The Blunder Years

It’s been said that teenagers are the reason some species eat their young.  I’m assuming that came from somebody who had an unruly teen in the house.  Just one.  Because when it comes to teens, you don’t need a whole litter.  One is more than enough.

Teens are a form of life that exists somewhere between childhood and getting a clue.  And much like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, there’s a metamorphosis involved.  The problem is, they don’t spend that time in a cocoon to keep them under wraps and protect the rest of us.  They just make us wish they did.

It’s not that I don’t like teens.  I do.  To me, teenagers represent the future of our world, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.  But watching teens is like watching waves at the beach.  Most times they come and go without much fanfare and they don’t leave too much destruction in their wake.  But you always know that somewhere out there lurks a rogue wave that can really screw things up.  Some of them grow up to be politicians.

My daughters seem to have a much more vivid recollection of their teenage years than I do, and it wasn’t that long ago.  It’s not that I’m too old to remember.  It’s just Mother Nature’s way of preserving what little shred of sanity I have left.  Which probably explains why Dad doesn’t remember too much about my high school days.

High school graduating classes will typically vote one person “most likely to succeed.”  Well my class voted me “most likely to serve time.”  Okay, I’m kidding.  To most of my graduating class, I was “Dave who?”  I had a small group of friends, but I pretty much kept to myself.  And I wasn’t a bad kid, but I got in a little trouble on occasion.  Nothing involving the police, so it could have been worse.

I grew up in the seventies, and back then we were still in an era of tranquility left over from the sixties.  School violence was pretty much limited to the locker room bully or a couple of guys fighting over a girl.  Most of us smoked pot, and underage drinking was a bit of a problem.  But that was pretty much the extent of our misconduct.

It wasn’t that we didn’t get into trouble.  We did.  In fact, most of us probably wanted to get in a little more trouble, but we just didn’t quite know how.  We knew there were things in life we were missing, but we were still just a too naïve to take that next step.

But to our parents, the trouble we got into was bad enough.  Back then it was absolutely devastating to find out your kid had tried marijuana.  Today it’s like, “Is that it?”  I’m not saying it’s something we’ve come to accept, but it’s not the social sin it was when we were growing up.  It’s funny how time changes our perspective.

I think of some of the things my daughters did, especially my oldest.  It seems to work that way.  The older ones tend to be trailblazers, setting off into uncharted territory with nothing but a sense of adventure to guide them.  Their younger siblings sit back and watch to see where the mistakes are made, and the severity of the consequences.  Then they use that information to keep from making the same mistakes themselves.  In other words, they’re just a lot better at not getting caught.

As the father of two daughters, nobody ever accused me of being too permissive.  And I wasn’t known for an overabundance of trust, especially where boys were involved.  I told my oldest one time that I was going to buy an old car and never bring it home.  When she asked why, I said, “Because you’ll never know if that’s me in the rearview mirror.”  I was dead serious.

I could tell you stories, like the time I flipped out when my daughter put on a pair of shorts to wear to the race track.  In my mind she was just trying to look good for the boys.  And fifteen years later, one word comes to mind … DUH!!!  A teenage girl trying to look attractive?  You mean like they did when I was her age?

And maybe that’s part of the problem.  We look at the things our kids do and we’re reminded of how we were at that age.  I know the thoughts that ran through my mind when I saw an attractive girl.  And boys haven’t changed much over the years.  If anything, they’re bolder now than we ever were.  That’s okay.  I’m old enough to own a gun.

My oldest used to get so upset with me for sneaking around to find out the things she was doing when she was sneaking around.  “That’s not fair!”  I’m sorry, who’s writing the rules?  Because it seems to me that kids aren’t always that forthcoming when they decide to break the rules.  “Dad, I’ve decided this rule about not drinking sucks.  So when I go to the party Friday night, I want you to know I’ll be breaking that rule all night long.  Can I borrow the car?”

So sometimes we have to employ a little creative strategy of our own to stay on top of what they’re doing.  I probably carried that to an extreme at times, but I had their best interests at heart.  I’ve often told my daughters that I’ll apologize for any time I’ve ever hurt their feelings or done something completely wrong, but I’ll never apologize for doing what I thought was right.

Now that they’re a little older, they’re finally starting to understand a little of what was going through my mind.  Not that they agree, but at least they can understand.  And it’s funny watching my oldest with her son, who is a mere two years from becoming a teenager.  I could swear I’ve heard some of those words before!

Yet, as a grandparent who doesn’t have to deal with the daily discipline, I can step back and look at things from a different perspective.  I remember thinking my nephew was the spawn of Satan as he chased the girls around the yard with a pocket knife, and my dad saying, “Oh, he’s just being a boy.”  Funny, I hear those words a little more often these days, too.

And as I look back on my own days of raising two daughters, I can laugh at some of the things that were such a big deal to me.  My mom used to always ask, “Will it matter twenty years from now?”  I never fully understood those words until I became a grandfather.  That’s okay.  As I recall, she didn’t always feel that way when I screwed up.

The thing is, kids aren’t that different than they were when we were younger.  They have more to occupy their minds, especially in terms of technology and entertainment.  Of course, we can always use that technology to our advantage.  “You’re at Becky’s house?  Her mom is there?  Take a picture with your cell phone and send it to me.  Now.  You have thirty seconds.”

But kids are way ahead of us on that.  It doesn’t take them long to realize they can store a whole album of cell phone photos to fit any situation.  The picture they send may be months old. Which brings us back to square one.  At some point, we have to loosen the rope and hope for the best.  And that requires trust – lots of it.  Or just tell them to have somebody take a picture of them in the clothes they were wearing when the left the house.  See, I’m not entirely gullible!

Life is all about passing along the torch.  Our parents passed it to us, and we’ll pass it on to the generation that comes behind us.  We do the best we can to prepare them for that day, to teach them how to carry that torch without setting something ablaze.  But in the end, we have to have faith in them to do the right thing.  I think I’ve carried the torch pretty well.  And as I look at the two I raised, I believe it’ll be in pretty good hands.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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About Health and Humor - by Dave Glardon

Dave Glardon is a writer, speaker, and stand-up comedian. He has written hundreds of articles relating to humor in our world, and has performed for audiences across the entire United States. In this blog, he shares his insights with the goal of helping you achieve a higher level of physical and mental well-being through a healthy sense of humor.
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18 Responses to The Blunder Years

  1. Hi Dave, you have summed being a parent up so well. A little different for me in UK with my kids growing up in a rural environment… different rules to the town… but so many similarities. I have 4 girls and 4 boys and they are all great adults/ Mums or Dads. I must have done something right too…. GREAT post. M

  2. Ken Glardon says:

    You know my theory. If you have a teenager tie them to the bed at night and don’t let them date until they move out!

  3. Sharon says:

    When I look at my kids and see what wonderful adults and parents they are, I wonder where they learned it. I felt like I was falling apart trying to keep up with them when they were in high school.

    • I think we all did Sharon. Especially with my oldest, it felt like I was in a race that I couldn’t possibly win. But I look at them now and realize that somehow it all came together. And I can’t take credit for that any more than I could take blame if they had chosen another path. I think kids are like a runaway locomotive, and all we can do is set them on the right track and hope for the best.

  4. ButMadNNW says:

    Hmm. I might be wrong, but surely there’s some way to look at the data attached to the photo and check when it was taken? 😉 That’s the blessing/curse of digital photography.

    Like all parents, mine wanted to know where Sister and I were or were going to be, who we were going to be with. But they phrased it in such a unique (to me, at least) way that I still remember and abide by it around 20 years later:

    “We just want to know where to drag for the body.”

    (Translation: We’re not being nosy. We just want to know you’re safe and want to know where to start looking on the off-chance something goes horribly wrong.)

    • I did a pretty good job of keeping my mom informed of where I’d be. Even after I joined the Navy, when I came home on leave and went somewhere with friends I’d call Mom and tell her if we were going someplace else or if I’d be home later than I’d planned. But I saw her sit up too many nights worrying about my sister, and I couldn’t do that to her. There were probably less than a handful of times I didn’t go where I told her I was going. So in that respect, I guess I did okay.

  5. egills says:

    Hi Dave,
    I’m slowly getting over the whole teenager phase ( well youngest step daughter is now 16.. so I have 16, 17, 18 and 21 year olds now ). I’m also learning that now that I live in a small town and not a large town the rules have changed… Although the girls are slowly learning it’s much better to let me know where they are instead of just dissapearing!
    Girls are SO much harder than boys!

    • Small towns can be a lot of fun (not for the kids). We used to live in a really small town, and any time my daughter brought home a new friend, I’d go to the chief of police and ask him what he thought of the kid. He liked them all, but he was honest with me. My daughter hated it.

      Another time I decided to make it hard on her to buy cigarettes, so I went to every store in town and told them if they sold her another pack I’d call the State Attorney’s office. She couldn’t buy a pack of cigarettes within ten miles of home, and if her friends were with her, they couldn’t either. Score one for Dad!!!

  6. Great post! I haven’t hit the teen phase yet with my child. This said, even this early on – when new influence gains a a foot through the slightly cracked threshhold of our rais’en (as we say in GA), I have to ‘trust’ that what she has been taught is going to see her through and lead her in a direction that glorifies the Lord. Trust for me is faith in Him~ I pray for a ton of it when she hits 15. If what my father said to me as a teen was any indication as to what I am in for— I pray daily for her to choose the way of the Lord ;o)

    • That’s about the most you can do. That and try to be sneakier than they are, because even the best of them will stray from time to time. And while I don’t think parents need to shoulder the blame for everything their kids do, I believe if they had strong values to begin with, most of them will come through without too much trouble. They’ll make some mistakes, but that’s how we learn. How many people jumped off a cliff flapping their arms before the Wright brothers figured out what they were doing wrong? Hang in there. The fun years are ahead of you!

  7. maru says:

    This is sooo good. I just loved it… *thumbs up*
    I like teenagers, I do -I don’t have to deal with one at the moment but I had- I know their struggle for ‘getting a clue’ -as you said so well- It’s kind of a battle in a magical world, with dragons of fear and uncertainty, and the wonderful power of youth. They are passionate and dramatic, unbearable and adorable, all in one package… sort of hydrogen bomb just in our living room. But as you said, they are the future, actually the future is theirs.

  8. sider13 says:

    Love the post 😀 I was curious about when you were going to post something about teenagers, I recall you saying you would.
    Anyways, only being 18, and brothers being 12, I feel like I see both sides of this perspective. I watch my brothers get into so much trouble, and they just seem to forget i’m only years older than them, so I know when they’re lying and even if they say ‘no one’ when my mom casually asks who they’re texting–I know it’s a girl.
    Yet I’m still (somewhat happily) considered a teenager, and I agree with the ‘trust’ idea. Loosen the rope a little and hopefully parents we’ll realize not ALL teenagers are up to no good all the time.
    And for the record, you hit the bulls eye with the ‘send me a picture of where you’re at’ thing. Yup. Havent done that, buuuuut I definately already considered that loop hole.

    • Thanks so much for writing. I was hoping for a perspective from the younger crowd. It’s neat how you can see your brothers heading into this age, and still you’re not entirely detached.

      And I’m glad you read this the way I meant it. I think it’s too easy for people my age to judge people your age against our own standards or a set of imaginary statistics, and vice versa. It’s important for us to remember we’ve been there, and we didn’t completely screw up the world along the way. And someday you’ll be as old as we are, looking back and wondering what the world is coming to. So remember how you feel today, and try not to get too old too fast.

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