Saturday, February 02, 2013

Only Whatever You Put in Its Head

While chatting with some parents of Daughter's friends, we came to the conclusion that we have, at most, another five years of active parenting ahead of us. If you define "Active" as "They're still listening," maybe some of us have already entered the inactive file. But the fact remains, the part where our children are at least obliged to pretend to listen is winding down and many of us feel as if parenting is the Encyclopedia Brittanica and we've barely walked them through the "Aardvark-Abacus" section. I'm not even talking the  Perhaps it's best to wait until you're old enough to rent a car before you have a child kind of advice; I'm going to assume that most children I know are aware of how their parents feel about the large issues, even if they never end up following that advice. I'm talking the extraneous bits of hard-won information people accrue and would love to see someone they care about learn without having to take the hard way to get it.

So, readers, here's where you come in. I'm going to write down the two gobbets of wisdom I wish I could pass on to teenagers. If there's something you wish the younger version of you had known, bring it in.

1. Never, never once, tell your dear friend what you think of her ex. Even if she broke up with him and promptly rented a billboard enumerating his failures, even if you've been biting your tongue for years about what an epic ass he is, not even if his name is shorthand in three counties for "Has herpes," you say nothing. Hug your friend, take her out for carbs, look sympathetic and never have whatever number drink it is for you that loosens your tongue and makes you tell her about the day he hit on your while she was in the ICU. Because the instant, THE INSTANT, you breathe in and say "Well, since we're talking about Todd..." you are assuring they will get back together and she will never speak to you again.

If you're looking to get rid of her for some reason, however, have the evening of your life.

2. If an extended story-warranty on an appliance sounds like a good idea, set the money on fire instead. At least you'll get some warmth.

Now, you?


Blogger Scott Peterson said...

1) when meeting someone, look him/her in the eye and give a firm — but not ostentatiously hard — handshake.
2) stand up straight.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Amy G. said...

OH BOY!!! I'm going to pretend that some teenager is reading this wide-eyed, ready to lap up the bits of juicy advice I have to offer...

Well, then, I'm glad you're reading anyway.

Advice: when you're dating, if teenagers even still do that, keep your options open. Boundaries are the key to good relationships! If you get entangled in a Deep Relationship when you're still in high school, you will think you are having a marvelous experience, but you'll actually be missing out on fun with friends, volunteer activities, and other things that disappear when you are obligated to spend all of your free time with Mr or Ms Perfect. When it runs its course, everyone else has gone on with their lives and may not pick you back up so quickly. So: go out with Mr P on Friday if you must, but save Saturday night for hanging out with friends, going to movies with your family, etc. Don't let someone else monopolize the best years of your youth!

Hope that makes sense. I am happy to provide references and diagrams if it's unclear.

11:33 AM  
Blogger john brown said...

Change your car's oil every 5000 miles.
High school is not the most important time of your life. There is a whole lot more in front of you. Relax.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

In college, best to avoid frat boys. They are perpetual man-children not to be trusted. If you do end up at a frat party, don't drink the punch. There's grain alcohol in it. Trust me on this. And after college, if the guy is like 30 and still has his fraternity paddle on his wall? Run.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Sherri said...

I'm already near the end of active parenting - my kid goes off to college in the fall!

When you break up with someone, do it clearly and directly. It's kinder that way.

An apology is not "I'm sorry, but..." An apology is "I'm sorry. I won't do that again. How can I make it better?"

12:32 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

I know it's obnoxious to link to one's own blog in someone else's comment box, but I wrote down my advice to my teenager a few months ago and it's just easier to send you to that than rewrite it here.

Oh and ditto on the firm handshake.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the good habits your parents tried to instill in you: eating right, pursuing your interests, making good choices, etc... don't ruin it all just because, as an adult, you can.

1:20 PM  
Blogger CameoRoze said...

Don't let loneliness over-dictate your choices. If you have a boyfriend in high school, it's not wise to follow him to where HE wants to go to college just so you can stay with him. And when you graduate from college, choose the best grad school that you can get into for your choice of curriculum. Don't hang around waiting for your boyfriend to grow up and/or make a decision about HIS life.

Don't believe other people when they tell you to not go into your dream profession just because "you won't make any money." If you want to be a teacher or librarian or other job that is fulfilling but doesn't come with a six-figure salary, go for it. The world needs people who are excited about their profession.

Of course, that a lot of "do not" statements, so I'd rephrase them in a more positive light.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Lissa said...

1) Don't cling to the problem: look for a solution. Or "towushun," as one of our three-year-olds used to say. Better yet, look for multiple possible towushuns and pick the most doable one.

2) This one is ripped from the final Betsy-Tacy book: have one simple company dinner you can make really well, without a ton of stress. To which I'll add: also have one go-to meal you can whip up when you need to deliver dinner to a friend. Some people can wing these things, but for a kitchen stress-case like me, life got much easier once I decided that any time the meal-delivery roster goes round, I'm signing up to bring sausage bean soup, salad, and a chocolate pie. (A broader axiom applies here: habit is easier than decision!)

5:44 PM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

Don't engage the copy editor. This advice can be used in many circumstances - just substitute the "xxx" for "copy editor."

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

I'll try to keep this light-hearted. I do have a tendency to be morose. ;)

1) Keep brushing your teeth. You'll totally regret the bad dental habits you pick up in college.

2) Question everything. Stay away from anybody and especially any religion that tells you not to think for yourself.

3) Call people out for doing something great. People are so quick to call people out for things they think are wrong, but totally, unabashedly show your appreciation for the good in the world.

4) Do not put up with any sort of abuse ever. Not from friends, bosses, or in romantic relationships. You never regret walking away like you do the time you wasted staying.

5) I think Albert Schweitzer said it best, “Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.” All of our actions have consequences, and they're important to consider when making decisions. Whether it's buying a trinket you don't need that supports a sweatshop to buying meat that ends a sentient being's life, think outside yourself when making life choices.

Oh my, what did I say about being light-hearted?

9:16 PM  
Blogger StevenIre said...

I hope I don’t sound bitter but my past may somehow be baked in the cake of my advice and therefore taint it. Giving advice to my younger self has that too little too late dire and ultimately futile feel of that famous Twilight Zone episode ‘To serve man—it’s a cookbook.’ So, younger versions of myself, it’s a cookbook—so don’t get on that particular path but at this point in life I’m icing and who can trust that. (I don’t really know emoticons ;) so Heh heh heh heh oohhh .

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Kimberly said...

1) Trust your heart a little more (instinct, gut, whatever).It is usually right. About almost everying.

Trite, I know, but I think the heart will usually get sidelined by logic and the loud and persuasive left brain.

2) I wish my younger self had been able to see my mother (and grandmothers) as women, girls even, who had just grown into their roles as elders. I wish I would have been able to see them (while they were alive) as people with dreams, hopes, goals and feelings of their own. I wish I would have asked them more. About their lives, their past, their dreams, how they came to be the women I saw at that time in their life.

I don't know how you teach young folks this, but you can bet I am trying.


6:39 AM  
Blogger Alyson -- Common Sense, Dancing said...

1) Tell the truth. If you can't be truthful, say nothing.

2) Get a dog (or, if you must, a cat). Love something as hard and as fiercely as you should yourself. Because I'm sure there will be days you will not love yourself fiercely enough, and it helps to practice on the hound.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Alyson -- Common Sense, Dancing said...

1) Tell the truth. If you can't tell the truth, say nothing.

2) Get a dog (or, if you must, a cat). Love it as hard and as fiercely as you should yourself. Because I am sure there will be days you won't love yourself as fiercely as you should, and it helps to practice on the dog.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

When I was a teenager, my father used to make me maintenance & repair my own car. He'd identify the issue, buy the parts, get out his lawn chair and patiently explain step by step what to do. When I complained once (alternator on a 1978 Datsun 210) he told me, "Marianne, if you ever want a man, you can have one. I never want you to need one."

9:56 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

Read C.S. Lewis' "The Inner Ring" every year. Then take a long hard look at your life as it relates to it. It will keep your life on track and will help you understand why other people do what they do.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) "Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, won't drown." Taken from a great Brit children's books. And no, not advocating letting your kids do dangerous things. But once you have seen that they have basic life skills and preservation of life is likely, then let them pursue their interests/passions/adventures and believe that they will survive and be the better for it. Give them the tools they need to be successful and then trust in them.
2) If you can't laugh, then you are not doing it right. (Applicable to sex, friendship and a multitude of other social exchanges.)

And a bonus bit of advice in our family:
No one fails on our watch.


7:11 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

1.Youth is beauty. No matter your size, tall fat thin short, you are beautiful because you are young. Therefore you need not waste an OUNCE of your precious time worrying about your looks because you already know you are beautiful. Instead, focus on your insides, who you are, what you love, what you do. Because youth, along with it's beauty, will diminish and the beauty you have left is what you built. In a nutshell: Do not obsess about your thighs, they are perfect, obsess about the meat and nitty gritty of living.

2. You are not fat, see above.

3. Wear bikinis with abandon (see above), try out all the hideous new styles, have wacky hair, and relish being able to go back and laugh at your fashion choices.

4. You are enough. If you were raised somehow thinking that you aren't enough then seek out the therapy and challenges and books and living that leads you to accept this.

5. The most important thing in life is not love, or beauty, or money, or fame, or success; it is forgiveness. Seek to understand forgiveness, learn to extend it to yourself, and radiate it out to others. From forgiveness comes love, beauty, happiness, success.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Valerie said...

Do not get embroiled into credit card debt. It's quicksand. If you can't afford it with the cash in your pocket/checkbook, you can't afford it. Exceptions to be made only if you need a tow truck on a rainy winter night miles from home.

Marry a person who is willing to pull their share of the load, and be the person willing to pull your share of the load. If your significant other's vision of the future is materially different from yours, it probably always will be. You will only make one another frustrated and miserable. Find someone who complements you, without settling for the one who is your polar opposite. Opposites attract, but they make for lousy companions 20 or 30 years from now. Similar religious beliefs, and life philosophies, and views of money and children and whether the dog is allowed on the couch are the things that make life as smooth as you can hope for. Do not discount the small stuff. You can't make a happy life with a person who hates the things you enjoy.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Karen Edmisten said...

You don't have to separate laundry nearly as much as commercials would have you think.

Also? About 80% of a successful life is learning not to whine.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Never walk out onto the ice as a dare.
2. Do not allow yourself to be filmed in any way, shape, or form.
3. Do not film others.
4. Avoid Facebook/Twitter because if you are a fun, silly, social person, you will make a mistake that will be misunderstood and could have dire consequences. Such poor choices, unlike some other kinds, WILL come back to haunt you.
5. Spend some social time every weekend with your parents/siblings.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Ubermunch said...

1) Learn how to drink alcohol (smoke pot?) in moderation... and not like a butthead. No one likes the drunken buffoon. Steer clear of other drugs even though it may seem like everyone else is doing it. They're not... and you don't need to be either.

2) Move out after high school (one way or the other) and do not move in with any girl/boyfriend until marriage. No exceptions. Keep your own place and it will be easier to keep your own self.

3) Starting making your education *yours*. Get involved... find your knowledge bliss. Treat standardized exams like the silly metrics they are - score high - but focus on the depth of what's beyond. Get the most from each and every educator you encounter.

4) Work at least 15 hours a week until you finish college (then get a full time gig for at least 2 years before a masters). You'll learn as much from a job as you will in most undergrad classes.

5) Dream big... but read up on the concept of "opportunity costs".

6) Never be afraid to tilt at a windmill or three.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Time might seem like it's dragging, but actually youth goes by in a wink. Enjoy good health and feeling young while you can, but don't do stuff that will screw up your health when you're old. Because if you're lucky, you will be old for longer than you ever dreamed.

2. Don't take people for granted. Learn to reach out. Write thank-you notes, and send good wishes when a friend needs or deserves them. A kind gesture is rarely the wrong move.

3. Find hobbies to do for the sheer joy of them, and don't worry about making money or winning competitions at them. And don't let anyone discourage you. If someone says you can't dance, laugh at them and dance anyway.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Don't lie. Especially, don't lie to yourself. Listen to that queasy feeling you get when you're about to make something up.
2. Figure out whether you're monogamous or not. Yes, most people are, but not everyone is, and you will be happier knowing in which camp you belong.
3. The small stuff is both what matters and doesn't matter at all. Big flamboyant gestures are nice, but everyday thoughtfulness is way more important. But someone who constantly argues about every last small thing will make your life a misery.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Mama Bear said...

1- Choose to be happy. You can't always control the events around you, but you can always control your reaction to those events. Avoid people who relish in the drama of life, because they will suck the life right out of you. As for you, keep your drama for your mama!

2- You don't need to have a profession or major already selected before you to go to college. Take the first year or two to explore your interests, volunteer on or off campus, make new friends, and get involved in the academic experience. If at all possible, move far enough away from home that you don't come home on weeknights. Take the time to experience life before you choose your life's work.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Courtney said...

If one of your goals is a lot of higher education, take on your debt for graduate school, not undergraduate, if you are able to make that choice. Your choice of graduate school will determine your future more than undergraduate.

and ditto on the credit card debt.

7:07 AM  
Blogger AndyEM said...

Peer pressure is almost never for anything good. Be your own person. Losing your self-respect isn’t worth pleasing the crowd.

Junk food, alcohol, drugs and sex all make you feel good. But if you really need them in order to be happy, the price you’ll pay for that is more than you can afford. View “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and look for the scene where the Native American finally opens up to the Jack Nicholson character: “Every time my father put the bottle to his mouth, the bottle sucked more out of him than he sucked out of the bottle.” Truer words were never spoken.

A knew a young person who was a B- student and an A+ athlete. He wanted to be a high school coach/gym teacher; maybe someday even the same job at a college. His parents made him feel stupid. “That’s no life,” they said. “You want something in the business world where you can afford nicer things and take bigger vacations.” They even started in on him when he was a little boy, if he showed admiration for “army guys.” The army was for losers who couldn’t survive anyplace else. So he followed their dream to the big city and the world of big business. After the first plane hit the north tower, he was incinerated; they never found a trace of evidence that he was ever alive or that he once was a boy who had his own dreams. He wasn’t an army guy but that didn’t stop him from being among the first Americans to die in the War on Terror.

Once a year, every year, read Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town:” you don’t realize what you have until you lose it.

7:19 AM  
Blogger StevenIre said...

A python-dash dot dot dot python-dash of poodles is not a collective noun; it’s the ‘Three Dog Night’ quartet. The moral of the story is something about a python. Sorry guys, this never happened. It violates the spirit of this worthy endeavor. It is a sorry attempt at humour.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Lydia G said...

Given my medical history, which began at the age of 15 with pain from a yet- to -be -diagnosed -for- 8 years spinal cord tumor, and subsequent multiple surgeries, I think it is important for teens to not be defeated by adversity, so I would tell them "ne cede malis" (which I would translate as "do not yield to misfortune").

10:44 AM  
Blogger Karen of TX said...

I'm beginning to panic. She's 16.5 years and I'm just throwing stuff out there now, randomly, when I think of it, because it's going to be too late. The other day I had my blinker on and I said, "You hear that? That's not a blinker, it's a clock! TICKING!"

She humors me. I need to write this all down.

And Quinn, we're homeschooling again! Home stretch homeschooling, I call it.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You think you have all the time in the world, but you don't. Have a plan or at least a vision. Make decisions. If you don't like the result make some more decisions. Waffling is time wasted. Want to travel, work for a year, save every penny and go. Want to write, get a McJob and a garret and write. But decide.

Pay attention. See trouble before it comes. By the time you are in a dangerous situation you've made a half dozen mistakes. Then it's luck. But if you pay attention you can avoid the situation altogether.

Don't spend too much time punishing yourself for your mistakes. You're going to make them. Some of them are going to be shameful and messy and hurtful to others. But every person worth knowing has made those kinds of mistakes and lives with them. Mistakes are part of life. Just don't keep making the same ones over and over.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Victoria Loustalot said...

I second both of Sherri's pieces of wisdom. And I'd add...

1. Be friendly: Say hello first, introduce yourself, smile. You have no idea how far this will take you and how few are good at this. People will remember and think well of you for it.

2. Become a regular at your neighborhood library, and give a monetary donation at least once a year. The public library is a gold mine of books, newspapers, magazines and even CDs and DVDs.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

Never get involved with someone you have to pretend you're not involved with. Ever.

Admit your mistakes before someone else finds them out, not after.

Make the choice that scares you the most - almost always, that's the one you need ro do.

No one answers questions you don't ask. Ask.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Pamela Toler said...

1. Laugh at yourself; don't laugh at other people.

2. Make sure the important people in your life inspire you to be your best self.

3. If you don't ask, the answer is no by default.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Lehua said...

(1) People are more important than things.

(2) Time is more precious than money.

(3) All of the answers you need to determine what to do next are held in your body. If you want to know the answer to a question, check whether your stomach is clenched, your breathing shallow and rapid or relaxed...

(4) Trust yourself, see yourself as a warrior. Beware of the evil eye, and know that it is in the best interest of your survival to lay low sometimes and not always be in the spotlight.

(5) Loving fully, without fear is your life's mission. Starting with your family, you will be introduced to all of the different types of people and personalities you need to navigate safely through this world. Once you recognize the universal love that exists in all will realize that you and every other living thing on this planet are one.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honor yourself. Never give yourself over to another person while you are still in your teens. You will learn later on that you were still discovering who you are during those years and had you given yourself over, it would have robbed you of the ability to grow into the person you were meant to be and to go into the future you were meant to have. Honor yourself in this way during your young years and you'll never regret it.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Always wear sunblock. Pale skin is prettier than sun spots and wrinkles, and cooler than skin cancer.

Be open to new people and new experiences.

If you feel like you have to keep someone or something a secret from your best friend, that's a good indication that you shouldn't be doing it.

If you love someone, tell them - every chance you get. Life is short, and you never know which chance is your last chance.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Lana Bump said...

The sunblock one is great, and here's one I just read that ties into it--however you treat your body, good or bad, it will eventually show.

2:33 AM  

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