Reluctantly Hiding Due to Generational Divides

I don’t know why there’s such a generational divide between parents and children. Why is it normal for teenagers to rebel against parents/authority, to be depressed and to feel misunderstood? Is there seriously some biological reason, or is it our society which promotes this?

In the moment, it seems crazy. Nothing made me angrier as a teenager than to have my ideas, passions and feelings shoved aside as ‘typical teen angst.’ Some of the activities I felt most passionate about were seen as ‘just a phase.’ Given the words of the poem below, it was probably written during some kind of fight with my parents.

Written on January 22, 2005, I was a freshman in high school when I wrote this poem.

Reluctantly Hidden

They will never understand,
The depths of my mind.
I can never let them see,
The part of me I hide deep inside.
They refuse to listen,
and the refuse to hear.
I try to show them a part of me.
They don’t see it.
To them, it’s not even there.
How can I leave behind,
Something that’s a part of my life?
How can I find a truth within myself,
If you refuse to understand?
How can you truly know,
if you refuse to lend a hand?
Open your eyes and open your ears.
Use them; Can’t you see, can’t you hear?
Do you see me shut my door?
Do you hear the music pounding through?
No, this isn’t just entertainment.
It’s not just a place.
This is who I am.
This is how I feel.
These are the words I need when I can’t stand you.
Still, you refuse to listen.
Still, you refuse to open your eyes.
And this is why the fire of hate,
Still it burns, it never dies.

Well, that took an angry turn, didn’t it?

I can follow my thought process throughout this poem. In a way, a lot of the ideas here are still within me today. The things that motivated my creativity as a child are nearly the same as today. The books and manga I read, the shows and anime I watch and the video games I play all mold together to inspire my ideas. Reading books was the only activity in that list that was praised by my parents. At one point or another, all those other activities were downgraded to a phase I would grow out of.

This inspirations moved my writing forward. They made me curious about other counties and cultures. Eventually, they would help me choose my college majors and set me on my career path. I would literally not be who I am today without their influence.

I don’t fault my parents for finding those activities childish. They and every other adult to this day seem to have that view. Yet, for me, their ideas about these interests caused me to doubt their support for my passions. I wasn’t sure if they would support my writing or my poetry. If inspired by something they thought was childish, will they think those my creations are childish, too? What about my ideas about how the world works, about society or about my future? Were those childish? Of course, I was only 14, so maybe everything was seen as childish because I was a child. Seems like a poor excuse to me. I needed someone to believe in me. I had a handful of teachers who were very excited about my interests. Clearly it was possible for an adult to acknowledge the value of my interests.

This photo, “Generation Gap” is copyright (c) 2014 xflickrx and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license
This photo, “Generation Gap” is copyright (c) 2014 xflickrx and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

This divide between my parents and my teenage self was likely as much my own fault as my parents, especially as high school continued. For better or worse, I felt the need to hide ideas and dreams from my parents, knowing they wouldn’t understand. That idea is in this poem as well. I don’t want to hide. I want to be just who I am and be accepted. Eventually, I gave up on that prospect, opting to hide anything I thought my parents might have any problem with.

Nothing drove the need to hide myself more than the period of time I spent avoiding communication with my father. I’ve mentioned how my father and I wet through a period where we could only talk to each other through my mother. It wasn’t that we were trying to be mean or didn’t like each other. For whatever reason, we just couldn’t speak without angering or offending the other. The solution, on my end, was to just avoid certain topics. This is something I  do to this day.

Sometimes, it’s terrifying. I don’t dare talk to my parents about religion, because I will just make them angry or disappointed. I don’t dare discuss the prospects of moving in with my boyfriend, because all I’ll get is anger and judgement. There are things I do talk about, but with great hesitation, like traveling the world or writing my book. I know they’ll be supportive of the ideas, but only if they don’t know the specifics.

Did you grow up feeling like your parents didn’t understand? Is this actually normal? Do you think teen angst is something biological, or is it something instigated by our society? Is it possible to create a new normal, where parents and teenagers get along? What do you think needs to happen for such a reality to exist?

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27 thoughts on “Reluctantly Hiding Due to Generational Divides”

  1. This is the way it is has been for centuries. Phones and Computers just make it easier and faster to NOT communicate. At 49 I am still understanding my Dad! Maturity is dependent on both the parents and children. It’s hard for a parent to let go. (I have a 21 year old out on her own this year). It is also trust, track record and consistency. I compare parenting to NATO or the Untied Nations at times. :).

    Experiment with some different approaches with your parents (not evil ones) just use a different style, reaction, etc. sometimes it’s their turn to grow up.

    1. That’s what always bugged me as a kid. I was actually a really good kid. I was never a partier, never rebelled. I never even yelled. There was just this disconnect. Like, I wants to talk about something, but felt like that something was unimportant. My opinions were ridiculous just because of my age. That’s what closed me up. I can’t help but wonder, if my opinions had been taken seriously, would I have had a more open relationship with my parents?

      Honestly, distance has been the best thing for my relationship with my parents. I don’t know what it is, but things have been improving like crazy since I’ve moved away.

  2. My mom was born in ’33. She had me when she was 42. To say that there was a generational gap is an understatement! That being said, I had a much higher tolerance for her than my older siblings. We only clashed briefly during high school and it was rare. I imagine that some of the conflict is biological. We become more physically and emotionally independent in our teens and expect more freedoms with that independence. But, we’re still held in check by our parents. I think new parents are much more communicative than those from a few generations ago. My fear is that some parents today are more concerned with being their child’s friend. I’m my son’s parent first. That’s the job I signed up for. Once I’ve done my job, I’ll be his friend.

    1. The only real rough spot I had was that short period where my dad and I just couldn’t figure out how to speak to each other without offending each other. I like tot think this next generation of parents are better, but being a friend first is not the way to go. In a way, being a good parent is like being a good teacher. You have to be an authority first and a friend second. It’s a hard balance to find.

  3. Actually, it is a normal developmental process for teens to individuate from their parents. I do believe that if parents understood this to a greater degree, teen-parent relationships would improve. However, learning to become your own self requires a separation from parents, so it is somewhat complicated. Great post! Very thought-provoking!

    1. It certainly is complicated. I often wonder if it’s related to the period of time not long ago where teenagers would be considered adults. Perhaps they are getting a biological message they are adults which fights against the message from society that they are not.

  4. To some extent the clashing is biological being that we are born to a certain extent with personalities that become more defined based on our environment (the old nature versus nurture debate). And some personalities are more stubborn and rebellious, and some personalities just don’t mesh well. Out of three children, I had one rebellious teen.

    1. I don’t think different personalities means we have to clash. It just means we have to be more accepting. Of course, a parent can be as accepting as possible and get no where if their child isn’t accepting. I do recall teenagers in my high school who seemed to be rebellious just because they could. I guess having kids is like rolling dice. You never know for sure what you’re going to get. (and I imagine that’s part of the thrill of parenting)

      1. No, we don’t HAVE to, but oftentimes it happens, even with siblings. Yes, you never know what you’re going to get. Siblings raised in same households can turn out drastically different. Some have better temperaments, some ambitious, etc. Some not.

  5. It’s normal in western culture – it’s not necessarily worldwide. I think a lot of it has to do with rapid pace industrial and technological change over the last two centuries. Cultures that were recently immune to it are now being affected, and though their responses are somewhat different, it is a growing issue in Indian, Chinese and other cultures that have until recently been more stable over all.

    Technology is changing fast. My son (who is a toddler) was baffled in a hotel we stayed at recently by a land-line phone. He has only ever seen our iPhones and couldn’t understand why we thought that “thing” was a phone.

    That is a small example of the fast-paced change that kids grow up with. As a parent, I sometimes take for granted that my son will understand the language and context that I am speaking – but the truth is he will never have more than a limited context of it because he won’t live it. This is causing a massive cultural divide in the generations.

    The past two hundred years has seen this process accelerate. We have no control over it and wouldn’t want to go back in time – but how do we negotiate the consequences of it?

    1. So, cultures that haven’t had a lot of technology in the past are experiencing more of a cultural divide now that technology is being introduced? Interesting. I can see that, though. Back in the day, parents could expect their children to live similar lives to them. At the pace we learn new things now, parents have a hard time keeping up. My dad could no longer help me in math by 8th grade, for example. So much has changed since he went to school that I learned about things he never knew.

  6. I think some of it is that we forget the hard parts of being young, and part of it is hoping the younger generation won’t do/will get through easier some of the stupid stuff we had to go through as part of growing up.

    For example, it took me well into my 20s and a failed marriage for me to “grow up”. For my dad, it was two marriages and almost 40. I’m hoping I can find the way to getting my sons (and daughter) to manage it somewhat younger, but still somehow let them grow at their own pace.

    1. It’s hard, especially with the old fashioned rules that still affect our society. For example, there’s a lot of studies out there involving marriage at an older age, but many youth still feel a lot of pressure to get married you. I sometimes wonder if maturity is really just ignoring what society says and going your own way.

  7. As a teen, I had a good relationship with my parents, so I know it is possible. My parents set limits, but they were open-minded, they listened to me, and they trusted and respected me. I, in turn, treated them the same way. I respected their experience and knew they were looking out for my best interests. My parents and I have always been close, and I get along well with my 13 and 15 year old kids. It is possible for teens and parents to get along. The key is for *both parties* to listen, to have respect and trust, and to be open-minded and non-judgmental. My family is living proof that it can be done.

    1. I like to think my parents were the same way, but I felt the constraints of religion. I’m not saying all religion is bad, but I did have a lot of questions. Since I was afraid to so much as voice the question to adults in my life, I usually turned to my friends. I like to think I turned out okay, but I doubt most parents would be comfortable knowing their child was taking in suggestions from their peers without also getting their thoughts on the subject.

      I can’t really fault my parents, though. They were pretty great overall. I just ended up being a little different than most kids.

      1. Religion can be a difficult subject to talk about. I think it’s good to ask questions and have open, honest discussions. Kids should be able to form their own opinions and beliefs. And you’re right, I wouldn’t be happy to find out my kids had asked questions of their peers and not me. I’ve always stressed to my kids that they can talk to me about anything without judgment, and I hope they will. Open communication is one of the best things a family can have.

  8. “The solution, on my end, was to just avoid certain topics. This is something I do to this day.

    Sometimes, it’s terrifying. I don’t dare talk to my parents about religion, because I will just make them angry or disappointed.”

    I have had some conflicts with my mother about religion. It is probably why I avoid the topic too when I can because it is hard not to offend someone when you believe that god and Santa Clause are the same thing and that neither exist.

    My mom didn’t teach me that Santa was real, but I know that many parents do and I think that is lying. Parents who believe in a god are not lying when they teach their kids that he is real, but I see them as deceived and think that they only believe it because others told it to them.

    1. I had a particularly religious friend in high school who was basically raised to hate the idea of Santa Clause. To be honest, I don’t really like the idea of Santa Clause. I think a part of me always knew he wasn’t real. I cried every time my parents tried to get me to sit on his lap in the mall.

      I like to think the best of people and I don’t think people can be so easily deceived. Instead, I think people are raised to accept things as they are and not question authority. Too many people don’t even bother to ask themselves if God exist because the very act of asking that question is often considered blasphemous.

      1. True, I was questioning the existence of god a long time ago, but I didn’t dare let anyone know that because I didn’t want to be ridiculed anymore than I already was.

        I believe that all authority can be questioned. Otherwise it would imply that we can never disagree with our parents in anyway. Many children are taught that they must obey their parents and other adults with authority no matter how evil they are. This doesn’t work well for children who have been abused by their parents or abused by others such as priests or school teachers. We really should question everything.

  9. You already know my story for the most part, my parents clearly didn’t understand me. I think it’s pretty normal. Out of all the parents I’ve met, only once have I met parents who understood their children and their children were violent drug addicts. They’re alright guys now though.

    I think teen angst is a product of your upbringing and society. If you live in a house of people who don’t understand you as a person, why wouldn’t you feel angry with them? Your whole life you’re told that you’re loved and yet when you share your thoughts, hopes and dreams they’re looked down upon. Or like in my case, no one listens to what you’re saying or cares they just like the idea that you’re there.

    Parent’s and teens getting along isn’t rocket science. It’s entirely possible, you just have to keep an open mind and listen. Most parents want their children to grow up with their ideals. Most children want to decide what their ideals are, not be told. That’s where the disconnect occurs.

    1. I think the open mind thing is key. Teenagers are bound to be ignorant, but they should still feel like their voice matters. You can respond and education without belittling. Too often I hear the mantra “well when I was your age…” I just wanted to scream that it’s not the 1970s anymore. As an adult, I look back and can see the similarities, but saying “I survived and so will you” doesn’t help anyone with their problems, How about some actual advice instead of pushing my problems aside? Is it really too much to ask to be taken seriously. I don’t think my parents ever really treated me like an adult until my grandfather passed away and they saw me step up.

    1. I can see that too. There’s a collision between parents, who are often set in their ways, and teenagers who are still experimenting with their way.

  10. Hmm I don’t know if it’s our culture or if it’s some natural part of being human. I don’t remember fighting about my thoughts/feelings/interests with my parents when I was a teenager… but mostly because I don’t think I ever told them about them. I do remember feeling that whole “no one gets me” sort of thing though.

    1. The question then is, why didn’t you tell them? What made you think that was a bad idea? Sometimes I read my old poetry and find the theme of “no one understands me” a little funny. How could I expect to be understood when I didn’t tell anyone anything about myself? That must be some odd teenage thing. God, I’m happy to be rid of that decade.

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