Troubled Teens and What They Will Only Understand Years Later

Posted: April 19, 2014 in General
Tags: , , , ,

I was no joy to my parents as a teenager.  Sitting on the cusp of adulthood I caused them more consternation than the American average of the time.  I had all the normal faults of the common American teen born in the 1970’s who came of age in the 1980’s.  I was shallow, egotistical, conceited, hormonal, defiant, volatile, and knew all there was to know about the world around me; after all everything around me revolved around me so how could I not be the master of it?  Despite pushing the excellence bar a little higher on the teenage grandmaster scale to new levels for the typical teenage asshole, my parents did a pretty good job of laying a foundation for what I hope has turned me into a pretty decent human being.  As I look back at this advanced age I have achieved (an age 25 or 30 years ago I had no interest or care in achieving), they had force-fed me respect from an early age (even for those who did not deserve it), they beat into me (literally at times) the concepts of right and wrong, made me understand humility even if I did not practice it, but most of all they gave me the freedom to make my own choices and accept responsibility for making them, good and bad.

I have a teenage son, sitting on the cusp of legal adulthood (in our great state here in the South, he is actually considered an adult for many of the legal ramifications associated with the modern teen), and poised to take my exceptional attempts at life ruining decisions to an unprecedented level.  My concern of course is for my own child and his sister who will be a teenager in just a few years, but, as my wife and I have discussed many times, there is a level of sociopathic behavior present in today’s modern teen that was just not there when we were the same age.  Consequence is of no consequence.  Penalties are something to be paid when caught, but being caught is because the system is screwed up.  Personal responsibility is in short supply and it is just not a fair world.  Today’s teens who have grown up in the “everyone is a winner” world are used to being rewarded for simply showing up and any lack of recognition for making it to where they are supposed to be results in depression, anxiety, and the chemical cocktails that are expected to be prescribed by doctors and governmental systems who think there is a solution in dependence, rather than personal responsibility.

Before going on I do want to make sure that I do not paint my son in the wrong light and to make sure that I do not try to categorize all teens in this day and age as the current sociopath and the next serial killer to be portrayed on Criminal Minds.  My son for the most part has managed to devote the majority of his angst and other bullshit towards his parental units, occasionally (too often for my wife and me), he focuses the cruelty that is teendom at his little sister.  Despite these attempts he has demonstrated many great qualities that give his mother and me a little light in an otherwise murky world and that we have not failed despite his attempts to prove to us otherwise.  He understands that he has to stick up for the little guy; he hates bullies despite demonstrating that quality himself sometimes, something all of us have gone through.  He understands service and the need for it despite often times feeling he is above it.  Despite his current anger and disdain for the military for keeping m gone for so many years, he is very patriotic and respects veterans and their sacrifices.  I have no doubt in my mind that if presented with a situation in which someone was in physical danger that he would place himself in harms way in order to save them (especially his sister) and that he would do so with little or no thought as to how it would affect him.  Externally from our little nuclear family, we have few issues with interactions once we exclude some of his friendships from the equation.

As I prepare to put one career behind me after over 20 years, I have seen many things in the world that have taken me beyond the orbit of me time and again.  Some things have been horrible while others yet have been simply wondrous, I have seen my fellow humans at their absolute worst and others have committed acts that could border on Sainthood if you believe in such things, I have seen simple, innocuous acts have life altering consequences, both good and bad.  I have learned some lessons, some the extremely hard way while others have just simply made their way into my thoughts without my even knowing they were there until it came time to pass them on.  Here are a few that I hope my son takes to heart and maybe, just maybe can help someone else who may be focusing their considerable energies in the wrong direction.

1.  Everyone will disappoint you at some time.

We are after all human beings.  We are not perfect despite our efforts to seem so. I have had mentors and people I have looked up to in both my personal and professional lives crash and burn before my eyes.  For many years I dismissed them as failures and wrote them off.  Later in life when I realized I was delving into dark reaches in my own psyche, I had to reflect upon how readily I could dismiss someone for being human and temper that disappointment.  I looked up to them for some reason and I was obviously not taking their lessons to heart if I would so readily dismiss them from my life. They are only human after all and we all have faults that go along with our better qualities.  In my line of work it is all too easy to develop demons that go beyond our normal character traits and flaws, as a leader of men it is incumbent upon me, an innate responsibility, that I have to be there for them when they are at their worst.

2. With great power comes great responsibility.

Even our comic book heroes falter, when things seem at their worst and they somehow overcome their nemesis they are still sacrificing something in order to achieve the objective.  At some point in our lives we are faced with situations that will call in to question our abilities to make a decision that will not fracture us legally, morally, ethically, spiritually, or simply harm our humanity.  Every day we hear stories of police, fire, military, or other service oriented occupations and the situations they are faced with and make the easy decision to label them as heroes for their actions.  Sometimes these actions are accomplished without thought, they are simply part of their fiber, other times it moves beyond the instinctual and they must process and make a decision, at which time we either celebrate or venerate them pending the outcome.  Those are decisions they have to live with and suffer the demons of.  Making heroic or difficult decisions does not just reside in the service sector.  It is the parent who has to decide when they must involve the authorities to help with their child’s behavior.  It is the teacher who knows that a student is suffering abuse at the hands of someone else and must decide what to do with it.  It is the coach that must develop both the person (or people) as well as their abilities (or lack of them).  It is the friend who sees the patterns of concern developing who must decide what role they will play in helping their friend resolve them, even at the cost of the friendship.

3. Love disappoints.

True love never disappoints, but that does not mean that you will never feel pain because of it.  There is love the emotion, and there is a deeper love, the kind that makes a connection.  Even when we are no longer with that person, or they are no longer with us, that connection is still there.  We may look back at them with fondness or disdain, but they have touched us indelibly.  My wife and I have that kind of love.  Even at our worst, and we made ourselves pretty bad at one point, we found the strength to come back because we had that kind of connection.  I have had many friends in the Army that I have loved like family.  We put ourselves through hell and helped each other get to where we needed to be.  Some of those have drifted away yet others are no more.  The former is with little fanfare, the latter generally comes with the real pain of loss and no few number of tears.  Love the emotion disappoints, but the love that forges a connection never, ever disappoints.

4. Seasons change.

Our planet revolves around the sun in a scientifically  proven time period bringing with it the somewhat predictable changing of the seasonal cycles.  Much like Mother Earth, our lives have certain cycles to them.  Unlike the changing of the seasons, we as humans are not quite so predictable, but it is within our power to change our personal seasons.  We have highs and lows, get in ruts and break our way free.  Sometimes the changes are gradual and unnoticeable, other times they are extreme and radical, taking full conscious effort and strength of will.  Regardless, changing our personal seasons are within our own power.  We may need to seek assistance at times, and at others we may be able to go it alone.  It can be scary or it can be an adventure.  It is a matter of perspective and it more often than not requires a degree of self awareness that we do not possess on a day to day basis, but get better at as we get older and start to recognize our own behaviors.  In the end, the power to break a cycle resides within us, it is simply a matter of whether or not we are willing to take the chance in changing it and accept the consequences of it when we do.

5.  Fear is an emotion not a way of life.

Confusing topic for many teens in this day and age.  Things are so radically different than when I was just a kid.  We as parents are on our children like hawks.  The media, both the fourth estate and social, present us as parents with a staggering array of scary topics each and every day.  We see a staggering sum of bad things that happen to children of all ages.  Kidnapping, murders, bullying, drugs, sex, gangs, stupid danger games, suicide are just a few examples of the fear-mongering we are presented with on a daily basis.  We often lose track of the fact that they are there to pimp their professions and that they cannot make a name for themselves if their topic is not front and center in the degeneration of our society.  The best way to do that is to hit us right where it hurts and make us think of our own children.  We as adults are overwhelmed when we should know better and at times make adjustments as a reaction to that fear.  We seldom take into account how those changes affect our children.  Many times we live in that fear and forget that the nature of the human spirit is dangerous in and of itself and as children we were not born with fear of things we learned it as hard lessons.  We had to break a bone, get bitten or have a near-death experience in order to achieve it.  We were also taught it innately by those who were responsible for us.  Children are blank slates that we can indelibly mark up with our own fears and biases, they are not born with fear or hate, yet somehow it manages to manifest us.  If there is anything we as parents should be fearful of as a way of life it is that we need to be aware that our children mimic us, our good qualities and bad.

6.  Both the good and bad that we do can and will follow us through life.

Actions have consequences.  Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are bad.  Sometimes when they are bad enough, they will attach themselves to you for the rest of your life.  Sometimes they will not allow you to achieve your dreams.  Despite this we live in the real world not a world of dreams.  The most fortunate enough of us get to live out their dreams and for them it is their responsibility what they do with it, be good or turn into a nightmare.  The rest of us still have to contribute.  Sometimes that may mean settling and not doing something that makes you happy, sometimes that means a little introspection and making your own happiness.  No matter we are the sum of the whole of our lives up to the point we are in right at this moment and we are adding to it each and every moment we are alive.  It is up to us if we let our past define us or we define ourselves.  It is no one’s fault but our own the decisions we made in the past and what we do when confronted with them later in life.

I am not one for regrets in my life.  I have not spent the time with my son that maybe I should have.  For the most part this has been a result of my career choice.  There have been times when I have spent time with him that it was probably not been of the quality that it should have been, that he deserved.  He is equal parts of my wife and I and most of the times those parts are readily identifiable, they are what bring us both joy and drive us crazy about each other.  I have however, done my best to provide him with the tools for a successful life.  At times this has been without his knowledge just simply planting a seed and hoping it germinates, at others it has been with all force possible, just to see it discarded on the floor and hoping that he remembers where it is when he needs it most.  No matter, I hope when it matters most that he understands #3 above and recognizes that we are a connection and that I cannot fathom anything that will ever change that.  We can be the best of buds or eternally estranged, from the moment he was whisked away from Womack Army Medical Center in a Blackhawk to be placed in the NICU at Cape Fear, at just a couple hours old, right up until present and the foreseeable future, we are connected, he is loved.


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