I remember a day several years ago when I was driving home from work among several young hotshots who were weaving in and out of traffic. I shook my head as I remembered a time when I was just as nimble in traffic, and I wondered if I’d actually reached that age where I was one of the slowpokes I used to complain about. Why were they in such a hurry to get home? Would two extra minutes really make that much difference? Then it occurred to me – they weren’t headed home to teenage kids.
As a comedian, I close every show with an observation I’ve made in these blogs previously, about the fact that children laugh an average of 300 times a day compared to adults who only laugh 17 times a day. That’s a sad statistic. And I’m convinced it’s teenage kids who are dragging the average down.
In fairness, we were all there once. Some of us (finger pointing at yours truly) spent a little more time as teenagers than others. And I remember watching my mom’s vibrant head of dark hair turn solid gray in the time it took to get three kids through high school. I wonder sometimes how she came out with a shred of sanity.
I wasn’t a really bad kid. In fact, I did pretty well compared to some. I had a job, I went to church, I helped out around the house, and I didn’t father any kids of my own until I was married. All told, I wasn’t too much trouble. In fact, if you overlook that whole pot-smoking thing, I was every parent’s dream.
But about the time my oldest daughter was born, I started to grow up just a little and realized that the days of partying till dawn were pretty much behind me. I gradually returned to my roots and started focusing on more worthy pursuits, like family and career. My core values started to reappear, and I grew into a man I think my mom would have been proud of. She may not have approved of the earrings, but that’s another story.
As I raised my own daughters, I was treated to constant reminders of the things we did at their age. When they’re young, it’s cute. They put their little hands on their hips and tell you how things are to be done, and you kiss their little face and tell them to go eat their Wheaties. After a few months of that, it’s not quite so cute any more. Their search for independence turns into a battle of wills, and at some point we end every argument with the words we despised most … “Because I said so!” It works, but only because we’re bigger than they are.
And then one day they turn into teenagers, and raising a child turns into outsmarting an opponent. The problem is, they’re younger and their brain works faster. Plus they have the support of friends – lots of friends who feel an overwhelming obligation to remind your child at every possible opportunity that you really are a jackass.
Parents, on the other hand, have nobody. Friends and co-workers don’t want to hear about it because they’re raising demons of their own. They’ll smile and offer sympathy as they assure you their kids would never do such a thing. The pastor just nods knowingly and suggests Bible verses as inspiration for somebody who can recite rap lyrics that would stun the devil himself. And your parents are no help. This is the day they’ve been waiting for. They just grin and say, “Paybacks are hell!”
But somehow we get through it. And I’m convinced more and more that a sense of humor is the only thing that can get us through with a reasonable level of sanity. As I’ve said before, in my show I joke a lot about my oldest daughter. To some that may seem insensitive, even disrespectful. But it was the only thing that got me through those years when we spent more time as enemies than friends. And it’s helped the two of us put those days in perspective and move forward with a relationship I once only dreamed of.
As parents, there will be days when laughter is a distant memory, when we wonder how we can possibly wake up in the morning and do it all again. The secret is to fix the things we can fix, and try to minimize the fallout from the mistakes they will inevitably make. Meanwhile, we have to maintain a healthy sense of humor and find amusement in at least some of life’s offerings. Because the sun will shine again. It always does.
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon