On Becoming A Woman Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

You and Your Parents


Oh boy, this outta be good. And by good I mean bad. Part of the problem is that I am getting tired. I am tired of deconstructing this book and I am tired, so tired, of these attitudes that should have gone the way of the dodo bird 300 years ago. But, I’m a persistent person who is going to finish things. It will take me longer because I now have to go to school, but we will finish this book. Eventually. So, let’s get started.

Your greatest problem during your teens is to become acquainted with yourself.

Here’s the thing. I keep changing. Just as I think I know myself, myself changes. So while I suppose this is true, in a way, it’s also kind of…. not. See, my biggest problems as a teenager were:

  1. Trying to decide whether or not I should kill myself
  2. Figuring out how to escape Planet Adventist
  3. Dealing with my verbally abusive father
  4. Figuring out a way to hide “contraband,” which included any music at all, my collection of star trek novels, and jewelry.
  5. Trying to stop my best friend from killing herself
  6. figuring out which drugs could be slipped past the deans so I could take a mental vacation away from the fucked up cult once in a while.

Getting to know myself? Please. First I had to figure out whether or not I wanted to survive high school.

Perhaps your next greatest problem after learning to know yourself is to learn to understand your parents.

Not exactly my biggest priority as a teenager. As an adult I care a bit more about learning to understand them, but as a teen, I was more concerned with escaping their worldview.

The coming of your teen years brings new relationships between you and your parents. These new relationships require you to make new adjustments. They also require your parents to make new adjustments to you.

Ideally yes. My parents, however, weren’t so great about the whole “my daughter is now on the verge of adulthood” thing. They wound up treating me like a child right up till the moment I wouldn’t tolerate it anymore. This was my “rebellion.” At some point, even the therapist I didn’t like sat my dad down and told him, “she is sixteen!”

The author goes on to say that when you were a child, you depended on your parents to protect you from the world, and to interpret things for you. He doesn’t say what he means by “interpret things,” but I’m going to be generous and assume he means something like, “I gave my daughter a very basic explanation of how taxes work.”

The author then tells us that a group of families is a community, and a group of communities is a nation. He talks for a bit about how civilization as we know it depends on families, then goes on to say

You have observed the important relationship our religious organizations bear to the welfare of the nation.

Yes. I have observed that when religion is kept out of the government, everyone’s happy.

The ideals of the nation are largely dependent upon the religious ideals taught in our churches.

No, they’re not. Especially if by “our churches” the author means Seventh Day Adventist churches. Even within Adventist circles, there is huge debate over, for example, whether or not gay people are sinning sinners going to hell.

But when we analyze this we find that church ideals depend very definitely upon the ideals of the family circle.

Yes….and no. I mean, most SDA families do have common ground, but even in the individual churches, you’ll find that the ideals of family A could be radically different from the ideals of family B. Many huge fights get started over such things, especially about important issues like singing along to a recording of instrumental accompaniment(sp) for special music.

The author goes on to talk about how family ideals affect churches, and church ideals influence the nation. That is why familial relationships are so important.

It thus becomes the duty of parents to mold the lives of their children in such a way as will help them to live successfully and happy. Parents are expected to give their children a running start in life.

Adventists will pay lip service to this kind of thing, as you can see. However, in practice, what SDA adults do is hold teenagers back and infantilize them, so that the only running start they get is for a life on Planet Adventist, if that.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Adventist.

The author goes on for a long paragraph about how parents have lived longer, and so they know better, and can give their children good advice.

I don’t have too much of a problem with this. Sometimes adults do know better than children. However, no one will admit to you that the reverse is true; sometimes children know more than the adults. But I learned that from reading fiction novels, so what do I know.

The author goes on for a bit about the love a parent has for their children, and how parents love their children more than anything else in their lives. I am wondering if he’s drawing on his own experience as a father.

When children do well in their adjustments to life the parents feel that their own lives have been worthwhile and that their efforts in making a home have been abundantly rewarded.

I love my parents. I’m sure they love me back. However, I would hope that my brother and I are not the sole reason their lives are worthwhile. My mother’s life is worth something simply because she is, not because of what she does, or how her children have turned out.

But then, I turned out pretty terribly, even by non SDA standards, so, maybe I shouldn’t talk too much.

On the other hand, when a child makes unfortunate decisions and reaps the natural consequences that come from an indifference to those ideals that make life really worth while, his parents suffer perhaps the greatest disappointment that can come in this life.

Think for a moment about the ex Adventists who’s only failings are that they are not Adventist. Think how much it hurts them to know that they made their parents suffer, and yet, they can’t continue to be someone they are not. As an Ex Adventist who knows that leaving the church is one of these “unfortunate decisions” Shryock refers to, this hurts.

The author talks for a while about how when we were children, we pretty much accepted our parents’ authority. When we did things our own way and ignored our parents, we usually landed in trouble.

Well of course, Shryock. Because our parents decided that we would be in trouble, not necessarily because those were natural consequences of disobeying them.

In any case, when you hit your teens, things change. You still respect your parents, of course, but now you are beginning to take responsibility for yourself. You feel you should start to set your own rules and follow your own path.

You welcome the many evidences that you are now reaching adulthood.

Actually I didn’t. I was terrified of becoming an adult. Aside from that, certain of these evidences meant my body betrayed me.

Shryock talks for a bit more about how teenagers desire independence, and how the teen years are also transition years. But it’s not a sudden transition, it takes years.

In terms of the relationship between you and your parents, this transition period is difficult for both you and your parents. Actually your parents welcome the evidences that you are reaching adulthood. They would not want you to remain a child forever….they understand that they cannot always brood over you and shelter you from the evils and dangers of this cruel world.

Actually, I think there are some parents that don’t understand this.

Shryock goes on to say that the teen years are a time in which you gradually get used to handling things on your own.

With each additional year must come increasing experience and ability. The years of your teens therefore constitute an intensive training period during which you are entrusted first with small responsibilities, then with larger and larger.

I don’t have an argument with this. This is exactly how it should be. You don’t need to use a bible verse to support it. The author  uses one anyway: John 3:30

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

This verse is spoken by John the Baptist. One of John’s disciples has come up to him and said, “John, this Jesus guy is getting even more popular than you are!” Here’s John’s response, in context. Starting in verse 25:

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”[a]

I can kinda sorta see how this can be applied to the parent teenager relationship…. if I squint hard enough after taking out my contacts.

In case you don’t like Biblical illustrations from verses ripped straight outta context, the author switches to another example. Say your mom has this dress that she knitted herself. That would be pretty impressive, as I’ve never seen anyone knit an entire dress. Maybe there are dress patterns out there for knitters but I have yet to run across them. In any case, you like the color of the yarn the dress is made out of, but the dress was made for your mother,  who has a different body shape than you.

Your mother offers to give you the yarn and let you make your own damn dress, then. So she sits there with the dress and you sit there with the ball of yarn, and you unravel while she holds the dress.

At first, all the yearn is in the dress that rests in your mother’s lap. But as you receive the yarn and wind it into a ball, the amount of yarn in your possession becomes greater and greater while the amount of yarn still remaining in your mother’s possession becomes less and less. Finally, all the yarn has been transferred to you. You then possess it all, and your mother, none.

The period of time when the closet was in your mother’s dress represents your childhood. As a child, your parents were responsible for your conduct, and they had the most control over it. Eventually, you’ll come to a point where you can make your own decisions, and your parents start transferring over their responsibility fully to you.

If you had become impatient and taken more yarn  than you could wrap on the yarn ball, yarn piles up on the rug and becomes tangled. If you pull yarn faster than your mother lets go, the yarn will get tangled.

Dear Dr. Shryock. When winding balls of yarn that are as long as a dress is likely to be, rule #1 is that the yarn will get tangled. Always. Love, a knitter.

Ok, but, what happens when the mom simply refuses to give the teenager any yarn? This happens in SDA families a lot more than you would think. Shoot, even the adult college students at Andrews are treated like freaking BABIES.

The author tells us to not be impatient with our parents if they refuse to give us more responsibility and independence, because it’s totally normal to bounce back and forth a bit as parents and teenagers try to make it through the transition.

Well, probably. But I don’t think Adventist culture really helps. I’ll try and look up the quote later, but I could swear that Ellen White actually tells us to tighten the reigns on teenagers. Or maybe I’m making things up that she never said. I could be misremembering. Either way, the author doesn’t seem to take that view, and we are dealing with him right now, not her.

One reason why you may be impatient with your parents is that you have now reached the age when your opinions attract the attention of others and when your developing personality has a charm of its own. It is fun to try out these newly discovered assets and to see how much attention you can attract. I know it seems that every time you try to hasten the process, you get into trouble.

I’m honestly not sure what the author is talking about here. Newly discovered assets of what? My “charming personality?”

The older folks seem to misunderstand you and think you are simply trying to show off, but you don’t mean it that way at all. What you really crave is to participate with older people in those things hat are interesting and fascinating.

Could you give me an example? I’m not sure I follow. When I was a teenager, I generally tried to attract as little attention as possible. The author doesn’t say exactly what these fascinating and interesting things are that teens are supposedly interested in.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been working a lot, but I’ve read this part of the chapter 5 times and am still not sure exactly what this is about.

It may seem to you that the older folks are simply stubborn, and that sometimes they are even a little jealous of your accomplishments and therefore reticent to accept you at face value.

Adults don’t like teenagers because they are jealous?

 Of course it is true that older folks move more slowly than teenagers. They tend to become somewhat fixed in their ideas and reactions. They have been accustomed to thinking of you as a child. Only recently have you arrived at adulthood….older folks are slow to accept the fact that you have grown up.

I could see that. It’s tough accepting that someone who’s diapers you changed is now an adult. But, I mean… you get used to it?

I get that the author himself was probably a senior when he wrote this, but classifying the adult brain as slower than the teenage one strikes me as kind of discriminatory. There’s a wide range of “slow” and “Fast” among adult minds. And fast isn’t always better than slow. Sometimes my mind jumps around from one topic to another so much that my friends can’t keep up. It has the effect of annoying everyone, including me.

This reticence….is not all their fault. Your mind has played a few tricks on you. Things are not really so bad as they seem.

You’re crazy! It’s not as bad as all that! It never happened that way! Your mind is playing tricks on you!

Sounds like emotional manipulation  to me. Depending on the situation, it may be that things aren’t that bad, but they may be. You do not know.

For instance, your interest in getting recognition from older people has caused you to do some things that are a bit foolish. Looking back on some of your recent experiences, even you will admit that you have been unwise sometimes.

This is vague enough that it is true for everyone. I have zero doubt that every teenager has “been unwise sometimes.” But you know what? So have most adults.

One of the problems a teenage girl usually faces is that of choosing her own clothes and following her own taste in dress.

I would hope that the author realizes that a teenager is old enough to dress herself.

Or is he talking about “slutty” teenagers that wear “Revealing” clothing? the wording is vague enough that I’m not honestly sure.

You cherish your own opinion of the kind of clothes you want to wear on which occasions. But your mother often cautions you to be more conservative.

I have had this issue very few times in my life. And it was annoying. It got to the point where I wouldn’t clothes shop with her at all.

You have sometimes felt that she is old fashioned. But let me ask you, what is the real reason you wish to wear a dress that is a little more “stunning” than the one your mother feels you should have?

See, my mom wanted me to wear what I thought was tent type clothing. I wanted to wear tighter shirts because my boobs didn’t bounce around as much and that meant I wouldn’t need to wear a female torture device bra. That was literally my logic when I was 13.

Is it not because you want to receive attention, and you feel that by dressing yourself a little more gaudily than your mother would like to have you, you will be noticed more readily?

You hear this argument a lot in Adventist circles. When someone desires to wear something that she thinks is pretty, she’ll be questioned. Why do you want to look pretty? Usually the adult manages to convince the girl to say that she wants to be pretty so she can attract boys, even if this is not actually the case. Because of course that is the only reason a woman would want to wear anything she thinks is pretty.

Directly after that paragraph, we get this:

Why is it that you like to chew gum in public and use color on your face? Maybe it is because you feel, almost subconsciously, that these will cause you to be noticed and will bring you recognition.

Chewing gum in public is done to draw attention to myself? I’m confused. Is it ok to chew gum in private but not in public? Why is this? I mean, I chew gum because it helps my TS. I kind of assumed everyone else did it because they liked the flavor or they thought blowing bubbles was fun.

So, does that mean that it’s ok to smack the shit out of them when they chew it too loudly? I mean, they chew their gum too loudly for attention, right? And smacking them is giving them attention, right? So that’s a totally appropriate response, then?

Moving on because I am confused.

In the matter of personal attractiveness it is better that your appeal be based on the charms of your personality than on clothes that attract undue attention.

On the one hand I agree with this. I want people to be friends with me because they like me, not because they like my clothes. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. I can still wear what I think are cool clothes and have people be attracted to me because of my personality. My clothing choices are kind of unusual anyway.

Another source of conflict between parents and teenagers is a teen’s desire to come and go as she pleases. She’s confident that her judgement is better than her parents’.

Let us consider first what your parents’ motives are in their attempt to guide you and direct your goings and comings. Do you really suppose that they thus restrict you simply to make you unhappy?

Look. It doesn’t matter what the parents motives are. If they’re restricting their kids too much, they’re restricting their kids too much.

I’m not saying teenagers should be free to come and go as they please, I’m saying that some parents really are too restrictive. Especially parents that are religiously conservative.

The author goes on to say that parents may prevent you from doing things they did at your age because they know the consequences of those actions. An example he gives is of a teenager who wants to date this boy, but her parents don’t like him. The parents are of course right, because they have more experience than the teen does. If the young man is sincere, he will conform to whatever expectations the teen’s parents have.

The author then asks the reader to think of herself two years ago. How many of those memories does she look back on and cringe? And yet she thought she was mature at the time, right? And that’s just 2 years ago. Two years in the future, she’ll probably look back on yourself right now and feel the same way.

Therefore it is wholesome for you to admit to yourself the limitations of your judgments.

I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to tell teens that they may not be as mature as they think they are. By god I knew some people who really needed to hear that, not that they would have listened. The issue I have with this way of thinking is that some 20 year olds need to hear it as well. At 25 I thought I was pretty mature, wise, etc. And now I feel like I was extremely foolish.

So, how do you develop this maturity? Well…. your parents will help you. What if your parents don’t trust you? Well, that’s probably your fault somehow. You should work to build up your parents’ trust, so that they can trust you with responsibilities.

I agree, but cautiously. Sometimes parents don’t show good judgment when deciding how much responsibility their teen can handle. Particularly if they are Adventist parents who don’t believe little Jane is showing good judgment by getting her ears pierced.

Your parents are your best friends. Treat them as such, and you will find life much more worthwhile. Show them the deference they deserve, and they will help you to avoid many of the mistakes that would otherwise hinder your progress toward maturity.

I’m gonna just leave this here and let you all talk about whether or not this paragraph is correct. I’m… just kind of done with this chapter.





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