Ginsberg is home from college and Darren and I are doing what we always do when she is around: wondering who the hell raised her. We are neurotic as all get-out with self-doubt levels hovering in the high 80s, and yet our daughter is well-adjusted, reasonable and capable. What gives?
We especially wonder about how she turned out so well when we observe the minority of other kids — teenagers and college kids — who are real shitheads.
On “Men of a Certain Age” last week (if you aren’t watching this, start — a really well-done show), Joe caught his daughter and her boyfriend just after they had sex in his bed (he is divorced and the two kids sneaked into his house behind his back). He was shocked, of course, and upset, and tried to talk to her, but she ran out of the house claiming she had to get to her AP class. He tried again when she stopped by to change her clothes, but she treated him as if he were a nosy stranger and an argument ensued. He ended up grounding her, and she denied his right to do that, especially at her mother’s house, where she usually lives. The mother agreed with the daughter and refused to enforce the grounding.
Yeah, it’s just a TV show, but it’s representative of so many parents, parents who don’t understand why their kids don’t respect them, why they have no influence over their kids’ actions, and what their kids were thinking when they mixed pills and alcohol.
Darren and I are, no lie, mixed-up people. But when we look at Ginsberg, we have always seen a human being. We love her and our impulse is to be honest with her. To obfuscate is to disrespect your audience, and she simply doesn’t deserve to be ignored or lied to. If we had a rule, we had a reason for the rule. If we couldn’t articulate the rule, maybe it was a stupid one. So we told her the truth, and we expected decent behavior for sensible reasons.
Oh, and one more thing. Long before she entered middle school, when we saw rude kids on television, or in public, one of us would turn to her and say, “Ginsberg? You see that? It’s rude. You’re not allowed to do that, okay?” Sometimes we would add for good measure, “Please don’t become a sullen teenager, Ginsberg. It’s just not necessary.”
By the time she suffered her adolescent woes, she knew we were on her side, and she was as appalled at “typical” teen behavior as we were.
I work with a lot of teenagers, and have done for nearly fifteen years. Some are more polite than others, but most of them are good at heart, and only want to be treated as if their ideas and feelings matter.
It’s as simple as that. It really is.