Reverberations

The hard part of parenting teenagers is that they’re entering that period of life that was the worst part of mine — and they often have the tendency to behave no less obnoxiously than many I encountered then.

I suppose it was ever thus: that parents are disrespected by their adolescent kids, as they become more independent and rebellious, seeking to break free of sensible restrictions.

Still, it’s tough being belittled and mocked by those you raised. As confident, bi-lingual children raised in the south, they make fun of both our accents: their mother’s non-native English and my Northern twang. They then mock my Turkish and her English, although she is fluent, and taught them both languages herself.

In their minds, we are illiterate, unlearned fools; they cannot imagine that we both have post-graduate degrees. There is no humility at their age: they know it all, and we know nothing. Admittedly this is a trigger for me, for that was the narrative of all around me in my own youth, and I’ve never been able to shrug that self-image.

Adolescents, generally, seem to deal with the struggles of their age through opposition. If they are to rise, others must fall. If they are to ascend, others must be trampled under foot.

At school, that role is taken up by the disabled kid, the one with learning difficulties, the odd-looking one or the odd one out, a minority amidst the majority, or the introvert amongst extroverts.

At home, first it’s the open warfare between squabbling and bickering siblings, but increasingly it’s their parents who sit on the receiving end, every apparent weakness exploited by them to gain the upper hand.

This is where it doesn’t help much to be an adult with low self-esteem. For them, that is an area of weakness, prime for attack. It doesn’t help to suffer from anxiety or rampant blues. Family photos on display in their grandparents’ house don’t help either, for even they can tell my gaunt frame back then was not normal.

Of course, it is not helpful to reveal these vulnerabilities to our children, but I fear I am already revealed. I cannot escape what I am; I have just spent my adult life fleeing it by deploying my anti-social persona as camouflage.

But now we have two adolescents in our midst, and teenagers see everything. They have no diplomacy filter; they will say everything as they see it.

Perhaps this is why my own youth has come flooding back to me with such force this past year. Still dealing with the reverberations of experiences, three decades back, walking in their shoes.

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