As I was reading Testimony, I folded over the page that contained this passage, because as I read it the little voice inside my head screamed at me…”That is your child! He just described your child!” The reality is that he was describing everyone’s adolescent/teenage child:
Thus, he was prone to notice the darker side of adolescents: the insane risks they took; the experimentation with all forms of behavior, including the obsequious and the downright cruel; a pathological procrastination that often resulted in a need for excessive sleep; a sensibility dictated by rampant hormones; and a tendency to extremes in personal hygiene. On balance, Mike thought he probably had a somewhat jaundiced opinion of teenagers that made him hesitant about having his own.
~excerpt from Testimony by Anita Shreve
Testimony is a fictional story about the effects that one night’s behavior had on a group of private school students. Bad decisions led to worse decisions, which led to the inability to make any decisions. The end result is the ruination of many lives, from the headmaster of the school, to the girlfriend of one of the young men involved. It is a disturbing book to read, and had it been a true story, it would have been even more so.
I believe it is a story worth reading by parents and adolescents. Lives can be forever altered by one wrong choice.
Almost 17 years ago I had my first child, and not for one second did I think about the teenage years. Here they have been upon me for a while, and I chuckled at the above description of a teenager. It was a short-lived chuckle when the truth of those words hit me. Adolescence is a dangerous part of growing up.
I talk to my son about the perils that await him after he passes through our front door. I have worked to make home a safe place, a place where he would want to come when he is faced with hard decisions and peer pressure; an escape from the harsh reality of the teenage world.
The scariest and the most difficult part for me comes when I think that he ultimately has to go it alone. I can’t hold his hand every day and night (nor does he want me too!) I can’t be a fly on the wall at the social gatherings. The truth is, I have no idea what is going on inside his head unless he tells me.
The tricky part about that–try to get a teenager to tell you exactly what he/she is thinking or feeling. I am not even sure they know themselves at times.
And so I sit here and think, and share this link with all of you who are raising children. I learned and re-learned a few things. “Have patience,” I remind myself. It’s not their fault.