My Teen Years
In Celia’s letter, she brought up how I was as a teenager. She admitted to giving me the silent treatment and guilt trips during “those” years, implying that it was my fault because we all know how horrible I was back then. She also said if these are abusive things, then she thinks she was a pretty good parent. Uh, hello!!!! Look up any information about abuse and you will see that silent treatments and guilt trips ARE abusive!!!! She basically told me that the true definition of abuse does not fit her and that she was a great parent because it was ALL MY FAULT FOR ACTING LIKE THAT DURING “THOSE” YEARS!
So, I decided to really think back about how I acted during those years. How does one go back over two decades and accurately remember their teen years. I think I have a pretty good memory (now that I can see the crazy I lived with and the fact that I’m actually *not* the crazy one, I’m trusting my memories) and I see a lot of me in how Serenity acts now. The difference in me as a teen and Serenity is that she feels safe to spout off *to* me instead of hiding in her bedroom and saying it all under the cover of very loud music.
Jill was the perfect child. She was the perfect teen. She got amazingly good grades, she studied all the time. She was beautiful and polished and always presentable. She wouldn’t be caught dead in public unless her hair, make-up, nails, and clothes were perfect. She *never* gave our parents a moment of attitude or back-talk. I look back now and wonder how she did it. Was she naturally a biddable person or was she afraid too? She was almost Stepford.
Then I came along. It took me until I was 35 to realize that I fit the definition of a spirited child. After having had Jill, I think my parents simply didn’t know what to make of me. I was so very different from everyone else in the family. I was labeled the “bad” kid. I was the “rebel.” I was the one who just couldn’t listen, couldn’t obey, couldn’t follow directions. I was definitely not Stepford. Not even close.
Oh, I had teen attitude aplenty. I think I actually got Jill’s share because I just had so much to give out. My father regularly threatened to remove my bedroom door and had to fix the edges a couple of times from me slamming my door so much. He never took my door down though. I never back-talked Celia to her face. I knew better. I would slam into my bedroom, turn my music up full-blast, and talk to myself. I would rail against the injustices of my life. But I never dared tell Celia.
I also had a boyfriend during “those” years. I think Celia’s biggest fear would be that I would run away with him. She imposed ridiculously early curfews for me, even as a Senior in high school, when I was with him. If I was with my girl friends, I could stay out quite a few hours later than when I was out with my boyfriend. This always made me laugh because often, the three of us girls would meet up with our boyfriends and all hang out as a group. I never felt the need to tell Celia this because I was with my friends. She tried to maintain control while I struggled to break free from it.
I never once missed curfew. Not one time. Even if my boyfriend and I were fighting and I left his house an hour early, I would park a mile down the road and read a book until a few minutes before curfew. I would walk in on my curfew on the nose. I pushed it, but I was never late.
I was actively involved in extra-curricular activities in school. I did band for a year, I was involved in drama and journalism. Celia spent a lot of time and gas money shuttling me to and from school activities. I was always where I said I would be and when I said I would be.
I got good grades. No, they were nowhere as perfect as Jill’s grades, but I graduated in the top 10% of my class.
I simply could not conform to the standards my family set for me. I was not the cookie-cutter child that my siblings and cousins were. I was the odd man out and I think they all resented me for it.
But now that I look back on “those” years, I can’t understand how Celia could actually tell the family that she didn’t even like me (and yes, I overheard her say this many times). Later, Celia even told me that that is what she’d said. I never told her that I’d actually heard it first hand. I got good grades, I didn’t smoke or drink, I was involved at school, I had friends who did the same things. I’m simply puzzled by how I was labeled as the “bad” child when I look back now and I really never did anything bad. I was too afraid of getting caught to actually do anything I wasn’t supposed to.
Celia’s whole argument for me being “bad” was that I slammed my door and blasted my music. In reality, I think it all stems from the fact that I was different, I tried to grow wings, I tried to get away. I was not the child she could control completely.
I look back now and am simply amazed by how vilified I was during “those” years. I look at how Serenity acts now and think, “Goodness, it’s hard to be a teenager.” When Serenity acts out, I understand that usually she is either tired, hungry, or just plain sick of her brothers. Most times, she needs an understanding hug. I weep for the teen I was that I never got those understanding hugs when I needed them. I got silent treatments and guilt trips. Those are things that have no place in my home now.
My children will have much different teen years than I had. Then, when they get out of them, the past will be behind us. I will not hold what they do in those growing-pain filled teens years against them for the rest of their lives like my family is still doing to me.
I’ll never escape my teen years, my children will never be repeatedly flogged for theirs as I am mine.