My daughter recently turned 13, ushering in that infamous stage known as adolescence. Although this term "adolescence," from the Latin word, adolescere -- "maturation or emancipation," focuses on what teens experience during this time, I selfishly submit that this transition is even more stressful on parents of teens than on teens themselves. Beyond the stress of dealing with her desire for independence and emotional volatility, it's not fair that when I get annoyed at her, my eye muscles don't have the dexterity to produce a perfectly circular eye roll the way her eye muscles are clearly able to do when I annoy her.
I have been preparing for this milestone in my life for over a decade. I majored in psychology in college. I then went on to pursue a PhD in developmental psychology, specializing in adolescent development. I wrote my master's thesis and doctoral dissertation on adolescent social and emotional development. And since my graduation, I spent my time as a professor and therapist primarily teaching, researching and counseling adolescents. But yet, I am clueless about how to deal with the coming of age of my own child.
Apparently, my wife and I are not the only ones bewildered by this thing called an "adolescent." More than 2,000 year ago, both Plato and Aristotle wrote about the unique and often changing nature of the teenage years. Even as early as biblical writing, references can be found highlighting this distinct and somewhat tumultuous stage of development. Genesis recounts the story of Joseph the second-to-last son of Jacob. The story elaborates on this 17-year-old "youth," or "Na'ar" in biblical Hebrew, who is extremely idealistic, obsessed with his appearance, engaged in conflicts with his siblings and having a hard time communicating with his father. It sounds like the bible is describing a teenager living in suburban Connecticut rather than a religious figure living in the wastelands of Canaan.
Considering the illegality of encouraging my other children to sell our teen daughter (the way the Joseph problem was temporarily solved), I am left with trying to figure out other ways of dealing with this stress. I decided to find a way to bond with my daughter over the shared stress we are both experiencing these days: Her stress of being a teen and my stress of parenting a teen.
After much thought, I figured that co-writing a column with her about our experiences may help us bond over our shared fate. I decided to present this idea to her. So, I made my way to her fortified room and, after knocking and producing the correct password, I was ushered in and made to wait until she got off the phone with one of her 72 friends.
She was pleasantly excited about this possibility. After reviewing the terms of our agreement, true to her adolescent form, she stated that she will only agree to this if she gets the last word.
So, here she goes:
Excuse me! Now, my father makes it seem like raising me is so hard for him; the truth is that he makes it harder for himself. By constantly tormenting me, it makes me have to do what he calls "the perfectly circular eye roll," which is basically me saying "Hello! Can you stop it?" If I express myself verbally, he gets so excited that I am actually talking that he presses for more. So, it's not worth my time. So I do the eye roll and move on with my life.
My father also mentioned a whole, "coming to my room to talk to me" thing, so yes, I am on the phone a lot, so what? I am a very social and wanted person. Does he want his daughter to be a friendless nerd? About my fortified room, I wish I could have my own fortified room, but that, too, is his fault. Apparently, it is "psychologically healthy" to share a room with siblings, and because he wants me to be psychologically perfect, he forces me to share a room with my sister, who intrudes on my privacy. My poor sister, she doesn't even want to be there and annoy me (with this, at least) but she is forced to anyway.
And by the way, I never said that I have to get the last word. I said that it just makes sense that daughters get to argue back when fathers say illogical things.
Additionally, the whole "selling me" thing, what would my father do with out me? I am his first child. Had I not been born, he and my mom would still have been a young, foolish couple. He and my mother would be eating junk and acting crazy, not being a stable family at all. I made them stable. Does my father think that he would have been writing a column like this had I not been born? Yeah, right! First of all, he would have no children to write about, and, second, he would not have been stable enough for this. My siblings love me; they would never sell me and neither would my father.
The truth is, it's not fair! It is the adults that write books about raising us teens. It is you adults, who analyze us, and writes about us, and the whole world hears your opinion on us. You, adults! It is about time that you hear our opinion. Finally, I can write this; we teenagers have an opportunity to be represented. So, next time you are about to annoy your daughter, because according to the adults who write about us, it is permissible, remember these words: It is not always our fault. You blame it on us, and you say that it is so hard to raise us; it is you who make it hard for us. So, remember us teenage daughters, and pause to think about how we the teenagers feel. Pause just for a moment, to give us enough time to do "that perfectly circular eye roll."