Thursday, October 04, 2012

My Teen Son Says: "My Life Sucks"

From a conversation the other day with me and my husband.

15 year old son: "My life sucks."

Me: "What do you mean by that?"

Son: "All I do is sleep, wake up, eat, go to class, come home, eat, do homeschool lessons, go to practice, come home, eat, do homework, and go to sleep. I do the same thing every day. This sucks."

Me: "Sounds like the typical life of a teenager, and the kids on your team, as a matter of fact. Everyone sleeps, wakes up to go to school, does homework, goes to practice, does homework, then goes to sleep."

Son: "Well that sucks! It's not right! I want to travel! We don't go anywhere!"

Me: "Yesterday we drove home from Oklahoma City. We were there for three days for your regatta. We were away three days of the last seven! You were with your friends. You walked around Bricktown by yourselves and had fun together. We do go places."

Son: "Yeah but I want to travel about half of my time, I want to be home half the time and travel and have fun the other half of the time. This is no life where all you do is focused on schoolwork."

Husband: "The life you are living is the life of teens! Maybe when you are 22 and out of college, you can have a job where you travel a lot, but first you need to finish high school and then go to college to do that career. If you are lucky you can find a job that will fulfill you goal of traveling so much."

(My sons live a priviledged life compared to how I was raised. They have no clue how much rougher my own life was. They have even less of a clue how rough many American kids today have it. I have torn emotions about the crazy position I am in, of having worked so hard to provide my kids with a great life and having them take it for granted and to complain and think they have it rough. They have no idea how many kids in the world would love to trade places with them. We provide a fantastic house and home, we are not alcoholics or drug addicted or mentally ill parents or physically ill either, we have tons of delicious and healthy food in the house, they are never wanting. We have Internet and phones and mobile phones and cable TV and DVR and Netflix and other instant streaming, and video games, and books and magazines and cameras and software, MP3 players, stereos, iPods, and anything and everything. We have provided Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, sports, and many educational endeavors. We have traveled all around the USA for fun and for historical site visits and for educational museum trips. We own two functioning cars, one with radio, satellite radio and TVs. I am sick to my stomach just thinking about their ungrateful attitude. This it the thanks we get for what we have provided our kids?)


Xa Lynn said...

My kids are younger, but they still have some of that take-everything-for-granted-and-want-more attitude. Mostly, I tell them if they don't like it, they can leave when they are 18. We have internet. We have a tv for watching DVDs, but no cable and no broadcast reception. There is no tv in the cars, and only one has a working radio. Mostly, I play radio dramas and educational audiobooks in the car for the kids on my iPod (they don't have one). The kids want a new boom box, because the old one broke, but they will wait til Xmas. My oldest daughter has a cellphone, but rarely uses it. It's not the stuff they don't have that bothers them. It's the way they treat what they have that bothers me. Carelessly. Drives me utterly nuts.

Both my husband and I have been feeling run ragged. I am coming to the conclusion that the activities and things I thought we'd enjoy and learn good things from, are, instead, teaching us ungraciousness and ungratefulness in many ways. Therefore, this month, we are doing far less. We've taken the month off TaeKwonDo, I'm not taking the kids to any of the usual homeschool museum classes/programs. We aren't going to Wednesday night church. I'm not singing at church. We will attend only ONE 4-H meeting. I'm blowing two weekends on something I committed to much earlier, but it doesn't involve the kids, and I'm going to not be doing it for the rest of the year. We're going through clothes and toys (again) and giving stuff away.

I think before Thanksgiving we may do some fasting - I wouldn't make the kids fast from food, but they can choose one toy or activity to fast from, like the Wii (their only computer gaming device) or the DVDs on the tv. Just to see if they learn gratitude from the lack.

Xa Lynn

Sara said...

I feel your pain! My children also often show a spirit of ungratefulness. Sometimes we will take away whatever they are complaining/ungrateful about. If they don't like the dinner I prepared, they will go without dinner. It has helped some, but not completely.

I would tell your son that as soon as he is finished with school, he will be free to travel to his hearts's content (at his own expense of course). :-)

deb said...

I think it says something good about your parenting that your son was able to detail why he's feeling the way he is. It may not be a fixable situation, but he's being honest. When I was a young adult, one of my friends told me that she would never have children because "kids are so ungrateful". I've thought of that comment many times in the intervening years, especially when my eldest turned out to be ungrateful with a capital U. I'm not sure that teens are supposed to be grateful...they are completely enmeshed the process of learning who they are and how they fit in. My 21 year old son is now in college, has a job (or two or three), fixes his car, and seems to enjoy hanging out with his family. This represents a huge change from his 15 year old self, when irrational behavior and rude words seemed to be the the mom of a 15 year old yourself, you can imagine. So hang in gets better, after it gets worse. It helped me to focus on just the relationship, expecting nothing but making it clear that I was his mom and would always be there for him. The violin pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki once said "Patience is the absence of expectation".


luv2ski said...

You and your husband are giving your son a wonderful foundation for discovering what, for them, really matters in their lives. By having all their material needs met, each one will be free to discover and pursue the goals and interests that will give him his greatest joy in life. The discomforts (real or imagined)in our lives provide a stepping stone to these discoveries. Striving for "more" and "easier" and "more joyful" and "more fulfilling" is man's nature. Their gratitude for what you have provided for them will come later. I speak for myself when I say that I label my kids' behavior as ungrateful when I am personally feeling overworked, unfulfilled or unappreciated. I'm always the hardest on my kids when I have not been attending to my own needs. You have intelligent, sensitive, communicative kids (so do I) who have been raised with loving care and attention. Congratulations to you and your husband for bringing up a son who knows he can safely open a dialogue with you about his desires, even if they conflict slightly with your views on life at the moment.

luv2ski said...

One more thought on dysfunctional gratitude. Sometimes when we are caught in a period of "poor me" at our house, I institute a dinner time ritual of going around the table and asking each person to state one or two things for which he or she is grateful. It helps shift the focus to our blessings. The answers can also be pleasantly surprising to me. This helps me see that my children recognize the good and important things in life, and gets me out of that uncomfortable place of feeling that they are only viewing and experiencing our life together in a negative way.

Thanks, Christine, for providing this forum. Reading about your family's homeschooling and parenting helps me to clarify my thoughts. Brenda in CT

Cori said...

We have five kids and we aren't rich. I have friends with 10 kids who have way less than we do and guess what?... their kids are nicer, more focused on school work, and they have developed hobbies with the extra time they have after doing the grueling work that is required at this co-op we are in.

Bottom line, American kids are obnoxiously spoiled...and it is our fault. :)