Monday, April 04, 2011

Those teenage years

Living among a family with teenagers gives good insight into the characters of the people involved. Our time at Greg and Jo’s was punctuated by incidents that certainly would have tested the patience of any parent. And probably of any teenager. Door slamming, yelling, confrontation, storming out, open defiance and just plain ignoring of parental requests or demands. I remember it well from my own teenage years. It often resulted in me being summoned to the lounge room for one of Dad’s attitude talks. These were quite fearful occasions that at times involved a finger poked deep into the chest and the risk of a backhander to the face if any lip was given. My father was so logical and I usually became tongue tied under the duress, invariably leaving the discussion having been told that my attitude stunk and I’d better sharpen up or else. On walking away I always had the feeling that I hadn’t given a decent account of myself or my actions. I just couldn’t convey the strong emotion and turmoil I was going through to my father in any meaningful way that he could understand. I’d lie on my bed for hours on my own, listening to music and tossing a basketball into the air trying to get it as close to touching the ceiling as I could without actually making contact. Very therapeutic. My father during our talks would ask me why I wouldn’t come and talk to him about my issues, but instead would seek my own counsel holed up in my room. When I did approach him one time when he seemed quite troubled himself about something or other, and I asked him what was wrong, he launched into a tirade and told me that it was all my fault. That was the last time I went to him of my own volition for any such discussions. School was no better. There I had a number of fellow students who at various stages through my school years seemed to want to make life as difficult for me as they possibly could. I never really got beaten up, but the threat of it hung in the air continuously. There was pushing and shoving and threats of how I would meet my impending doom. I could never really work out why these kids had such an intense dislike for me. A wastepaper basket that came flying across the library and struck me in the head was about as bad as it really got. But I definitely had a fear at times that it would get much worse than that. As for my relationships with my teachers during these years, well that’s a whole other story. I think being a teenage boy is a minefield that you somehow have to negotiate as best you can, hoping that you make it unscathed to the other side. I did have my friends and had some great experiences, so it was by no means all bad. So many new discoveries to make about the world, about girls, about alcohol, about music and a new sense of freedom as the parents ceased to be tracking your every move. Nevertheless, I’m certainly glad I don’t have to go through all of that again. At least not from the teenager side of things. But it doesn’t look that easy now from the parental side either. With a couple of their offspring storming off into the night during our stay due to classic family arguments, Jo and Greg showed amazing calm, albeit following the storm. The grace with which the family came back even stronger before our eyes was encouraging for what Tori and I no doubt are going to have to face in the years ahead with Jaz and Finn.

The Stroot-Thodis household is a vibrant place, a continuous stream of people coming and going and a constant hub of activity. With sunny days in the 30s for the entire duration of our stay, a lot of the focus was on the beach. My days were filled with working but I did manage to get some time in the waves of the local surf beach, a snorkel at the calm beach down at the end of their road and a sail with Greg out on his 16 foot hobi cat. Having moved a year ago from Warrandyte to Port Kennedy, just south of Rockingham, they have certainly been making the most of the lifestyle. For us it was quite a novelty to again be living in a house for a period of time. With a bit of family drama going on, we were hoping not to outstay our welcome. Eleven days is a long time to lob a whole family in to somebody else’s home, especially when it was initially meant to be seven. The duration of our stay kept on growing while we waited for the clapped out inverter from our van to make its way to Queensland and back for a repair and service. A large focus of our time in Perth and surrounds was as a pit stop to get everything ready for our continued journey up north. Sorting out the electrics in the van was a key component. As well as getting the inverter fixed so that we can run 240 volt appliances off the 12 volt batteries, all four batteries in the van needed to be replaced. Not a cheap exercise, but given that on full charge they could only manage to run the fridge and a couple of LED lights for a few hours before running down, a necessary one. The planned upgrades to the car (suspension, winch, dual wheel holder, long range fuel tank) were ordered at the Camping and Caravan Show but the parts had still not made it to Perth, so that will have to wait until another day and another town. Perhaps Geraldton but more likely Broome. Throw the need for some new tyres in there and this has been a very expensive time. I’m hoping when all of this is done that the flow of money out of my bank account or on to my credit card will be stemmed for a while.

With the good as new inverter finally getting back to us on Friday arvo, we decided to spend one last night in Port Kennedy, which happened to be Greg’s birthday. The night turned out to be quite a big one. Greg, Jo, Tori and I went up to Freo to celebrate over a few drinks and a meal. But it was after we returned to Port Kennedy that things really kicked off. A bottle of sambucca, some beers and guitar playing followed. Somewhere between Pink Floyd and Neil Young songs around 4am we decided it was time to educate Talen and his 15 year old friends on the subject of real music. They were in the lounge room doing shots of caffeine based energy drinks to stay awake. I questioned Talen why they would drink that stuff and he said because they weren’t allowed to drink alcohol. As I poured myself and Greg another sambucca, I felt I couldn’t really argue with that. And so we took it in turns putting on songs for the others to listen to, the boys taking equal turns at educating us in their tastes. We had visits from Dion and Rhyanna and finally Jo, all of whom had been woken by us. Some time around 7am, when all of the sambucca and all of the beer was gone, we staggered off to bed. Rhyanna had been most unimpressed, but given that she is 17 and Greg is now 49, I suspect that there will be ample time for revenge. At least Greg got one good one in.

And so with surprisingly no hangover, but very tired, the caravan was finally hitched back up to the car and we pulled out of the Stroot-Thodis front yard. Thanks so much Jo, Greg, Rhyanna, Talen and Dion for making us so welcome in your home and in your lives. We had a great time.

1 comment:

Greg Stroot said...

There must be something in the notion of "making it up as you go along". I think it is the only way to practice for any degree of control... Especially where teenagers are concerned.

In a world full of Kaos and political sensitivities there are few weapons at the disposal of a parent. The words of "guidance" becomes a "scowl" becomes a "grumble" becomes a "shouting match" becomes a "grounding" becomes "resentment".

Before you know it you are forced to utilise embarrassment by kissing and hugging when dropping them off at school, then there is turning off and confiscating games, and then finally the bluff...
(nasal voice) at this moment the house is surrounded by 4 grandparents, 5 police, 52 truancy officers and the principal of the school is on his way... Would you believe an irate mother and an all too accessible car horn?
I decided try to keep it simple. 3 rules only:
Cooperation, Consideration and Appreciation...
and a simple principle: "be the best you can be".

The challenge is encouraging kids to see the best in others when they are in a melting pot of the best and the worst that people can be. Letting them make their own decisions and judgements is crucial, seeing them judge you is inevitable. letting them suffer the repercussions of their own mistakes though... that's one of the hardest things ever, and I struggle with it. I think it's harder the more you love them.

The 10 days though? that was easy. The Swedosh army is easy to get along with and are always welcome back. Perhaps it will be less volatile then :-)