Parents normally complain that it is most difficult to deal with teenagers: that they are stubborn, defy their parents, live in their own world and dress in the most outlandish manner not to speak of having their own peculiar language. But once you know some simple truths about teens in general, it becomes very easy to understand them.
Note: The post has been written about boys for obvious reasons, but it applies equally to girls.
Here is a brief guide:
Words have different meanings in their and our dictionaries. For instance, take the word ‘where’. When we use it we mean to ask about the destination or place, as in ‘Where are you going?’ or ‘Where were you till now?’ In the dictionary of the teens, the word becomes silent. Since it doesn’t exist, they don’t hear it – at all.
The key word is ‘hear’. They don’t hear it only when we say it. For their part, they liberally use it; in fact it is the inevitable preface to all their sentences, as in ‘where is my shirt/comb/pen?’ They usually don’t speak anything other than ask for where something or the other is, so it is a key word in their vocabulary.
The word weird likewise means two different things. When they dye their hair purple or wear a huge peace sign round their necks, they are just being ‘cool’. The older brat came home once from college, the hair at the back of his head cut in a neat olodum! But when you wear a kurta with jeans, you are ‘weird.’ You might as well be wearing a grass skirt and tank top.
A vital aspect of the teen years is communication — or the lack of it. Simply put, they don’t want to communicate. I swear we had taught both the brats how to talk and answer questions when they were young! But I don’t know what went wrong and why they stopped talking, rather ‘didn’t want to talk about it’.
Ask them about their studies and they reply, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ Tell them that their room is a mess and they loftily say, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ If you want to know why their grades are slipping, they impatiently utter, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ So what DO they want to talk about? Well, nothing at least to their old folks.
And when they do deign to talk, it is an unintelligible mumble. My first born has this wonderful speech he uses when addressed by one of his parents, in which you can’t decipher a single syllable, leave alone a word. He’d have answered you and so you can’t blame him for ignoring you. The best part is that he walks AWAY from you when he replies and God save you if you ask him to repeat what he just mumbled. You’d get an earful about how you NEVER listen to what he says. When you pin him down for having done something without your permission or knowledge, he would simply stick to his, ‘I did tell you, but you NEVER listen to what I say, anyway.’
They are expert at giving you all sorts of complexes. For instance, you hear him talk on the phone in a whisper, so low that you can’t catch a single word even if you are just a foot away. I bet I couldn’t have heard him had I been at the other end. Now you begin wondering— about your own hearing — may be you need a hearing-aid?
If this is the older one, the younger one has his own ways of (non)communication. You ask him about his school/studies/friends/anything else, and you would get a stock reply: ‘I am not in the mood to talk now.’
If you persisted, you would get a pained expression and a martyred look: ‘Ok, what do you want to know?’
You would desist from asking him anything after that performance unless your skin was as thick as rhino hide. The only problem is that you never manage to get him in a good mood to talk. But to be fair, he sometimes, would take pity on one of us and ask very sweetly, ‘So what was it that you were asking?’, a long time after the original question had been asked, knowing fully well that we would have forgotten all about it!
These ruses by the brats sometimes caused fights between the L&M and me because we each thought that they behaved differently with the other. Till one day, as the older one walked AWAY answering me, the L&M turned incredulously to me and said, ‘He does that with you too?’ And another day, as the younger one gave his father his martyred look, I blurted out, ‘I thought he talked to you!‘ I am sure the brats were giving us looks of pity behind our backs.
Just as you begin to wonder if you’ve given birth to deaf and mute boys, and the talking baby/kid had been a figment of your imagination, a horde of his friends descend upon you and he simply can’t stop talking. As I said before, if you are not careful, this can give you a massive inferiority complex!
Meal times can be confounding. He doesn’t want to eat anything as he is ‘fit to burst’ or is ‘not hungry’. ‘I’ll drink some juice if I feel hungry,’ he tells you.
But that is before you tell him that you are planning to order out a pizza. Viola! his appetite returns like a boomerang. ‘Make it a large, ma,’ he instructs you briskly, running to pick up the menu and make his selection. You can’t question him unless you want to hear his reply “I don’t want to talk about it.”
In teen parlance, night = day. Their day begins when ours ends. This has earned the older one the nickname of ‘Nishacharan’ (one who walks at night aka a demon :)) from me. Sometimes he falls asleep in the bolt upright position. He’d have a book open on his lap, the walkman/ipod plugged in his ears, with the TV blaring away and he’d be blissfully travelling the land of the nod. If you woke him up, he’d say that he was concentrating on his studies and merely ‘looked’ to be asleep, all without batting an eyelid. Of course this is but another instance of your misunderstanding the teen.
The ear for music is likewise different for the teens and us:
When they sit with the music system blaring at a mere 1000 watts ostensibly concentrating on a complex math problem, it is actually ‘helping them to study.’ But when you turn up the volume a tad because you are in the kitchen and can’t hear the song playing in the living room, you are disturbing the entire household and making it ‘impossible to study.’
It is to be ‘with it’ to listen to classical singers sing Indipop songs. They are ‘rad’, but if they sing genuine classical music (for which they have trained for years), they are ‘oh-so-boring.’ ‘Why are they wailing so, ma?’ they’d scream from their rooms.
Let me warn you though. Before you know it, he has left home. Then you suddenly begin getting calls at all odd hours. You are concerned. : ‘Oh, nothing ma, called just like that,’ he would say. In the next ten minutes you would get to hear of the squirrel that had entered the chemistry lab and the havoc it had wreaked, or simply about how he drank the most divine milkshake in one of the ice cream parlours near his college. Inane things, mundane happenings — things and events that would not merit a long distance call. At least not from someone who till recently ‘didn’t want to talk about it’.
It then hits you — he is not the mature adult he has been trying to project himself as, but the child who is missing familiar things and his folks and just wants to hear a familiar voice, so what if it is that of his old cybermom.
Note that the communication part is still missing. You scarcely have a serious conversation even now, but at least he called, didn’t he? Well so be glad you have a son(s)/daughter(s) who have their hearing and speech intact and their heart in its right place, too!