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Mon, Apr 04, 2011
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Preparing for teenage angst
by Clara Chow

IT IS never too early to start preparing for teenage angst. Not mine, of course, but that of my five-year-old son.

Given that I was an ultra-rebellious adolescent, who caused my parents no end of grief, I'm psyching myself up for payback time with my own two kids.

Already, my said elder son Julian goes into periodic funks. He comes home from school, becomes incommunicado and languishes about in melancholy.

What next? An insistence on an all-black kiddie wardrobe, emo hair, goth eyeliner, and blasting cartoon music loudly all day?

Already, we've had to remind him not to pepper his conversation with the word "like" - um, like an American teenager. After he mumbled "whatever", with a shrug, when he felt that long-winded Mum was splitting hairs, I warned him sternly to save that word - and attitude - for his friends.

So, forgive me if I'm starting to think about dealing with the problems that come with raising a 15-year-old, because it seems there's one in my house right now.

Besides, if and when a teen or pre-teen crisis arises, I want to make sure that my husband and I are on the same page about how to react.

The other day, I asked the Supportive Spouse what he would do if either of our sons wanted to pierce his ears.

"No," came his immediate answer.

"Why not?" I whined, feeling like I was the aggrieved teenager whose request had just been denied.

"Oh, okay," he conceded. "Only if they can prove to me that their overall lifestyles supported it."

I chortled. It seems the SS, for all his virtues as a hands-on, new-age dad, can be hopelessly pedantic sometimes.

"What does that even mean?" I asked him.

"It means that if they're like cool hipsters in the creative industry, and an earring or piercings are in line with their image or lifestyle, then they can have it," came the reply.

I bit my tongue, and refrained from mentioning that if our sons' "overall lifestyles supported" piercings, they probably wouldn't bother or need to ask us for permission.

"What if one of the boys wants to have a sex-change operation?" I ventured again.

We exchanged looks, and agreed that there are certain things that cannot be handled in trivial, absolute terms. And sexual identity is something that each child has to deal with, without draconian parental interference, but with lots of loving support.

And there's the rub: I suspect that I'm going to be the anything-goes Mum when my sons make the transition to adulthood, because I feel that it's hypocritical to forbid my kids from doing things I experimented with myself.

At the same time, as my friend M reminded me, for a teenager to say, "But you did that, too!" is not a good-enough argument.

A good thing, then, that the SS and I seem to have opposing ideologies when it comes to dealing with teenage angst.

I say: Leave them to make their own mistakes, it's a rite of passage. He says: No.

There's a third possibility. I think the SS might eventually have three teenagers on his hands: Julian, his younger brother, Lucien (now 16 months), and me.

Late at night, when our man of the house is trying to get to sleep, Julian and I sometimes lie in bed in the dark and giggle.

"Who's your best friend?" I am prone to asking, touching Julian on the nose.

"You," he replies, tapping me back on my nose.

"Which do you like better: Big boogers or small boogers?" I may pose hypothetically.

"Big boogers!" Julian replies enthusiastically.

We both crack up, giggling until the tears stream down our faces.

"Shhhhhhhhh," his Papa goes, reminding us sternly to go to sleep.

Making Julian's face out in the gloom, I roll my eyes playfully at him, as if to say: Whatever.

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readers' comments
Its not about hypocritical. As an older person and walked through the path of rebel before, of course we want to give the best advice to them. Its the intention. The price for them to walk through a mistake (without guidance), maybe too huge.
Posted by mystrawberry on Mon, 4 Apr 2011 at 17:08 PM

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