Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dad, What Are You Hiding?

Growing up, I spent a lot of time huddled behind garages, hanging out of open windows in the middle of the night, and learning how to open doors without making a single sound. If you have to ask "Why would you do any that stuff?" then you were probably a good kid and your parents would likely have banned you from hanging out with me.

Fast forward twenty years or so, and one of life's great ironies hit me last night when I was tagged in a Facebook photo by someone who knew me back then: I think I have more to hide from my 15-year-old son than he does from me. I opened the email, checked out the tag and then reflexively looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was behind me (in fact, I just did it again—some old habits die hard).

This was not the case with parents in my dad's generation. My dad grew up just after World War II and was in the service during the Korean War (safely stationed in Canada and New Orleans). Then he went to work and spent the next 47 years or whatever working for the same corporation.

I grew up in Reagan's America, and I was in college in the early 1990s—right around the time of Woodstock Redux and grunge music. So yeah, I've been in a few student riots; I've seen cars flipped and lit on fire; I've had friends make pilgrimages to Amsterdam; and I know a few guys who have things tattooed on their bodies that qualify for protection under the Fifth Amendment.

It seems like everybody's always bitching about kids today, and their computer time and rainbow parties and sexting and prescription drugs, but from where I'm sitting, I just don't see it. To me, it seems like kids today are, well, pretty good kids. They're tech-savvy, they are creative and funny, and they're focused in a way that makes my generation look like a bunch of slackers.

Sure, it's possible my oldest son is hiding all kinds of stuff from me. Maybe he does have a mini-hydroponics grow operation in his closet (like some people I have known). But I kind of doubt it. That's another kids today do: they live almost entirely in public.

But then in the midst of all this, I had another, somewhat unsettling thought. I was talking to my dad not too long ago about smoking—a habit he never started and one I gave up years ago. And he kind of grinned and said, "If it could burn, I probably tried smoking it when I was younger." To say I was shocked would be a HUGE understatement. Then I remembered another thing he said ... something about living just a few doors down from Pat O'Brien's in the French Quarter.

Huh. Now I'm beginning to wonder ... maybe the world is actually the REVERSE of what I thought growing up. Maybe the only reason kids have to go to extraordinary lengths to hide their bad behavior is because, when you're an adult, you own the garage your kid might be hiding behind. You don't have to bother with any spy craft or sneakery.

You can just lock the door.


Jude Hardin said...

The worst thing I ever caught my son (17) doing was going to a tanning salon, LOL. A friend of mine from college is a dermatologist, so I asked her to send him an email about the dangers. I think it got through to him. But man, what an overall good kid he is. Much better than I was.

Erica Orloff said...

Love this post.

I WAS the proverbial good kid. I had a demanding Russian father and I did what dutiful daughters of Russians did. I stayed out of trouble, brought home a 4.0, got an academic scholarship to an expensive top college. Didn't smoke, drink . . . etc. In my 20s, I was hell on wheels. And I am more of a rebel NOW. I was just censured by my church, and I will be leaving it (for having a blog).

That said . . . I have a really hard time relating to my oldest who is SO independent and really doesn't give a sh*t what ANYONE thinks, including me. I have to admire someone like that--a TRULY "free" individual in the sense that she has conviction and will simply do what she wants, make her own mistakes, and so on. Fearless. I rebel and make mistakes, but it's with fear baggage.

Oldest Son . . . he's the good kid. I try encouraging him to rebel more. Seems like it would be healthy for him to.

I really find myself puzzled by my kids. LOVING them . . . but they are very different from me.

Natasha Fondren said...

I was just reading an overview of the millenials, and I think it has a lot of truth to it, as much truth as generalizations can have, at least. I don't know how long this trend will last, but I have noticed how civic-minded and politically-minded this generation is. Two of my students did a TON of campaigning for Obama, and they weren't even of age to vote. I think there's something to the author's note that the "counter-culture" of previous decades has given way to a willingness to work the system.

It's pretty fascinating. I absolutely loved my teenagers. I have a lot of hope for our future, based exclusively on the teens and younger twenty-somethings of today. I really believe they're going to do some awesome things.

Jon VanZile said...

You can send him off to college with a bottle of a sunscreen and a settled nerves ... That's more than I'm sure my parents could say.

Jon VanZile said...


Yeah, it's really interesting to see how kids turn into people as they grow up. My oldest has become a serious Vonnegut fan, to the point that he has Blue Monday T-shirts. I never would have guessed ... but I think it's really cool.

Jon VanZile said...


I totally, completely agree. Personally, I'm blown away by kids today. It seems like almost everything is harder and/or more complicated, but they handle it so well. I just don't get those older people who like to complain about how bad kids are today ...