There’s a lesson that is told in most cultures. In Canada, it’s about the weather: Wait a minute and it will change. Or, most everywhere on the good or bad in life; “This too shall pass.” All are so true. Right now, our family is going through both some ups and downs. I try to remember the latter adage during the “down” periods and not expect the “up” ones to always last.
Sticking with the clichéd sayings, there is another that is credited to Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s mother that goes something like, “The only happy people I know are people I don’t know well.” Think about it. When you know someone well, you usually know his or her troubles. When you don’t, you invariably get the proverbial answer “Good” or “Terrific” to the greeting “How are you?”
It’s so easy to complain about our teens. I know I’m guilty of too often dishing out criticisms, admonishments, and lectures. I worry that my boys might be doing drugs, drinking, or some other peer-pressure stupidity. But, they also deserve my support when they do well and my understanding when they slip up.
My 16-year-old, Will, recently bounded into my office, eager to talk. Wisely, I pulled away from the hypnotic lure of my computer, and faced him squarely, ready for whatever followed.
Normally, when Will comes to talk to me, I am concerned that he either wants something or is going to confess something that I wish I didn’t have to hear. This time, I listened. And I listened and I listened. I smiled, I nodded, I grunted. But, mostly I listened. He had made a remarkable discovery! What was this remarkable revelation? “Life is complicated and full of wonder and amazing things. Where did life come from? Why do we sleep? How does our brain work? Why are there different languages and how did they evolve?” He literally rambled off these and other subjects, as if he’d just discovered the wheel!
Teen energy, angst and anger manifests itself in many ways. Every day it seems that we read about some teen that has done something unusually self-destructive, and occasionally destructive to others. Columbine was an extreme example of this. Many so-called “normal” teens tend to use or abuse the ol’ standbys of drinking, drugs, and sex to handle these emotions and changes. For my own 16-year-old, his reaction has been mostly anger. The irony is that I’ve found this to be both good and bad.
How hormones affect the average teen have been studied and documented, but no one really knows definitively their effect since each teen reacts in different ways. The same is true for most women’s experience with menopause, as my wife has suffered horribly while for her mother it was a blip on the screen of her mid-life. Will has done a little of the aforementioned “standbys” stated above, to some degree. But he’s done nothing extraordinary, over-the-top, or that different from all teens with the possible exception of his recent angry moods.