Adultism: A Well-Kept Secret

Adultism is the term used to describe the oppression of young people by adults. An article by John Bell included this definition: “…adultism refers to behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement. This mistreatment is reinforced by social institutions, laws, customs, and attitudes.”

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mothering Teens

Along with my personal experience as a teenager, I have also raised four teens, who are now between the ages of 27 and 34. I got a few things right, mostly on the "responsiveness" end of things. I never could see my children as possessions, probably because of the Kahlil Gibran poem from "The Prophet" which went straight to my heart the first time I heard it. Here it is:

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which
you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves
also the bow that is stable.

This poem, to me, epitomizes the role of parent to teenagers, and warns against adultism. It is not our job to mold children. It is our job to nurture, provide emotional and material support and to share our experiences when asked. They have their own journeys to take, their own mistakes to make, their own challenges to overcome.

At no other time in history has the line, "For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams" been more true. Children today inhabit a world that is changing so rapidly that adults can't keep up. Since ancient times adults have bemoaned the young, expecting disaster at each turning. But, generation after generation finds their way.

When I was in the thick of mothering my children as teenagers, this line always made me cry, "Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable." I felt pretty bent, and really afraid, but I also had a lot of faith that my resilient children would find their way with or without me. They have, and I learn and grow from their example every day.

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