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October 23, 2015

Parenting is Not for Extra Credit

camp“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.”

(Mark Twain)

This is a rather famous quote, one that’s been used countless times by parents languishing in the aggravation of the teen years. The fact that it’s attributed to one of our most esteemed writers gives a measure of validity to the saying itself. The fact that it was purportedly spoken over 1½ centuries ago gives a measure of validity to the feeling–the feeling that our teenagers have no respect for us. The feeling that no matter how hard we try, we cannot seem to inject our wisdom into our teenagers’ brains. The feeling that we’re not just losing our influence on our teens, but we’re losing our teens themselves.

But regardless whether Twain ever said it, I think we should be careful about how we employ this quote. If we as parents take heart that we are not alone, we are not the first weary travelers on this maddening journey of launching our teens into adulthood, then that’s wonderful. Use anything and everything to help yourself stay sane, patient, and calm.

But, if we as parents are tempted to use this quote to heighten our hopes that one day, someday, our teenagers will come to their senses and ACKNOWLEDGE, THANK, and APPLAUD us for all of our sacrifices and wisdom, then please, let’s not. Great parents do not survive the teen years awaiting their kids’ validation. It is never our kids’ job to validate us as parents. It is our kids’ job to use whatever wisdom and guidance they can get to launch out into a productive life of their own. And it is our job to help them do just that. Even if we never get any credit.

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