Reflections: A growing divide

Reflections: A growing divide

India Flinchum

I’ve taken for granted the seemingly unmarred relationship I’ve shared with my parents for almost 17 years. Steadfast support has streamed from my mother and father’s fingertips as they have reached out to guide me in every direction of my life.

I’ve inherited my mother’s thirst for adventure. I’ve inherited my father’s open heart and optimism. I’ve inherited my mother’s miraculous ability to misplace things (like her car keys and in my case, expensive jackets,) and I’ve inherited my father’s over-analytical lens through which he views the world.

From both I’ve inherited a love of humorous banter and sarcasm, a deep appreciation for close friends and family, and the dexterity to stomach challenges that at first glance seem all-consuming and impossible. Yet, like most teenagers, I’ve noticed a bridge that’s slowly building itself between us.

The bridge between us is malleable now, fairly soft. There’s a foundation of bricks that aren’t stuck together quite right; a lot of loose holes. More bricks are added to the bridge with each decision I make that’s unique to me, and with each perspective I gain that differs from theirs.

I’ll freely admit that I’m not as close to my parents as I was as a child, even as a middle-schooler. In fact, my relationship with my parents has been moved by the rockiest water I have so far encountered in my almost-17 years of life. Our appreciation and love for each other is unrelenting, but there is definitely a palpable distance.

More than anything, I’ve noticed that my ability to confide in my parents about academic or social challenges is weakening.  Their empathy, it seems, is dwindling. These allegations have come from conversations with my mother about my inability to solve a math problem or run a PR during a cross country race- dilemmas that are superseded with remarks in which she attempts to correct my behavior, telling me I should have practiced harder or studied longer.

In reality, I need someone to talk to.  I need to be heard and to be understood. Instead of listening, my parents will offer solutions. It’s not on purpose that they find it difficult to grasp the concept that I’m simply not in control of every test grade or every cross-country race.

I’m in control of my attitude, work ethic, and mental-health, all of which are greatly sacrificed during adolescence as teenagers discover who they are and battle the ups and downs of friendship and identity. At the end of the day, I’ve often experienced various trials and errors.  

A popular misconception among parents is that their children and teens should perform at their maximum capacity in every aspect of school and life. A teenager’s greatest success should set the precedent for all the successes to come.

Assuming that I can be effortlessly successful at each test I take,  each essay I write, or each friendship I create, is simply an unattainable ideal. I’m a teenager. I’m bogged down by aspects of pre-adulthood that children and adults are not prone to encounter.  I’m constantly learning about the world and re-evaluating myself and others.  My perspectives and attitudes are shapeshifting.  

One’s  parents should fill the gaps in this bridge with empathy and understanding.  It’s something parents of children and adults don’t need to do to such an extent- but an action that’s absolutely necessary for the creation of a healthy bridge, that will allow parents and teenagers to walk beside each other, ready to depart when the time is right.

Instead of criticizing my own relationship with my parents and viewing the disparity  between my desires and their expectations as painful to observe, I’ve acknowledged our differences in perspective as healthy– a completely normal part of adolescent development.

Although I am sometimes disappointed that my daily conversations with my father have dwindled to curt greetings in the morning and goodnights in the evening, I’ve accepted his attitude as one of understanding. He’s creating space and granting me independence during the time that I need it most.

It’s easy for adolescents to lose self-control and argue with parents. It’s easy to find frivolous points of disagreement and to feel completely misunderstood- but I urge you all to take a bold step.

Instead of lashing out in heated antagonism, be mindful of your disagreements and the generational gap that is often a source of confusion and conflict. Accept the consequences if you lash out, but fight for your cause if your opinion can be justified. Strike a conversation with your parents about the direction of your relationship if you feel unhappy or unsure. Are you recognizing their support and acknowledging the careful attention they give you, or are you forgetting to be appreciative? What can they do better to support you in your entirety- as a being with emotional, physical, and mental components?

I voiced my concerns with my mother and father the other day, explaining that I’ve been relying on my friends for emotional condolence instead of them. After just one candid conversation, I felt a bridge of greater empathy, patience, and sensitivity being built between us, like the bricks, this time, were leading us to each other, instead of farther away.