Welcome to Parenthood, Please Grab a Life Jacket

Julia is a 17-year old junior from New York City. She swims, plays the violin and loves spending time with her English bulldog Louie.

I sit down to write this article fresh from a fight with my parents. It began with a “when I was your age, I worked twice as hard as you do now. You have no appreciation for how good your life is.” I’m sure you’ve heard one of these before. A comment so well crafted and true, it is impossible to top. The truth rings with clarity in the back of my mind. But I refuse to acknowledge it and admit defeat, because it would derail everything I had worked for up to this point. Giving in and admitting my parents were right would make me look like a fool for even picking a fight. So I won’t.


It must be frustrating for parents when their children refuse to admit a truth that is right in front of them. It would frustrate me. But, as a teenager, I have the right to roll my eyes and think you have no idea what it is like to be me. I tune my parents out as another speech begins and think for the billionth time, if I’m ever in a fight with my child, I will never put them in this situation. I can’t tell my parents that I agree with them because we are already fighting. I have to continue to push for what I want or I might not get it. And as easy as it might seem, I most definitely cannot tell my parents all of this. But I am allowed to think it. And I am allowed to use it to plan for a better future, an ultimate goal that seems to rest in the crest of the nation’s existence.

When I am a parent, I will hold back my shrewdness and cockiness and let my child talk because, I am talking to my child, and I want to know what they are really thinking. I want them to feel that they can tell me everything on their mind. So I will provide a calm environment, a blameless, guiltless conversational cone where anything can be said. What happens after that is beyond my control.

Parenting skill #5. Thanks mom and dad, you are turning me into a better person, whether you know it or not. In fact, there are a plethora of little parenting tricks I have picked up from arguing with my parents. I’ve got a neat little list in the works:

1)    I won’t say the same thing over and over and over and over again. It doesn’t make any child want to do it more.

2)    I won’t raise my voice. (This one is hard, but I think I will manage because it is just too dramatic for me to handle).

3)    I will respect my kids if they want to storm out of the room and let things simmer for a while. (My father doesn’t let anyone leave the room until “a resolution” has been found. If only the scientists researching cancer had the same approach).

4)    I won’t storm into my child’s room when they’ve told me to leave them alone. Words aren’t just words. They have meaning for a reason.
All of the things that send me over the edge when I’m already fragile, all of the things that make me growl and clench my fists and just get angry, well, I just won’t let that happen. If my children ever feel that way, it won’t be because of me.

Some of the best parenting dos and don’ts are just a reversal of my parents’ faded list. Of course, I’m being a little harsh. My parents are some of the best people I’ve met in the world; how else would I have turned out so well? I love so much about them, that things I don’t like stick out like a sore thumb.

One of the hardest parts of childhood is learning about you, about what works and doesn’t work, about what parts of your family draw you in like a pair of footy pajamas and what parts feel like a thorn in your side. No parent is looking to destroy a child; if they are, we are talking about a different type of problem. I may make lists and angry promises but the truth is, I want to parent just like my own parents do, like a parent who loves a child.

I think I could actually pull off a few things from the list and I would be a little more like the super parent I’m describing. But no parent is perfect, and every child wants a perfect parent, so every child is destined to find complaints, mistakes and reasons to argue. As a parent, I will try my best to be everything I would want in a parent. I will listen, and consider, and think about. But I will also be protective, and nervous, and worried, and human.

On a positive note, I conclude this article, on my way to give my parents a good old-fashioned hug (add that to the dos list). I will be everything my child needs me to be, and maybe a little more. But even if I try I won’t be anywhere near as selfless and noble as my parents are for me. Well look at that! I guess my parents have earned the right to put me in my place. Too bad the realization doesn’t come until after the hurt feelings. Welcome to parenthood.



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2 Responses to “Welcome to Parenthood, Please Grab a Life Jacket”

  1. Allison
    May 5, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    Great article and great insight, Julia. Congratulations!


  1. Parenting advice by teens, Radical Parenting. Ask yours to be “Teacher for the Day.” « - May 23, 2011

    […] a recent guest article excerpt from Radical Parenting Welcome to parenthood please grab a life jacket where a 17 yr old speaks about her childhood and what type of parent she’d like to be in […]

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