Tag Archives: Teenage Years

Why It’s Always The End Of The World For Your Child

In my house, the end of the world came around with a distressing regularity.

With three young dudes growing up in the same house, being ruled over by the meanest, most horrible dictator ever to put on a pair of pants and then jump up and down on poor, defenseless boys who only wanted so very little. . .

Those poor young dudes. It must have been like living in hell. Only, the thing of it is. . . I was there. It wasn’t hell for anyone. Anyone but an adult in the vicinity.

Hello!

You’ve all seen it. Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve seen it.Pulling an ugly face is a regular occurrence for little dudes during their toddler years. And beyond, if I'm being honest.

Something happens and suddenly the world ends for a young dudette, who starts screaming and yelling and crying and throwing herself onto the floor of the grocery store and acting like the end is not only nigh, but already here and wearing spiked heels to step on her.

On a (slightly) less histrionic level, I and probably most parents in the history of history have heard just about every single variation on the phrase, “This was the worst. Evar!”

I mean, seriously. If I hear that again, I just might be the one who screams.

So, yeah. We’ve all seen this sort of thing happen. Something minor rocks the little dude’s world and he reacts like someone tried to cut off his arm and beat his puppy to death with it. (Although that might be a bit of a harsh simile. Accurate, but still harsh.)

The big question (other than, “How do I stop this? Or, barring that, make a clean get away without being caught?) is why? Why do our little dudes and dudettes react so over the top?

The easiest answer is also the one about which we can do the least. They simply have no basis for comparison. When young dudes aren’t yet six or so, they are all about existing in the now.

If it already happened, it doesn’t matter. If it will happen in the future, it doesn’t matter. Right now. That’s all that matters.

Which means that, if a child doesn’t have something right now, at this very moment, it will never happen. They will forever be deprived, just like they have always been deprived of what they want. That’s a hard thing to face, especially for tiny humans who have so little experience.

Which leads us to a second reason. Being young, they have no basis for comparison. When little J’Amelia is mean to your daughter in school, it might be the worst day of her life so far. Really. She might not be exaggerating. Oh, she will experience worse (much, much worse) later in her life, but being young, she still hasn’t enjoyed all of life’s little jokes.

Young dudettes and dudes don’t have the life experience necessary to really make a good comparison between miseries. Stubbing her toe is bad and hurts, but they can’t ask themselves if it’s anywhere near as bad as that time they broke their arm. Or cut open their thumb. Or, really, anything.

Our ability to compare allows us to realize that it’s just pain and we’ve had worse, which allows us to calm down.

And, that’s another thing. We, as adults, are supposed to be rational, thinking beings. (I’m going to be nice and say most of us are, although, in my heart of hearts, I doubt it.) The brains of young kids don’t fully mature until they’re much, much older, say, around 25 or so for boys.

Unfortunately for the ears around them, their limbic system (which controls their emotions) is fully functioning, firing on all cylinders. Toddler brains become flooded with the hormones and neurotransmitters that cause pain and anger and sorrow and all the rest, but they don’t have the cognitive skill and experience to overcome that and regain control of themselves.

Looking back, I’m not sure I was able to offer much in the way of hope for struggling parents. Other than the obvious: This, too, shall pass.

And, though you doubt it in the midst of a truly epic meltdown, it will get better. All you have to do is stay relatively calm and help your little dude through his current issue.

It’s not personal. It’s just what and who they are at the moment. Keep showing good behavior, being a good role model and talking them through their experiences so they learn the right thing and . . . everything should be fine.

I’m going to do you younger parents a favor and not even bring up the teenage years here. Mostly because I’m a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and there’s some stuff up with which no one should put.

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Will You Still Need Me, When You’re Thirty-Four?*

Letting go is easy.

Not grabbing them when they’re falling. . . that’s much, much harder.

Rearing children means that you’re responsible for not only their safety and well being at the very moment (and every moment), but that you’re supposed to be laying the groundwork for them to take control over their own lives and make good decisions on their own.Burning magnesium is really, really, really, really bright.

The first part of that last sentence is enough to drive just about anyone to the edge of sanity. The second part is what will take you, pick you up and hurl you like a caber so far over the line that even on a dark night you wouldn’t even be able to see it if it were etched in neon and burning magnesium.

Children are the living embodiment of the thought that everything has consequences. What you do with and to them now will have lasting ramifications in their later lives.

As parents, we want to make sure our little dudes and dudettes learn not only from their own experiences, but our experiences. That way, they won’t have to suffer like we did. That is the platonic ideal of parenting, but you know no teenager ever actually listens. Why would they? I mean, they already know everything already.**This is an example of a very stupid punishment. Firstly, twerking? That's what you're worried about? I'd think peer pressure would be enough to curtail that after a few tries. Secondly, if you think public shaming will teach her any lesson beyond "Don't get caught," you're crazy.

Which is why punishing kids ever more extravagantly as they grow older isn’t going to work all that well for you later on.

The most important lesson you can pass along to your little dudes is the instinct to, when they don’t actually know what to do or where to go, actually ask questions. Ask for help. And more, turn back to their parents for the first shot at offering said help.

Even now, I’ll use my dad as a sounding board before making certain decisions. I know he’s got my best interests at heart and has experienced a lot of what I’m already going through and he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. And I say this long after the parent-worshiping phase has worn off.

It took a while, I will admit. I didn’t look to my parents as sources of help until some time after college. Before that, I was bound and determined to do it my way because I was the smartest man (I am a MAN!) in the room.

Fortunately, my parents didn’t start screaming at me when I made a bad decision or did something stupid as I was growing up. They offered advice, let me know what was expected and, for the most part, were calm but firm when I crossed the line.

The teenage years didn’t irreparably damage our relationship. Thankfully.

As the young dudes grow older and the consequences of their dumb decision-making become more significant, the urge to tighten our grip and tell them exactly what to do can become overwhelming. If you want to have any influence in your little dudette’s life as she grows older, you must let her make her own decisions.

That doesn’t mean you don’t set rules or allow her to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. However, once you’ve made clear your expectations and the consequences of not meeting said expectations, you have to simply drop into an advisory role and pick your battles with extreme care.

I’ve always felt that, as long as it’s not disturbing class, my young dudes could wear whatever they wanted, have whatever hair cut they wanted. If I thought they looked horrible . . . Well, my being horrified by their looks probably was a plus.Didn't we already do that? When they were 18? I'm almost positive they were supposed to move out at one point.

Provide options, help them understand probable scenarios from various actions, but don’t’ try to force your decisions on them.

It’s never easy watching as your darlings make a mistake, but it’s one of the necessary steps they have to take if they ever want to grow up and be independent.

After all, we all want to use that extra bedroom as a place for us, not as the room for your adult child who’s moved back in.

Footnotes & Errata

* Still apologizing to the Beatles, still not regretting using the allusion even one little bit.
** For the sarcasm-impaired among you, that was sarcasm. Teenagers don’t really know everything. They just think they do. This has been a friendly reminder from Mr. Obvious.

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They Walk Among Us

by Richard

Mutants. They are different from us. And they can fade into any crowd and not be found. They’re insidious. They’re out to control the world. And they might be you. It’s certainly not me, but I’m pretty sure Sarcasmo is a mutant.

When I was a young little dude, I used to wake up at 6 a.m. no matter what time I went to bed. My mom hated that. Of course, she started laughing like a loon when Sarcasmo, our oldest little dude, turned out to be the same way. Ha, ha, Mom. Really funny.

Anyway. Sarcasmo was a kid who could get by on very little sleep. He was that way almost all the way through his teenage years, which, to me, is nothing short of a miracle. Turns out, though, that dudes like Sarcasmo who keep up the lack of sleep for most of their lives are probably mutants.

At least that’s the latest word from the science-wallas.

In 2001, geneticist Ying-Hui Fu and colleagues identified a mutation in a gene called Per2 that appeared to cause familial advanced sleep-phase syndrome (FASPS). People who have this condition sleep a normal 8 hours, but they go to bed earlier than most people, retiring at 6 or 7 in the evening and waking at 3 or 4 in the morning. “After that was published, a lot of these people [with unusual sleep schedules] came to us,” says Fu, who is now at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. “So we started to collect DNA samples.” The team now has genetic information from more than 60 families.

Fu and her colleagues have spent the past several years mining this vast genetic storehouse for more mutations that might affect sleep patterns. In 2005, they uncovered another mutation associated with FASPS. And now they say they have found the first genetic mutation in humans that appears to affect sleep duration rather than sleep timing. The mutation lies in DEC2, a gene that codes for a protein that helps turn off expression of other genes, including some that control circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates a person’s sleep-wake cycle. The mutation occurred in just two people, a mother and her daughter. The women sleep an average of only 6.25 hours, whereas the rest of the family members sleep a more typical 8 hours.

Of course DEC2 probably isn’t the be-all and end-all of sleep for humans. There are, more than likely, several more genes involved in the process. Still, though, it’s nice to know Sarcasmo wasn’t getting up so early just to spite us. At least I think so.

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