The Narcissism of Adolescence

These days I find myself muttering “I can’t possibly have . . .” on a fairly regular basis. Some of these accompany conclusions I swore I’d never make as an adult. Such as, “I can’t possibly have looked that young when I graduated high school and entered college.” I remember being an 18-year-old full of vim and vigor and certain I was the most mature young adult in the world. Then, when I’d hear adults make such statements, I’d think, “Sheesh, all you old people, get a life.” But now, these kids really do look like babies. My eyes have been opened—I didn’t appear nearly as world-ready then as I’d thought. So, nope. These chilluns need curfews and bed checks and round-the-clock supervision, not unmitigated freedom (she says as hers slowly edge closer and closer to the age of independence—looming in 5 1/2 short years).

Another is “I can’t possibly have been that spoiled and petulant.” And here, I think I’m right, although my parents may double over in belly shaking guffaws when they read this. I don’t know what it is about this generation of children. Well, scratch that. I have plenty of suspicions, and most of them tie back to less focus on physical activity and relationship building and more focus on technology and the like. I’m not by any means trying to be self-righteous here. We have all the techno gadgetry in our house, and one of my kids is the tech king. It’s the way of the world these days. You snooze, you lose. But, mine are somewhat flabbergasted that their parents actually check their electronic gadgetry and bust them when they do or try something that’s a no-no. And to this, I ask why? What makes them think they have a free pass at a medium in which so many dangers lurk? Believe me, we’re not perfect at monitoring, but we try, and they know we can descend with the parental investigative and enforcement powers at any random moment in time and will eventually catch them if they are doing something wrong.

I don’t think I’m raising my kids any differently than my parents raised me and my siblings, but whatever is in the water has definitely germinated in my children. They think discipline is an affront to their person, notwithstanding they did something wrong, and/or I am evil incarnate for taking away their electronics (it’s still not computing for them that said electronics are not theirs, but mine on loan to them only for the duration of their good behavior) or grounding them from a desired activity. That’s okay. I can live with it. I’m not their friend right now. I’m their parent. If they don’t like me at least half the time, I know I’m doing something right.

Then, there’s this one. “I can’t possibly have been this oblivious to all the things my parents did for me.” I get ordered around without any acknowledgment of the time or effort I’ve given. If I don’t jump at their command, voices get testy. Ahem! Who brought whom into this world? Not long ago, one of mine commented to the other, “I wish I could stay home all day like Mama and not do anything.” Say what? I thought about this the next day after I had (1) gone grocery shopping after dropping them off at school, (2) come home and unloaded the groceries, (3) cleaned out the refrigerator, (4) washed the dishes, (5) cleaned up the kitchen, (6) swept the floor, (7) done about 3 loads of laundry, (8) changed the cat litter box, (9) run interference with our Cocker Spaniel who was barking like crazy at the guys doing yearly maintenance on our alarm system, and (10) still found time to write. And this was all before noon. Yeah, kiddo, I sit around and do nothing all day long. Wonder where all of your clean clothes come from, anyway?

Ah, the narcissism of adolescence! This too shall pass, and I shall one day laugh!

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3 Replies to “The Narcissism of Adolescence”

  1. You are right on target in all respects, especially the point that you are not trying to be their friend but instead their loving, guiding and protective parent. They WILL grow up to appreciate all that you and Cliff are doing for them.

  2. My prayers have been answered as my children are being paid back by becoming parents of Head strong children of their own. Remember when I used to tell y’all that I brought you into this world, and I could take you out ? That was mostly in jest, but I did think seriously about wounding all three of you a time or two, especially your brother !
    And y’all all turned out spectacularly, but there is a rough patch or to along the road to adulthood.

  3. Ha! I distinctly remember you telling us on several occasions that grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your kids during their teenage years.

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