gratitude-a-thon day 576: parenting a teenager, and you thought labor was hard

Labor and delivery are hard, but they’re really nothing compared to the labor of parenting a teenager.

The job description for this gig includes being able to tolerate attitude, BIG, BIG attitude, loud noise, persistent nagging, near constant sounds from a television or computer, i-pad, or i-phone, eye rolling, trails of dirty clothes, plates, shoes, and friends. You will be treated like an Uber driver, but not nearly as nicely. You will be told you don’t do the laundry enough, don’t ever grocery shop, never make anything good for dinner. They will shame you for your texting mistakes, your driving, your blog.

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But you will also bear witness to a flower blooming in your midst. Like time lapse photography, you will see your child navigate the nearly impossible terrain of teenage-ness (and can I tell you, they have added more mazes, more mountains, more deep Grand Canyon like valleys than we had when we were the same age). Your guidance, which seems to be consistently ignored, rears its head frequently when said teen is faced with a challenge, and actually makes a good decision. But of course, no teen life would be worth it’s mettle without The Mistakes. Those are the moments, when your child is faced with that path that diverges in the wood, and doesn’t take either one, but heads, instead, to the little discussed path in the middle, called DISASTER. You can only watch, and love them during these various moments of WHAT-WERE-YOU-THINKINGNESS. Because, although we want to desperately share our epic mistakes with our offspring, in hopes that they might benefit from our own faulty thinking, we cannot. As it turns out, everybody is on their own, here. Every generation must make their own stupid mistakes, just like the generations before them. This is one of the hardest things to understand as a teen parent, that you cannot help your kids avoid pitfalls. They have to fall into the pits all by themselves. That’s the way we learn. What a system.

And learn, we do. This is the money shot of teenage parenting, to see your child make a poor decision, but learn the lesson that it reveals. While we may not be able to influence our teenagers by sharing our experience, what we can do is make sure the lessons are illuminated like the Vegas strip, that our teenagers eyes are open wide, that they are not sleeping on the job. What we can do is tell them that mistakes do not define us, our reactions to them do. What we can do is make sure that their earbuds aren’t in, and they can hear us loud and clear when we say, “It’s ok to make a mistake. It’s how we learn.”

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As a parent of a 13-19 year old, you will suffer. A lot, in fact. Because your child is filled with the hormones that bring on adulthood. And adulthood is hard. We as adults all know that. But you will also glory in the magnificent evolution of a person, your person, your child, as they learn the lessons that teach them who they really are. I wouldn’t give up this experience for the content of Barney’s, dinner with Clooney, or world peace (well, maybe world peace). I love my teenagers. Mistakes and all.

gratitude-a-thon day 100: Jason Collins Comes Out

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SCORE: Jason Collins. Standing ovation. Let’s do the wave (oh, sorry, that’s baseball). You’re my new favorite basketball player.  It’s impressive that this NBA player just publicly announced that he’s gay, but even more impressive is this seven footer’s courage. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few days, Jason is the first openly gay athlete playing on a major American sports team. This is the kind of move that creates change.

I’m not gay, but I support the gay community because as I’ve said many times before, gay people are just like straight people. We all share the same sort of big dreams and hopes, fears and insecurities. When you get right down to it, we’re all just people. JUST. PEOPLE. Trying to have a good life, find love, give back, do our best. I don’t want to kiss a girl, but I don’t care if you do. I’m all for it. And I’m all for equal rights, HUMAN RIGHTS. ‘

An announcement like this helps the lesbian gay, bisexual, and transgender community of teenagers in a big way. And this is a population that needs support. We all know how complicated adolescence is, what with the hormones, acne, emerging personalities, romantic relations, friends, school, social media and mandatory rebellion,  but add a questioning of sexuality, or knowledge that you’re different sexually than all your friends, and you’ve got yourself the kind of isolating experience that causes deep pain and shame. Now these kids have one more person who’s let them know that it’s ok to be exactly who they are. Hey, I think I’m a little in love with Jason!

How has this announcement been received in the macho world that is professional basketball?  All sort of NBA players have been extremely supportive to Jason. And even President Obama called him to say he had his back.

In the Sports Illustrated article, in which Jason makes his announcement, he says,

“I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”

And looky here, our city’s marathon tragedy actually helped him make his decision to come out, as he talks about in this excerpt:

“The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We’ll be marching on June 8.”

So, Jason Collins–you have my 100th day of gratitude. I imagine you feel about a bajillion pounds lighter. You’re a good ball player, but you’re a great man.