Teenagers are people too!

Over the past week, I have spoken to many on and offline about the Trayvon Martin case and one thought came up that I have heard few people seriously talk about; of course it’s easy to focus on the obvious factors that Florida has silly laws (Stand Your Ground is insane…sorry) and the clear racism that played a role in this case. But as a buddy and fellow mom pointed out to me, this is also about the sad fact that teenagers in our culture seem to have little value.

For all the talk of bettering the world for our kids, it seems we as a whole tend not to see teenagers and don’t value them. I see this a great deal in my work and sometimes in dealing with professional colleagues it’s clear that we don’t know the place of teens in our society. Are they kids? Or are they mini adults that need to be molded in our exact image? No one seems to know.

Once upon a time in a world far away, there was no official teenage-hood, you had kids and then at a certain age kids were considered adults. Then somewhere along the line came the recognition that teens were also kids yet we have never truly valued them and respected them in my opinion. It’s easy to recognize that in just the lack of public spaces we allocate for teens, that we don’t see them. In the childhood years, we tend to have public spaces and a plethora of programs for kids, acknowledging that kids need their own spaces. Yet let them become teenagers and all of sudden there are no teen spaces.

Instead we complain when we see them in public spaces, over the past decades we have seen inane rules restricting their access to public spaces such as malls, we limit their access to movies and the list the goes on. Then we wonder why teens appear angry and surly. You would be angry too, if your very presence seemed to annoy people especially if you were in a group with your friends.

While teenage black males are a prime target to be viewed with suspicious eyes thanks to the racism that we try to say doesn’t exist, the fact is teenagers in general are viewed with suspicion unless they are superstars…straight A’s, involved in sports, etc. Whenever any crime happens and involves teenagers we are quick to assert whether or not said teenager was a good kid or not. I often joke if you are a teenager and something bad happens, if you are “good” society sees you as a kid, if you are “bad” well we really try to push you into adult status as a way to deal with the conflicts we have when it comes to teenagers.

I recently blogged about mothering older kids and heard from a few folks in the trenches but by and large most had no words of wisdom, either because they haven’t reached that stage with their own kids or simply don’t know how you mother teenagers and young adults.

In the case of Travyon, he was clearly one of the “good” ones which is one of many reasons his case is finally getting the attention that it deserved from day one. Yet I find myself wondering if Trayvon had been prone to trouble as teens are sometimes prone to do (trust me I was that teenager…I got into lots of trouble) would that have colored people’s opinions and thus led to less public outcry aside from the Black community?

Teens are people too and we need to see them and value their unique being and place in our society. Just like adults and kids they need respect too!

Education versus no education

One of things I kill time doing online is looking at blogs and discussions boards where folks discuss frugal living, it seems without fail the issue of student loans comes up. I am amazed at the number of folks who claim there is no value in paying for an education and as a result have no desire to pay for their own kid to go to college. Often these folks figure if their kid wants to go to college, said kid will find a way to make it happen.

Look, college costs may be a tad inflated, hell even the value of having a degree is not quite what it used to be but I always want to scream at these folks, have you ever lived a life where you had to support you and a kid without an education? I have and it was not pretty at all.

Elder boy was born when I was 19, for less than a year I received government assistance but as I have written in the past, I found it be such a demoralizing experience that as soon as I was able to work, I did. When my son was 2 there was a time I was working 3 jobs to put food on the table, as a high dropout at that time there was not exactly a ton of high paying gigs available. When he turned 3, I was able to secure a decent job that at that time paid well but when you have no education, a good paying job is not always something you can count on….they come and go. Just ask those folks in Michigan who have been living with the decline of the auto industry. Guys and gals who started off at a plant at 18 or 19 and put in years, enough to secure the middle class dream only to see now that the dream is gone.

I know what you are thinking, but what about the college educated folks who are in the same boat? Well the beauty of education is that if done right it can lead to many paths and for better or worse we live in a time where a piece of paper that says BA or BS still has power.

Ok, BGIM you may be thinking but why should I have to pay for my kid to get a degree? Well because child rearing doesn’t stop at 18. Maybe its because my son is less than a year away from turning 18, maybe its because I did put myself through school and will be saddled with student loan debt until I retire but for me personally I can’t see saying sorry kiddo you are 18, you figure it out.

Even in my po dunk ass state, tuition plus room and board (main campus is almost 4 hours from me so elder boy can’t commute) still costs damn near twenty thousand!!!! I don’t know about you but what sort of gig do you expect a 18 or 19 year old to get that can pay those costs and still have time to actually attend a class and maybe even study? Even  a summer gig at 40 hours a week isn’t going to add up to that sort of cash.

Now I know what you may be thinking but what about my retirement? True, you should be concerned about your retirement but maybe a better step is thinking about the cost of kids when you are doing your family planning and no I am not trying to be snarky. The reality is if you only have 1-2 kids it might be a heck of a lot easier to help your kid with college than if you have say 4-5 kids.

Personally while elder boy has no college fund I fully expect that just as I have always figured out a way to pay for things, we will figure out a way to help with college costs. In fact its funny that when baby girl starts school next year, elder boy starts college, so guess the daycare money will get moved to the college payment fund.

As parents we want the best for our kids and starting life struggling in many cases is not the best, yes at 18 they are legal adults but as someone whose own parents took that approach I can say it sucked monkey balls.

However there are options aside from college that are cheaper and they include the military, Americorps (kid can earn valauble work experience plus cash for college) , plus if you have decent community colleges a kid can always start there. Or if the kid is eager to get in the work world, there is always trade school but whatever you do, don’t just tell an 18 yo they are on their own. Its one of the few things my own folks did that still pisses me off.

I am a firm beleiver that having an education gives you options in life, I come across too many women in relationships where they never finished their education, don’t have recent job skills and in many cases feel trapped because they hate their partners but have no way to provide for themselves. I have my days where I hate the student loan debts I have but I know that if for whatever reason the Spousal Unit and I parted ways, that I have the ability to take care of me and my kids. I may have to leave Maine but education gave me options that many years ago I didn’t have…even now I have been able to use my education to do multiple things to earn money. Yes, there is always someone who earns plenty without a degree but in many cases those folks are exceptions.

So think about it, what kind of life do you want for your kids?

He’s almost grown

Most of my friends with kids have small children, I only have 3 friends with grown children and it seems I am getting ready to join their ranks.

The holidays were great as both the kids were here, however it was over the holiday that the reality that elder boy is almost an adult hit me and hit me rather hard I must say. When our kids are small, we are so wrapped up in them and at times it feels like we will never have our own lives since with small kids they pretty much call the shots.

Yet one day you wake up and realize they aren’t so small……our path has been a rather nontraditional path since elder boy has journeyed between his father and I since he was 6. Two morons who couldn’t agree on anything so he has juggled life in two places for as long as he can remember, by the time he was 8 he had his own frequent flier miles.

However despite this crazy life, half rural, half urban he has thrived…at times I am amazed at how well he has done since if I were listening to the professionals, they would have me to believe he should have issues. The only common thread between his father and I is that we both love this child more than life, but he is no longer a child, he is a young man.

This afternoon I watched him prepare his bags and get ready to make the trip back to the midwest, a seasoned traveler, a young man confident in his future and while I am so proud of him, there is a part of me struggling to accept that he is no longer a baby though he will always be my baby. Already he is planning his summer as he knows this summer will be the last one free of adult obligations since after he graduates next year he knows he has to prepare for his future which right now looks like it will include college.

Where does the time go? For so long, I was a young Mama struggling to raise a boy on my own and somewhere along the line, we all grew up as evidenced by the fact that a family friend commented on the increasing grey streaks in my dreads that are the only visible sign that I am no longer as young as I once was.. now I am a grown up with kids (plural) a house and grown up responsibilities. Yet its all part of the life path we take, we get old, and hopefully we get wise.

Anyway for those parents that read me, hug your babies if they are still small because before you know it, you might be looking up at a young man whose a foot taller than you. If your babies are grown as I am learning, you can still hug em and let em know you are a safe harbor while they find their place in this crazy world.