My Teenager Can’t Enjoy Being A Teenager!: "
by Kenneth Braswell
On Saturday night while I was doing a little work; as I usually do, I was watching the clock and waiting for 12:30 to go and pick my daughter up from a party. She’s 16. It’s the age where she’s not quite an adult, but as parents we have to begin loosening up a bit, because in short order she’ll be 18. The celebratory age for us as parents; because she should be well on her way out to college. This joyous occasion will make those years between 16-18 years of age worth the headaches from her attitude, the stress from her wanting to be more independent and the worrying from being out on a Friday and Saturday night. It is the time in her life where we expect and want her to be young and experience the growing pains of youth. In fact, enjoy a time that she will look back on the rest of her life.
Well on this night she and her best friend ventured out to a teen Halloween party. Harmless enough right? Uneventful at least until our phone rang at about 11:30 to hear our daughter asking me to come and get her because a fight broke out at the party and someone was stabbed. Upon arriving at the scene, I was greeted by scores of police cars, ambulances and many concerned parents.
While I was relieved to get my daughter and her friend safely into the car, I was quite disturbed by several parents who arrived wanting to find teenagers to fight themselves. I shutter to thing that this may be the normal weekend course of parents across the country. My “Old School” won’t allow me to understand the behavior of these grown a$ parents. For a few moments I sat in the car watching this craziness take place. I struggled with coming to grips with the reality that I was not in Brooklyn or Albany (circa 1970). It began abundantly clear that this might just be a different era.
As I glared into the sea of flashing lights, parents screaming and chaotic movement, I couldn’t help but notice one evident visual. Out of the over 50 parents I saw that evening, there was only a handful of men. I couldn’t help but wonder where in the Hell were the fathers of these children? I just couldn’t imagine me sitting up in my house watching TV, while Tracy was out getting our daughter from this kind of situation. Painfully, I knew the answer to that question, but I struggled to accept it. I also couldn’t help but think that maybe if there was a caring father in the lives of these kids they wouldn’t be out on the weekend wilding out.
Our inconceivable reality is that, at parties; in our neighborhoods; at school; and on the corners of our communities; these kids are shooting and stabbing each other for absolutely nothing. And while I want to acknowledge that this kind of behavior happens in rural and urban schools; it is highly more likely to happen when our teenagers are black and brown.
As my daughter and I were driving home, we talked about the events of the night. To my surprised my daughter says to me; “I guess I won’t be going to anymore parties.” I didn’t quickly respond because, while many would agree with her assessment and I too would agree; I couldn’t help but be saddened by hearing her say that. I even believe it hurt me more hearing it, than her saying it. Here’s why? As a teenager I can’t surmise a situation when I was growing up, when I would have uttered those words. I can look back at my years between 16-18 years old and remember all of the great times I had being a teenager. Because of this violent teen culture, our teenagers today might not be able to do that.
On Sunday I purchased the paper to see if they had reported anything about the fight. Even though I did not see anything about that one, there were several other parties where kids were stabbed or shot that evening. Are we supposed to keep our teens locked up or roll very dangerous dice each time we allow our children to enjoy their youth? If she was a difficult child, it would be very easy to ground her for 2 years, but she’s not. She’s a good kid who deserves to be out with her friends, have a good time, and not have to worry about guns blazing.
Our society is rapidly spiraling out of control and unfortunately our children are suffering directly from the broken state of our families. This parenting, single mother, responsible fatherhood and healthy relationship work is a critical work. It is needed at a time when mothers and fathers are finding difficulty in negotiating common ground. It is needed at a time when our youth are looking for direction, discipline, hope and example. Unfortunately it’s at a time when the parental needs for services are greater than our organizational resources or the political desire. [editor's emphasis]
It is a concerning matter for me, because I got two more children to go. I’m certain it is a concerning matter for parents who desire that their teenagers have fun, yet are serious about life. The problem with bullets is they rarely have names of them. The problem with knives is, even when you pull it out, the damage is already done. The problem with youth (sometimes) is it is wasted on the young.
For me and Tracy, we are going to keep trying to keep our children safe from all hurt, harm and danger without keeping her on permanent lockdown. While we may want her to enjoy her teenhood, unfortunately it will be much more difficult to say “yes” and a much greater necessity to say “no.”