents only occasionally, still sometimes argue with their parents and cause them grief. Sometimes it’s moodiness that brings about arguments; other times it’s differing beliefs. Since kids tend to start questioning the world around them in their teenage years and have their first opportunities to express and act according to their own opinions, disagreements may be more heated after age 10 or so, but that doesn’t mean that teens are outright unpleasant family members. Personally, I enjoy the company of teenage family members I know (e.g. my brother) much more now than I did when they were younger. Varied interests and new views add spice to conversations and teenage angst pales in comparison to toddler crankiness.
Why label teens as troublemakers who ruin peaceful families? It certainly isn’t very encouraging for the conscientious preteens, soon to be teenagers, who nevertheless have good relations with their parents. My human development course has also highlighted that kids who aren’t perceived as good as others (e.g. because of physical appearance) by adults tend to behave less desirably as time goes on.
Here’s to the tweens to twenty-year-olds who don’t hate their parents. Gratitude’s the attitude to have.
Originally published in the Times & Transcript on October 15th, 2011.
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