Monday, December 10, 2007

Teenage? Tweenage?

Geeky Boy is 12, decidedly not a kid anymore, decidedly not an adult yet, and definitely in the middle of some kind of transition. Before I gave birth to him, I bought every book on the planet about pregnancy, birth, and child rearing. Once I got past the the toddler stage, I quit buying books. I figured I knew what I was doing now and besides, I remember life past the age of 4 or 5, so I could draw on that experience. Boy was I wrong. It's not like things are bad or desperate or anything. It's just that things are very, very different. I'm no longer worried about the same things. I used to worry about development--whether my children were reading enough, learning enough, learning the right things, etc. Now I worry about maintaining the motivation for learning, about developing life skills to succeed in school, to get into a good college, to be happy with where they end up in life. Add to that the worries about completely derailing--through drugs, sex, or other problems--and life suddenly gets really complicated.

I picked up The Good Teen by Richard Lerner and whizzed through it. It had lots of good advice, but my biggest fear is that there's no way I can give enough time to foster the positive development he advocates. He talks about getting involved in the community and the school, providing opportunities to talk with your teen, helping him or her develop friendships and relationships with relatives and other adult friends and mentors. I agree with a lot of what he says and think his recommendations make sense. But I'm also thinking, holy crap, that's a full time job! I no longer wonder what parents who stay home in the school years do with their time.

I'm just now realizing that being a connected, contributing human being is a lot of work. I think I functioned under the very capitalist (and maybe communist?) notion that contribution comes through work and that nothing else really matters. I'm starting to feel that while contribution can come through work, a whole lot of it comes through your relationship to your family and contribution to your community, both local and national. And most Americans, I think, are too busy getting and spending to pay attention to that.

I want my kids to understand and appreciate what it means to be a connected, contributing human being, but I'm having a hard time finding time to show them the way. I'm feeling pretty disconnected myself.