Monday, June 5, 2017

The Diary of Zita Cecilia McNamara: Parents, Take Time To Listen To Your Teens!

Editor's Note: Click HERE to read Dr. C's previous post on the origin of Zita's diary. This entry begins with 13-year-old Zita writing to her guardian angel, "Bishop."

Dear Bishop (Age 17, Day 17) Today has been a rewarding day. Had Human Relations Panel. It was a success. I received a lot of applause. Help me to remain humble.

Dear Bishop (Age 17, Day 18) I am reflecting on a guy I met and liked before Tom. Don’t know why, but I am. He told me about his Dad. He hasn’t had the best childhood. I felt very sorry for him. He told me how his Dad beat him with a belt buckle when he was 12 because he ate watermelon and left the rind out. His parents were divorced. They always compared his kid sis to him. Now, I knew that was something a parent should never do. But I, also, recognized that parents do made mistakes. I hoped he wouldn’t be bitter. I liked him and hoped he would like me. It was something about him, maybe it was his quietness and neatness and his vulnerability and he shared that with me. Well, as you know I got over him and met Tom and came to love him very much.

Now, why did I reflect on that guy? As I think of it, I do know why. It was at that time that I had no boyfriend. It seemed others did, but not me. I wanted a boyfriend; I wanted to go out. And at that time, it seemed that would never happen. 

I shared my dismay about my lack of a “love life” with Mummy. She said, “In time, yes, you will have the boyfriend.” However, I thought, “When will that time come?” Well, as I write, now, that time has come. As always, Mummy was right. I have a wonderful guy, Tom. I am blessed.

Dear Bishop (Age 17, Day 19) Yes, you know how I prayed for a long time for a boyfriend. Well, the Lord, finally, did grant my wish. And this very wonderful guy, Tom, asked me to go to the prom. Me! On Sweetest Day he gave me a lovely card and a 1lb. box of candy and tonight he asked me what I wanted for Christmas! On Thanksgiving he is taking me to the Lions football game! So grand!

Reflections: I do hope that parents or those serving as parents can appreciate the mind of a teen, especially that of a teenage girl. No matter how much she may be into her studies (I sure was), she, still, wants and recognizes she needs another side of her life fulfilled. No, I am not talking about a long-term fulfillment (even though she may think it will be; read previous entries). Still, she needs support and encouragement and empathy. 

I am so very glad my mother did not “flip off” my concerns about my love life. And, of course, in the scheme of life, for a parent, such concerns my seem so very mundane and unimportant compared to the challenges that parents experience—how to keep food on the table, paying of the mortgage, keeping up with car payments, concerns about their parents who are getting older and needing more attention, etc. Yes, I can go on and on. However, even for the most unselfish teen, his or her world is HIS or HER world. And a mom and dad must recognize this and give the children their time, time really to LISTEN and empathize and be willing to give advice when it is so obvious the young person needs it. 

Unfortunately, the challenges of adult life can obscure parents ability to recognize that teens really need their help navigating through those teen years, with more than college advice. And if teens cannot talk with their parents, they will find someone else. Sometimes, that someone is a fellow teen, which, sometimes, is the true metaphor of the “blind leading the blind.” 

I know I did not always do well, but I tried, and so did my husband to give our children the time to talk and share and listen. And as I re-read these diary entries, I came to realize just how much my mother, who was with me more than Daddy since he worked two jobs, made such a positive impact on my life. I am sure if I had not had her to share my insecurities about guys and so much more, I would not have had the guidance to become the independent, self-assured person I became. So, I have tried to emulate her in my role as a mom.

To this day, I, still, wonder how that guy whose dad was not very kind is doing. I do hope he overcame that pain and learned from him and has treated his sons and daughters so much better. 

After all, the hope is that with every generation, we get better as parents, as human beings.

Also, I note my working on Human Relations panels. While a teen I participated in different human relations groups. This was when the Civil Rights movement was strong. And I was fortunate that I attended a school that encouraged its student body to be a part of standing up for the rights of all. There was a naïve hope that the efforts of my classmates and others in area schools would stop ignorance about race. 

Well, today, it is obvious that more work is needed at eradicating ignorance. The future youth need to have the encouragement of their parents and schools to work as a positive unit to address racism, sexism, and all “isms.” And this type of social commitment must be a part of every youth. Not just personal love lives, but the love of one another must be instilled and encouraged by parents. And this can only happen by parents stopping and listening and sharing about a wide range of subjects. For once youth recognize that parents care about what they are experiencing and what they are trying to cope with, they will share the very important things. And, then, as parents, that impact will be stronger. That is what I learned as a daughter and as a parent. And I thank God for that! 

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