I don’t want to start off saying that I’ve figured out the secrets of the universe that would be awfully pretentious of me. But I think I’ve come pretty darn close to narrowing down the teenage psyche. The hell you say?
If we adhere to the old saying, ‘Life is an open book.’ I think I can make a very close to serious attempt at explaining a teenagers thought process or lack thereof. Its seven kinds of crazy but I feel the need to share my hypothesis.
I plan to endeavor in the unthinkable, delve into the brain of the teenager. When they placed that bundle of joy in our arms right after they are born, ‘Life is an open book’ comes into play. It’s up to us, the parents, to open that book. The introduction is their welcome to the world, a preface of what’s to come and the chapters contain our wisdom, intellect and logic that we’ve gathered through the years.
Because when we were born our open books began to fill also, our lives were shaped by the information given to us by our parents and we drew on those pages, referenced them, sifted through what we thought worked and what didn’t. And then we began to fill our own children’s books with strong advice and rules, we set boundaries and we told them not to eat dirt. Chapter after chapter we taught them to be kind to others, proper study habits, the importance of cleanliness and politeness. We taught them patience, to look both ways before crossing the street and to eat their vegetables.
This beginning of their life story was constructed for them and they had it to reference when needed. But in the empty pages ahead, at about thirteen years of age, they decide to start filling the pages in by themselves.
If we, the parents, see a misspelled word, we point it out only to have it fall on deaf ears. We can see a mistake being made and we flip back through their book to explain what they should do next, advise which way to turn but they keep going forward, teenagers do, writing their own independent chapters. Page after page of the life they have started to take control of and sit in the driver’s seat before they are road ready. As much as we try to feverishly flip the pages back and show them the plan we diligently plotted out for them, the harder they push forward, defiantly filling the pages their way.
What we carefully constructed as well thought out chapters in the beginning of their open book; start to become a rush of plans and a race to self-sufficiency. Most certainly mistakes will be made because of their impatience. We ask them to slow down and follow the instructions we so painstakingly assembled for them. Some of us will struggle more than others.
The battle between the well thought out beginning pages and the hastily made plans continues for years. I believe because of the strong bond of love we have for these obstinate beings, we can’t bear to see them fail. But fail they must. It is no different than when they learned to walk and fell on their padded diapered butt, they got back up with our help.
So when the teenager takes hold of their open book and riffles ahead through the pages, you and I and the man on the moon cannot stop them. But we can remind them of their reference material we started for them. Stretch the net out as far as it can go and secure the lifelines because that book is out of our hands now. Whether we like it or not they get to continue their story.
They have to make their own mistakes, they have to fail in order to meet success and we have to let them. There will be a point that we let go of that book and trust them to keep it open. They will have chapters in their lives that will be difficult, miserable, remorseful, embarrassing and challenging but also joyful, celebratory, exciting, daring and just plain fun. And as they gain control of their book they will, when no one is looking, take a peek at those beginning pages, because we gave them that introduction to life, we taught them to write, we taught them how to live.