My Teenager · 6 July 2007

For the most part, I understand teenagers. Except my own. Being a teacher, I can talk to my high school students about almost everything. Some of my students even come early just to hang out in my classroom or chat. But my own teenager does not want to be seen with his mother or me. I think that he does not really want anybody to know that he has a family. I guess that is part of being a teenager.

In truth, I probably really do understand the reason why Zachary does not want to be seen with his family. In his quest for independence on his journey to becoming a man, he wants to assert his individuality and does not want any of his peers to know that he likes to be with his family. He does not want anybody to know that he plays Scrabble or Clue or just hangs out with us. If he had his druthers, he would probably close all the curtains when we are spending time together as a family just in case one of his friends comes by the house.

I suppose that this quest for independence and seeking identity apart from a person’s family is part and parcel of adolescence. I see it in my students too. They will talk about just about everything except their families. When they do talk about their parents, it is usually about how they are stifling their social life or bugging them about grades or just getting in their way in general. Even if they have exceptional home lives, my students rarely talk about their families in glowing terms until they are almost ready to graduate. When they are ready to leave the nest, they seem to start missing the good life that they have had so far.

When it comes to my own teenager, I would bet that he does not discuss his family much with his peers. Even though he really does enjoy his immediate and extended families and could live at our family reunions, I am sure that he does not speak in glowing terms about life at home. When his friends ask him about his weekends, he probably just grunts like he does with us when we ask him about his day at school. And they probably grunt back that they understand.

I suppose it could be worse. Actually, it has been worse. Zachary has almost gotten to that magical place where teenagers become human again. He is almost past the morose, brooding, life stinks attitude phase of adolescence – that time when adolescents become sub- or even non-human. I see it every year in other ninth graders and I see it in him. He is almost ready to rejoin the human race again. He is almost ready to recognize his parents as part of his life. Almost.

I suppose that my teenager will continue to pretend that he really does not want to be with us when we are out in public but practically beg us to play Scrabble in the evenings and on weekends. I suppose that he will still have those days when he is morose and brooding. I have seen it for years in my students but I was not ready to see it happen to my own kid. I guess I just had to realize that he is not my little boy anymore. He is becoming a man right before my eyes and it is a bit unsettling. Maybe I really do understand my own teenager. He is just like all his peers trying to find his own way. I guess that is a good thing. Still, nobody can make me like the process.

© 2007 Michael T. Miyoshi

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