Gabriele is a 17-year-old aspiring writer from Jacksonville, FL. She loves the wit of Charles Dickens, the smell of sharpened pencils, and the charm of coffee shops. She lives her life by a Benjamin Franklin quote: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write the things worth reading or do the things worth writing.”
The stage is yours. Your lights shine brilliantly with an iridescent white. Your audience blinks wittingly with hopeful eyes. Your characters submit to your every request, tied together by cautious strings. You know this scene like the back of your hand—you’ve performed it before. But something happened, didn’t it? Perhaps it was a problem with the lighting, the audience, the characters. Nonetheless the show did not go on. You’re going to try it again—how courageous of you. Staring in the mirror, you notice now that you are too old to play the child whose dreams come true…
Think back to your teenage years. What were your dreams? Your passions? Your goals? Why didn’t they happen? Did you sacrifice your life for your family or children? Did you lack the support it took to get there? Did you let fear win? Whatever the reason, look at your life today and see if you have forgiven yourself and others and moved on. If you haven’t, you may be living vicariously through your teen. It may be as simple and as innocent as living vicariously through the successes of your favorite sports teams, but there are hidden dangers with this type of living. Unless you want to have a bitter relationship with your teen, you have to cut the strings.
What are the strings? The strings are what keep your title of Puppet Master. They are your secret ambitions. Did you want to be a singer? Are you sure your teenager wants the same? Or maybe you never won that football game. Are you doing whatever it takes to make sure your son wins his? These are signs of strings. Anything that puts you in control over your teenager’s goals. The most important thing to remember is that this is not your life. This is your teenager’s life. As much as they have your crazy curly hair or your hazel green eyes, they did not inherit the same passions that you have. They are entirely different people with their own goals in mind. Your teenager wants nothing more than to please you. If following your dreams is what it takes to get there, then they will do just that.
When asked what a parent wants for their children, the majority say a simple word: “happiness.” When asked what a teenager wants for themselves, they say yet another simple word: “freedom.”
Scary, right? Letting your teenager make his own decisions about his future can be daunting. He doesn’t know what he wants. But does he? You have to trust your teenager to make his own decisions regarding his future—whether immediate or long-term. You may not understand it, but he will never find himself until you cut the strings. If you allow him to live his own life with his own dreams and his own goals and ultimately, his own future, he will be far more successful and far happier than he ever would be if he were living your life. You want happiness for your teens? Show them you care about them enough to care about what they care about.
We really do love you, and we care about your goals and passions. However, we’d rather you pursue them through you, and not through us. Do something for you. Sing karaoke, play a game of basketball with your colleagues, paint, play an instrument, sign up for a beauty pageant, write a novel, get your degree, go stargazing, chase a tornado, try out for a role in a production, go back to Prom. Whatever it is, do it for you.
Because I know you love your alma mater, but let’s be real. I don’t look good in blue and gold.
Photo by Gabriele Camerotti from Flickr