I thought this article on raising teenagers was fascinating, even as a person with no real plans to procreate. It posits that every family has a narrative, one that’s driven by the parents: we had you, we’re raising you. When kids become teenagers and demand more autonomy, they’re also changing the perspective of the narrative, fragmenting it, giving it multiple protagonists. The family story is no longer a neat fairy tale, but a deconstructed contemporary novel. Chaos ensues.
You can guess why this interests me, literary nerd that I am. Even as a childless person, I totally buy into the idea of the family narrative – there’s a story Mike and I have told ourselves for the last nine years, one that became even more coherent with the formalization of our relationship via getting hitched. But I also see why it’s hard for families when the narrative seems to change, or when our roles go beyond the scope of the story. What’s more frustrating than when your partner tells you that you always do something, and you don’t agree? (I’m not unmotivated, Mike, I’m CONTENT.) It feels like your story is being taken out of your control.
Which is an interesting way to look at the process of adolescence, and may soothe some parents who are dealing with irritating, irritated teenagers. But it’s also interesting in the context of things we can’t control in our lives – illness, economic misfortune, racism, etc.
There’s a lot more stuff there, about parenting as a physical act of authority, and the acceptance of an ambiguous narrative rather than a black or white one, and some things about gender roles and teenagers’ respect for their fathers vs their mothers. The author packs a lot in.
The story is also, BTW, beautifully written.