They say that in order to be a good artist, you have to go through pain. But I’ve always had parents who love me and support me, and I’ve always been provided for with the utmost care, with an amazing family.
But at the risk of sounding like an ingrate, I’m still carrying baggage from when I was a teenager. It wasn’t perfect (nothing is!) and looking back, I think there are many things I just wish they knew when I was a teenager, that will hopefully help one day when I have to deal with a teenager of my own.
1. Everything was going to be okay.
It’s perfectly normal to worry. Of course you would! Even as an aunt, I feel some responsibility to make sure that these little minds that I’m helping to mould turn out the right way. But what’s the right way? And what challenges will come up that they’re going to have to face?
Well you know what, in the grand scheme of things, everything was going to be okay. Everyone I knew went through a sullen, withdrawn phase as a teenager, and we all turned out alright. My parents were very good at setting boundaries, and communicated exactly what they expected from me in the long run. Sure, I stumbled along the way – I was a pretty bad student, and lazy to boot – but I figured it out along the way, and all the lessons that my parents were trying to teach me clicked eventually.
2. It’s okay if you aren’t perfect.
My parents took two different routes in trying to inspire me. My mum tried to inspire me by setting a good example – telling me about how well she did at school, how many sports she participated in, how many boys were chasing her – and my dad just sorta looked at me and said, “look, I wasn’t very interested in studying, but I did it anyway because that was what I had to do to get a good job and be a responsible adult”.
For me, at least, my dad’s approach worked a lot better. I felt like I could relate to him a lot more, and I could turn to him when I messed up because he’s messed up before too. Teenagers are human beings too, and I think it’s a lot more relatable if you weren’t some looming figure that never made mistakes. And it’s okay if you are human too.
3. Encouragement and criticism can be very confusing
For most of my early childhood, my parents tried very hard to instil confidence in me by telling me that I looked pretty the way I was, and that they thought I was a good person. But suddenly (which was exactly what it felt like), nothing I did was good enough. I needed to separate my monobrow, lose weight, be more sociable..there seemed to suddenly be a laundry list of things that I had to change about myself to “become acceptable”, and that just made me feel like my parents were pulling some sort of bizarre bait and switch.
Now I understand, of course, that they were just trying to help me adjust into greater society as my world expanded beyond family, but it was a bit of a crazy time to bring it up during puberty, when even my own body won’t cooperate with me. Could they have done anything different? I don’t really know. But I like to think that being the awesome parents that they are, it would’ve helped for them to know how I really felt.
Is there anything you wish your parents knew when you were a teenager? How did your parents choose to guide and inspire you?