I told my daughter that her uncle asked what she thought about being a main character in my stories on Sharon Patch.
My comment prompted her to read my columns again after a long hiatus, and I got an earful.
She objected to my portrayal of her as a typical teenager.
Her appraisal speaks more to my failure to accurately represent her true character than her biased view. She is bright, perceptive and talented in many atypical ways. And she is different from her peers who don’t have a mother who happens to be a writer.
Her consolation prize for allowing me to describe her messy room and my messy memories is a chance to have her say. I invited two of her best buds to add their sentiments and I compiled this list of their wishes.
What do teenagers really want from their parents?
- Let us make mistakes. We are trying to be the best people we can be, but we can only figure out what not to do after we have done it. Let us draw our own conclusions. Step in only when you foresee a disastrous or harmful consequence.
- Give us solitude and space to be ourselves. Our rooms may be humming with Eminem lyrics and YouTube videos, but this chatter helps block out the academic, social, and societal pressures we face everyday.
- Stand by us even when you think we might be wrong. Don’t side with the impossible-to-please physics teacher, the two-faced friend, or the creators of the MCAS test. Have our backs when no one else will.
- Observe the rules of door etiquette. Knock first and wait for a reply before entering. You could catch us undressing or in a private moment. When you leave, shut the door.
- We may be children, but we deserve respect. Don’t joke about us in a negative way to other adults. Respect our distaste for public displays of affection. Refrain from requesting a kiss when our friends are near.
- We appreciate surprise compliments. We like to hear we are “beautiful inside and out.” However, if you like our hair or clothes say so and stop. Don’t undo the praise by following it with a question that starts with the word “why?”
- We want your approval. When we are pleased with our accomplishments, join equally with our happiness or surpass it. A grade of B in Geometry may fall below your standards, but if we sweated for that grade, expressing your disappointment is hurtful.
- Let us manage our own homework, projects, and school requirements. Badgering us backfires. Don’t take away privileges when you think we are shirking our school responsibilities. We will rebel and do less.
- Assign us chores. Remind us and instruct us, but don’t give up on us. Expect us to empty the dishwasher, wash our own clothes and cook meals. None of us wants to arrive at college unprepared to live independently.
- Understand that we know about the real world. We are not oblivious to the good and bad around us. Give us credit for being more capable than you think we are and we will earn your trust.