Wednesday, July 10, 2013
The Art of Growing Up
'Growing up is hard'. Obviously this is a cliché and an understatement, but I hadn't ever really appreciated how hard growing up can be until this past weekend. It is one thing to experience growing up yourself, but it is a whole new thing to watch someone else doing it. Not only am I watching Squeaker go through the discovery of life, sometimes the hard way, I have also been spending time with other young family members over the holiday weekend.
Squeaker is curious about everything and strives to use her newly developed skills as much as possible. She has started to grab for things she shouldn't grab, sometimes ones she immediately regrets and ones I immediately regret. Like the food I'm eating while I hold her, the jewelry people around her are wearing, people's teeth, and her own face with her sharp little finger nails (which I constantly try to cut & file, but they always manage to be a nuisance anyway). She also rolls off of her blanket or play mat that is on the floor, trying to reach things beyond her grasp. She is experimenting endlessly with the possibilities around her. This learning process is difficult, especially if I am not constantly being observant and helping her through it so that she doesn't inadvertently hurt herself. Discovery is hard, the discovery of new experiences, the world around you, or even your own desires coming into fruition. I am excited to watch Squeaker experience all of this as she grows, but I am also anxious about the discoveries yet to come.
I'm very close to my husband's family and enjoy spending time with them, every year we get together for a 4th of July celebration. Some family members live far away and come just for the occasion of this celebration. I don't get to spend very much time with young adults on a regular basis, but the past couple of days I have spent a lot of time with some of these young cousins who live far away. I feel as though my eyes have been somewhat opened to the woes of adolescence, perhaps woes I have simply chosen to forget from my own past.
Trying to discover one's place and standing in the world, relative to the people around you (who constantly judge or respect you) is a process that lasts a life time. However, it doesn't seem to make an impact on one's life until the tween and teen years of life, before then children don't seem to care as much about how they are perceived or where they stand with those around them. Suddenly there is 'peer-pressure', strangers and friends offering you drugs, alcohol, new experiences and a scope of life beyond the one your parents have set up or prepared you for.
Talking to tweens and teens caused me to be a little shaken as I realized these things. I don't think they even know how delicate the time of life they are experiencing is. Just like not all people are the same, not all tweens and teens are the same, but here are a few things I think are true of most adolescents at this age. They refuse extra help for the most part because they want to be completely independent and respected as adults, but they aren't adults (which is frustrating for everyone involved). However, they also want you to do anything 'too boring' or 'too hard' for them because they just don't want to be bothered with it (which is why they aren't adults yet). They care more about what their friends think and do than what their family is thinking and doing. I also think that for some reason tweens and teens believe that a lot of what is going on in their lives is just happening to them, like they don't have a choice. It is also frustrating for me to see that the world we live in advocates for 'discovering yourself', as if we all have a hidden self we have to find somehow. I actually believe that we all have the ability to choose who we want to be and strive for that, it is a process of 'becoming who you want to be'. I think that this misunderstood concept leads many people into troubling decisions, like experimenting with drugs and other things they should avoid. Reading the book The Catcher in the Rye when I was a teen myself also has lead me to many of these conclusions. This is such a sensitive time in each individual's life, and so hard already, why make it even worse by doing stupid things? Well, those stupid things seem fun and helpful in the moment, until the next morning or the next year you look back at your life only to realize that you're wasting it on these stupid things.
It is good to know that some people just don't have to learn the hard way and give into immediate gratification, having fun just for the sake of fun, etc. My husband is one of these amazing people, he never let go of his morals and even during the most challenging times of his life he was striving to become a better person. Other people, myself included, have to learn through trial and error. I won't go into the various details of what I did and where I went while I was learning from the world. I will say that I did party and sometimes not safely, but in the long run I decided for myself that I was happier without those influences in my life. I didn't have any serious sexual indiscretions, I didn't get arrested or wake up in a strange place after passing out, but I definitely tested my limits. I'm glad that I did learn and found joy in life, I found my place in the world, even though I had to find it the hard way.
These cousins are starting to find that they are being pushed this way and that by the world as well. It's sad because I understand that all they really want to do is find happiness and peace in a crazy world where sadness and war prevail. I hope they don't have to learn the hard way and figure things out the way I did, making the mistakes I made. I hope that Squeaker doesn't have to either and I can raise her in such a way that she is confident in herself. That she will be content enough with who she wants to be and where she is going that she doesn't have to experiment with the limits I did. However, I also want her to know that I will always be there to love her, even if she does end up doing the same exact things I did and will warn her not to do. I would much rather that she has a comfortable relationship with me, knowing that I am willing to pick her up at 2am when she is drunk and needs a ride home, than be too scared to call me (afraid of what I'll do to her) and get into the car of a drunk friend instead. I know I have a while before such things would even be an issue to consider, but I want to be prepared. I want Squeaker to know that I expect her to be the best person she can be and also that I want to help her become that person in any way I can as she walks the difficult path of growing up.