Last week was depressing. It seemed that religious hatred was everywhere. I am not a religious man but I respect people of faith immensely. The media has been full of it of late. I even found the need to defriend three “Friends” on Facebook for spewing religious hatred. It took the actions of my 17 year old son to remind me that there is much more to life than letting bigots bring us down.
It’s been tough with my son this year. Aden will hate me for saying this, but at seventeen he hit the terrible teens. It is not unique. Teenagers seek their own identity, they seek independence, they rebel, they experiment and most of all they challenge the boundaries as much as they can. Staying out late, drinking, sexual encounters and drugs are all part of their world. It is a world that our teenagers must navigate. Most do successfully, some do not.
As Erikson points out, the stage of adolescence is characterised by conflict. And boy has Aden had a year of conflict. He has been in conflict with everyone. He has been in Conflict with his family, especially me and his mother. Not a week went by when we did not argue about something. Nothing unique – tidiness, time management, priorities, attitude, twisting the truth, staying out late, not coming home, not doing homework, wagging school – You name it we argued about it!
He has been in conflict with his school. Not doing homework will do that. Not attending will do that. Not wearing uniform will do that. Missing tests will do that. Quite rightly the school had expectations that Aden in year 12 would focus. He did anything but. He fought with everyone right up to the principal. Of course they were all wrong and he was right. It’s like that when you are a teenager. You become the eternal victim.
He fought with friends, came home with a black eye one day. He fought with referees on the soccer field, getting booked regularly. He even had a run in with his soccer mates. If there was someone or something to be challenged then Aden would be up for it. But most of all Aden fought with himself.
You see all teenagers have a conscience. They rebel against this conscience. On the left shoulder there is the good guy reminding you of what’s proper. On the right is the bad guy reminding you as to what is fun, rebellious and independent. All of us have a conscience but as adolescence nears adulthood the guy on the right seems to hold enormous power. Parties and vices are the thing and they become the priority over everything else. It has happened to many teenagers, and it happened to Aden.
Aden became difficult to live with. His attitude sucked. He was unpleasant, moody and even a bit aggressive. His school work suffered. He fell behind. He knew what he needed to do but that little guy on the right held enormous sway. In short he got himself in a mess. Come exam time, which is now, it was always going to be an uphill battle.
His mother and I despaired. We tried everything. We cajoled him. We tried motivating him. We tried reverse psychology. We tried getting angry. We had screaming matches. We tried grounding him. We tried to work with the school to get him motivated. We failed miserably. It was tough all round. Of course all over Australia thousands upon thousands of parents are going through the same experience and probably worse. Knowing this did not make it any easier.
And then the tide turned. The little guy on the left began to beat down the little guy on the right. As exams dawned Aden began to realise just how much behind the eight ball he had placed himself with his lack of commitment. Having rebelled all year against sound advice, his mother is a teacher for god sake, he suddenly realised just why we had worked so hard to try and keep him on track.
He did something that surprised us. He did something that reminded us just why we became parents. He did something to remind us just what a wonderful young man he has become and always was. He did something that made us more proud of him than anything he had ever done. More proud than any goal scored at soccer or award won at school. It was the simple action of an apology that told us he had become a man.
He didn’t just apologise to us, he apologised in public. He didn’t just apologise to us but he apologised to his friends and his school. Some may say that he should have done it face to face but sometimes in the heat of the moment words fail us and come out the wrong way. He chose to carefully craft his apology in writing and post this in the very public forum of Facebook – And this is what he said –
“I would like to formally apologise for anyone that has had to put up with my shit this year. Having an awkward conversation, me ignoring you, abusing you or mistreating you. Year 12 is the devil and i didn’t treat it with enough respect. I have been able to for the last 5 years to coast through with no real problem. This year my attitude to school and the people around me (notably my family) has been appalling. I would like to assure you i am alright and trying to fix my own shit I love you all.”
Just gonna leave this here cause I feel like people don’t understand the kind of headspace I am in at the moment. As people from Yarra Hills know this year from an educational point of view has been a write off. I have put in less then the bare minimum amount of effort, in what should really be the most important year of my schooling. I have been distracted, sport, social, fitness, my ego (which isn’t as big as people think) and trying to find who I want to be have all been more important to me than study and due to this I am currently in a very shit place. Because of this I believe I have mistreated the people around me and the people who I trust the most, my family, have been constantly pushed aside because I had too much pride to take their advice. Now I try to hide my worries as much as possible as I have never been good at taking advice. However, this I can take an exception to because I am not a huge fan of the reputation I have obtained.
All in all I want to apologise properly and let you know the situation clearly. I don’t want people thinking I honestly don’t care about school cause I do.
Soz for being a douchebag! “
It seems such a small thing but with this that wee baby I held 17 years ago became a man. Your mum and I love you very much Aden. Although you hate advice, just remember the wise words of Richard who left a comment on your status –
“Aden, I wish I had your self-awareness, courage, and humility when I was your age. You may feel that time is slipping away from you, but just work your socks off in the time you have remaining and do the best you can. The rest will take care of itself and you are doing very well in ways you might not yet realise. Be gentle to yourself”
And to all of you I say, as Richard said to Aden – be gentle to yourself.