Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Angst of a teen...

I was walking home one day from the grocery store when I was surrounded by a bunch of bullies in the 'hood. They started calling me names typically reserved for South Indians like anna, Madrasi, idli sambar, annadurai etc. then things got rough. one of them pee'd on my slippers (flip- flops) and feet. Being timid, tiny, weak and scrawny I had no courage to fight back. Luckily, the groceries in my possession was spared, else it would be spanking at home too. I walked home crying after the ordeal was over, really angry and wanting to go home grab my belt come back and beat up the bullies. I never did... did not have the balls to go out there and fight for my pride. This was 40 some years ago.

Today, my teenaged son is going through the same pain... of being bullied. However, he has the courage to come home and talk to me and his mom and we try to find some resolution together. Back when I was in that stage, I felt talking to my parents was pointless as nothing really came out of it. My boy is not like me, he is has a good head on his shoulders, can reason out most things, but face it , he is 13, it is going to get to him sometime or the other, a kid can take only so much. The bullies haven't changed; they attack his ethnicity and try to get under his skin. He remains calm and composed as verbal or physical altercations in school can lead to detention and other penalties. My advice to him is simple, stay strong, ignore and they will go away and eventually stop bullying. They lack confidence, feel inferior and are compensating by directing their frustrations on someone who is successful.

It is up to us the parents to reassure kids and make them look at the good and ignore the bad. It is really important for parents to be really involved in their kids’ lives, no matter how much they dislike it. Engage them in conversations, get to know what is going on in school, in their lives is really important. Ask questions and answer questions, no matter what the topic is. Especially sex. Trust me, if you have a teen with raging hormones, it is normal at that age. They have questions that need to be answered. It is better you be proactive and educate them or they will learn it from the streets which is wrong. Don't be embarrassed to discuss openly about sex, drugs, alcohol or anything that you can think of what you had on your mind, when you were a teen.

While in middle school and high school, I had this humongous crush on my classmate who was also lived in my neighborhood. Needless to say, I ate, dreamed, and slept with thoughts of her on my mind. But I was scared and apprehensive to approach her or any other girl for that matter. To make matters worse, growing up in a lower middle class family was no fun. My clothes were either too big or too small. Tending to our 2 cows was one of my primary jobs after school. Also making cow dung cakes for fuel. Many a times, she would be in the vicinity while I was performing these chores. That was so uncool. But I had no choice, had to do it. Looking back, I chuckle and shake my head. I love animals and outdoors. I thank my parents for that.

Guess what, my older boy has developed a liking towards this schoolmate and he has openly expressed it to us. I tried to explain that, it is normal and natural to feel that way at this age or any age. I also said that the other person may not feel the same way so be prepared for any kind of setback, he thought about it for a while and was cool with it. We are so proud that our kids can openly talk to us about their feelings and ask for our opinion. But being a 13 year old is not easy; school, peers, media, society in general has expectations of how one carries oneself.  If you are different, they pick on you. It is a cruel world of bullies, nerds, geeks, jocks… where does one fit in? Thankfully, we have level headed kids who can differentiate between good and bad although they constantly try to test us on how much rope they can get…what they can watch on TV, what video games they can play and who they can hang out with. Most of the time they comply with our gentle suggestions, but I can sense the resistance as to "If my friends can do it, why can't I?" to which my answer has always been we have a different set of rules in this house which we all follow and is applicable to all, starting with me.

Dear reader, if you have a teen at home you have to be a parent and a friend to him/her. Sometimes, you have to walk the fine line but do it and they will thank you for it in later years.

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