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Smartmom is in love with Anthony E. Wolf, author of “Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall,” even if his book has a silly name.
This parent’s guide to the new teenager is nothing less than a handy guidebook to Teen Spirit.
For Smartmom, reading Dr. Tony’s book was a great comfort. She inhaled the sections on teenage boys in one sitting and marked up the book with all kinds of annoying underlines, exclamation points and words.
“Yes, yes, yes!” she wrote next to the paragraph that said, “Boys solve the problem of their need to separate from their parents by doing just that: physically separating. They become vanishing experts. They learn the trick of saying ‘yes,’ but doing ‘no.’”
That’s for sure. Teen Spirit has been pretty scarce around here lately. He goes off to “Eric’s house” on weekend nights, when he’s not at band practice, at a show somewhere in Bushwick, Williamsburg or Fort Greene, or hanging out with friends in Brooklyn Heights.
Sadly, Teen Spirit seems to have no use for the wisdom of his exceptionally insightful and intuitive parents — and it must be irksome to have a mother who calls herself Smartmom in print.
Indeed, as Dr. Tony wrote, “It is very important for adolescents to begin viewing adults as flawed. Teenagers know that they themselves have flaws — lots of them — and they also know that they are expected to go out shortly into the adult world and survive. The natural thing to do is look for evidence that adults are human and flawed as well.”
All of this helps explain why Smartmom and Teen Spirit have been having such a hard time of late — which has been hard for Smartmom, who always prided herself on having such a good relationship with her son.
But Teen Spirit’s behavior is textbook, Dr. Tony wrote in his textbook: “Boys are especially likely to avoid their mother. For most boys, there has already been one particular woman in their life whom they have loved deeply. Unfortunately, that woman is their mother. Hence, until they get their new and fairly amorphous sexuality firmly focused on females outside the home, their mother presents a problem.”
The only thing that still connects Smartmom and Teen Spirit is the time they spend together on weekday mornings from 6 am until 7:15 am when he leaves for school.
It’s not that they really talk, but Teen Spirit asks Smartmom whether his really skinny black jeans are clean or whether he can have some money. He lets her pour him a big bowl of Cocoa Puffs and milk.
Smartmom and Hepcat can’t believe what a classic teenager they have in their midst. They thought they were always such cooltastic parents: very empathic, very creative, very accepting of whatever Teen Spirit wanted to do.
But despite their best intentions, Teen Spirit feels the need to rebel against them, hate them, smirk at them and spend inordinate amounts of time away from them.
And they are just spinning from what they feel is their mistreatment by their beloved son. Smartmom is trying not to take it too hard. But she and Hepcat are wracking their brains trying to figure out how to reel him back in. Thankfully, Dr. Tony offers pointers on the overly independent teen. It’s tricky, very tricky.
“You do not win the battle for control with a teenager,” he wrote. “There are many things that parents absolutely do not want their teenage children to do — drink, use drugs, be sexually active, cut school, hang around with undesirable friends — but most teenagers do some or all of the above on a fairly regular basis.”
Dr. Tony went on to say that with adolescents, usually the best that you can expect is imperfect control.
“The greatest error that parents of teenagers can make is to believe that disobedience means total loss of control. Believing this, they often go all out, sometimes with dire consequence, to reestablish the control that they have not really lost to begin with.”
In other words: make rules, but don’t engage in the escalating punishments game. That can end in disaster.
But if anything, she and Hepcat probably haven’t punished Teen Spirit enough. They’ve let him get away with a lot, especially when it comes to school.
School. Yes, school. That’s the albatross around Teen Spirit’s neck right now. And with college looming in the future, this pushes so many buttons in Smartmom, who desperately wants Teen Spirit to take it more seriously.
Buddha knows, many of the choices (good and bad) that adolescents make, particularly in school, can affect them for the rest of lives.
“This is the cruel irony,” Dr. Tony wrote. “We are asked to let go precisely when the stakes go up.”
But letting go is what adolescence is all about: for the parent and the teen.
“The capacity to let go, to separate to allow a child to resolve his or her own destiny is crucial to being the parent of a teenager,” Dr. Tony wrote.
And that is the hardest part of all.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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