Prolonged Teenage Years: Fact Or Fiction?

By | September 17, 2013

Kids grow fast. People will tell you that when you show up in the world holding your new bundle of joy.

You get to see it yourself as scrunched little faces bloom into toothless sweet smiles.

Kids grow, mind and body, and so do we alongside.

Then the world knocks and our kids run to the door. They peek, eyes growing wide. They hold onto us, ready to hide, should the world look too scary. We have the necessary grip, still; attachment and love create a magic potion.

The world is a big, wild place; we know that. Yet with the advent of new challenges like the Internet and its ever-growing multi-headed younger sibling, social media, we are facing the prospect of opening the door too fast for our kids, allowing them to step forth but not checking whether we’re perched on a ledge. Freefalls are nothing to joke about.

When my oldest was born, I was, like all moms, weak in the knees just by feeling his velvety little forehead and have his tiny fingers curl around mine. Cloud Nine became my permanent residence, sleepless nights notwithstanding. I was told, “Beware the terrible twos, it’ll get rough.”

Whether it was luck or enlightenment in how they were raised, we had no terrible-two storms raging through the house. Perhaps the negative connotation is something that creates the very storm we’re trying to find shelter from. Negative expectations mold themselves into real life, some believe.

While I am still wading in the warm waters of early years when innocence is not yet lost and silly laughs happen when I least (or most) expect it, the warning from the well-intentioned are as perky as ever.

It’s about the teenage years now. Brace for impact, they say. Based on my experience with the non-terrible twos, I may choose to celebrate rather than fear my sons’ impending transformation into men.

Yet, regardless of what I choose for my family, here’s my concern about all of our kids: If we fear the teenage years, why do we shove our kids forth by allowing them to be peeled of innocence too soon?

Why do we allow corporations to pull them into social networking before they’ve finished playing hide-and-seek in the backyard?

Why do we enable teenage-idol creators to tempt children with skimpy clothing, conflicting messages about how to be cool in a world where image counts but not the substance behind it?

Children are multi-dimensional beings. Now they’re being tempted to live in a bi-dimensional world — a sure way to lose depth.

Parents are still learning the ropes of the fast-evolving multi-faceted present-day world. The often-clueless state we find ourselves in is but a natural consequence of things moving fast. Trouble is, by the time we find our bearings our kids are long immersed in a world we’re just starting to learn about.

That most children become teenagers too soon is no longer news.

As if that was not enough to scratch our heads about, some psychologists and educators point toward an equally worrying new phenomenon: prolonged teenage years.

Many young adults become older adults while still living with their parents and in a state of teenage bliss way past the 20s threshold.

“No responsibility, no worries,” looked fuzzy-warm and funny in Lion King, but it is bound to give us cold shivers as we see our children grow up and indulge in a state that we used to have the habit of warning each other about.

It was a time of budding independence when hugs, while still needed, were becoming something you could let of as you would face the world as an almost adult. Budding independence went beyond handling a phone bought by your parents and used for texting at large and keeping the Facebook I.V. dripping at all times.

A declared optimist, I believe that honest dialogue, the oldest tool still standing, can still save the day and the ones to follow.

Between parents themselves, or parents and educators or other influential adults, and most of all parents and children, dialogue remains the best tool in understanding the world and acknowledging that often the guide becomes the guided one, for some of the portions that is.

The world changes constantly, ever-evolving and with new daily challenges, but society relies on the same old values to build itself strong such as reliability, trust, honesty and courage.

Just like every season has its role in maintaining life as we know it, so do developing stages in our growth as human beings. But they should start in a timely fashion and not go overtime either.

Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News on September 14, 2013 under the same title.

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