Saturday, April 10, 2010
The lovely and talented Brigid Kemmerer sent me a link yesterday to this article on "The Parent Problem in Young Adult Lit."
I'm not really sure what point the author is making. Yes, parents in a lot of YA novels are depicted as bumbling at best and completely absent at worst, but that's how teens view their parents. My 13-year-old might think I'm funny and a little cool, but he also doesn't acknowledge me in public anymore. Teens straddle the line between still being reliant on someone and wanting to be independent, not needing anyone. So parents are peripheral as much by the children's choices as by their own. I don't think it's indicative of society; it's indicative of child and family development. My confusion with the author's point is that she, by the end of the article, is saying, "and thus it ever was." This isn't anything new--the idea of absentee parents.
And having read "Once Was Lost," I can say that the father wasn't bumbling. He was trying to be a good father while also a good husband and a good preacher. So he bought the wrong groceries... it didn't make him clueless. It made him typical. Does your father/husband know what to buy at the grocery store? If he does, he's as rare as the mother/wife who can change her own oil. I'm not talking about stereotypes; I'm talking about percentages. And I'm saying that not knowing what to do when the other half of your couple-self isn't there to do his/her part anymore doesn't mean you're inept.
I also think young adults need to be able to feel now and then like they're coming to the rescue of their parents. How else can they handle their own continued need to be rescued while still needing to feel like they're growing up and capable? My 13-year-old may still need me to drive him to school when the windchill is 10 below zero, but he also needs to teach his idiot mom how to text. Does he think I'm a moron? Probably, at times. And I'm okay with that if it means he thinks he needs to pick up the slack now and then and take out the garbage.
I had to chaperon a junior-high party last night. And I was one of 20 or so parents there that the kids ignored the entire time. Another mother said, "I feel like we're sticking out like sore thumbs." I said, "Really? I don't think they see us at all." Because, really, how embarrassing is it to acknowledge those old people that raised you or raised your best friend and who even feed you the occasional meal when you're at their house? But without us there, the party wouldn't have happened. They know that, but they'll be darned if they'll admit it.
This article's author says midway through her piece, "Afflicted by anomie, sitting down to another dismal meal or rushing out the door to a meeting, the hapless parents of Y.A. fiction are slightly ridiculous." Uh, that's us. That's virtually every parent of a young adult out there. We ARE the bumbling parents on the sideline because that's what we have to be to them, not because that's what we are.