September 19, 2017

WaPo reports on a 15-year-old girl who prefers to stay home and spend time with her family and the mother who's worried about her.

The girl "has no interest in dating, driving, working for pay or drinking alcohol - and the rising costs of college keep her up at night," and the mother says: "On the one hand, I know she’s safe, she’s not out getting pregnant or smoking pot or drinking or doing all kinds of risky stuff that I can imagine would be age appropriate... [But i]s that stuff necessary for human development, do you have to be risk-taking as a teenager in order to succeed as an adult?"

That's the concluding anecdote in an article titled "Not drinking or driving, teens increasingly put off traditional markers of adulthood."

Teens not getting into trouble. That's the news. That's the man bites dog. Teenagers, they're supposed to be trouble.

This makes me want to quote a passage from one of my favorite books "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir" by Bill Bryson. Bryson — born, like me, in 1951 — is talking about the 1950s, when fear of teenagers raged:
Teenagers smoked and talked back and petted in the backs of cars. They used disrespectful terms to their elders like “pops” and “daddy-o.” They smirked. They drove in endless circuits around any convenient business district. They spent up to fourteen hours a day combing their hair. They listened to rock ’n’ roll, a type of charged music clearly designed to get youngsters in the mood to fornicate and smoke hemp. “We know that many platter-spinners are hop-heads,” wrote the authors of the popular book USA Confidential, showing a proud grasp of street patois. “Many others are Reds, left-wingers or hecklers of social convention.”

Movies like The Wild One, Rebel Without a Cause, Blackboard Jungle, High School Confidential!, Teen-Age Crime Wave, Reform School Girl, and (if I may be allowed a personal favorite) Teenagers from Outer Space made it seem that the youth of the nation was everywhere on some kind of dark, disturbed rampage. The Saturday Evening Post called juvenile crime “the Shame of America.” Time and Newsweek both ran cover stories on the country’s new young hoodlums. Under Estes Kefauver the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency launched a series of emotive hearings on the rise of street gangs and associated misbehavior.
Anyway, I love the mom in the new WaPo story, worrying that her daughter isn't out getting into teenager trouble because — who knows? — even that might have something to do with Success as an Adult.

62 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

A girl without Daddy Issues.

Alert the press.

I am Laslo.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Teenager trouble also means energy and initiative. Most teens now including, sigh, my own, are incredibly apathetic. This is because we were not allowed to let them be unattended as children and they did not learn to find fun, explore their surroundings and make things happen. Everything that happens to them now happens on their phones.

It's very fucked up and keeps me up at night.

Patrick Henry was right! said...

The unspoken reality is that the adults of the 50's were 100% right about the coming breakdown in culture, family and morality that was coming.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Xmas said...

I'm not judging this particular mother. When I hear stories like this I think mom used to be a teenage party girl that got in lots of trouble in high school and she wants to re-live those years vicariously through her daughter.

There's the other angle, that the mother remembers being 15 and all the trouble she got into that she hid from her parents. Now she's worried that she can't figure out what mischief her daughter it into.

Bay Area Guy said...

Blech. Life is meant to be lived. The current culture (run by leftists) are risk-averse, boring and lack any sense of adventure or creativity.

James K said...

Our daughter is a bit like this, and we were told by a professional that it would be good for her to get out to parties, etc. (not to use drugs or alcohol, but just to be more exposed to them), as kids who are too sheltered (even by their own choice) tend to get into trouble in college.

rehajm said...

Facetime is the new driving.

mockturtle said...

I have a niece like that who is now in her late 30's, still living contentedly at home with her parents. My sister and her husband don't mind and she takes care of their many pets when they are away. True, she is not 'normal'. Though highly intelligent, she just never really developed socially. She has a generous trust fund from her grandparents and contributes to the household so she isn't freeloading.

policraticus said...

Since when is "getting pregnant or smoking pot or drinking" considered "age appropriate" for a 15 year old?

I know that 15 year olds have always drank, smoked pot and gotten pregnant, but it was never considered "age appropriate," it was considered grossly inappropriate.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I was well behaved as a teen, with little interest in dating, drinking, etc. Not due to helicopter parenting. Due to being an introvert.

I turned out just fine.

mockturtle said...

Misplaced has hit the proverbial nail on the head: Smart phones and social media. A kid's world today goes no further than his/her phone. The risky explorations and adventures we had as children engendered self-confidence and initiative that are almost completely lacking in today's youth.

Kevin said...

Is there a better exhibit to prove the point that the media's job is not to inform the public but to peddle fear?

If it moves, fear it.
If it doesn't move, fear it

All the while demanding more government power to protect us from whatever it is.

Ralph L said...

Dog bites man or man bites dog?

How much of this change is caused by an only child effect? The older sibling isn't there to corrupt the younger.

Laslo Spatula said...

Introverted child gets outed in the Media.

It used to be you worried that your parents would embarrass you in front of your friends, not the whole country.

I am Laslo.

Kevin said...

We have been inundated by pro-marijuana for the past several years. We now must ramp up teenage marijuana use if it's going to pay off for the corporate lobbyists and tax revenues everyone the big players have been promised.

The media pushing the idea that teens must be out smoking dope if they wish to properly develop into adults seems right on time. Now that we've started the idea that risky behavior is inherent to proper development, smoking dope will be seen as much less dangerous than teenage sex, drinking, driving, or smoking cigarettes.

It will be the responsible parents who stop by the store to buy their kids a pack of joints on the way home.

Molly said...

Did you mean to write, "That's man bites dog"? Or is this some sophisticated use of the "dog bites man" definition of news that I just don't get?

Robin Eatmon said...

I was a self controlled teenager. Didn't succumb to peer pressure for the most part. It made it a little difficult to judge "risk levels" when I was a parent of teenagers and that was before cell phone and the internet abuses.

Michael K said...

More proof that the Baby Boomers were the worst generation ever.

My grandchildren are very into sports and maybe that is better for them. I worry they don't read enough and it takes their parents' time but they are socialized with other kids in sports and the parents have many friends among the other sports parents. They are out all the time.

Ann Althouse said...

"Dog bites man or man bites dog?"

D'oh.

Fixed.

Thx.

Laslo Spatula said...

She won't be a REAL teenager until she has her first abortion.

I am Laslo.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Markers of adulthood (as I remember) were: at the age of 18 or even younger, getting a job, buying a car, moving out into your own place, dating, then at about 20 or so, getting married, having children.

Drinking and other stuff just happened and wasn't really considered a mark of being an adult....doing those things responsibly,however, was considered adult behavior.

holdfast said...

15 is a little early for sex, booze and drugs. The interesting stuff usually starts once you get a drivers license.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

I didn't succumb to peer pressure, either. I grabbed it with both hands, dialed it up to 11, and wrung it out like a dishrag. All behind a carefully constructed wall that kept my parents oblivious to what I was up to.

Fernandinande said...

the 1950s, when fear of teenagers raged:

Perhaps fear rages, but crime was actually pretty low, as it is now; perception of crime was warped by sensationalist media, as it is now.

That study mentioned in the article seems to indicate that these terrible teens - is there any other kind? - are largely following Amy Wax's life-style suggestions (except not working for pay):

"...fewer adolescents in recent years engaged in adult activities such as having sex, dating, drinking alcohol, working for pay, going out without their parents, and driving, suggesting a slow life strategy. Adult activities were less common when median income, life expectancy, college enrollment, and age at first birth were higher and family size and pathogen prevalence were lower, consistent with life history theory. The trends are unlikely to be due to homework and extracurricular time, which stayed steady or declined, and may or may not be linked to increased Internet use."

Expat(ish) said...

My boys did not care for driving, my daughter couldn't wait.

@Cracker - I think my kids did that too, and I'm just getting hints of it now. I always knew they were well raised.

-XC

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

holdfast, agreed. Have we now gotten to the point where it's actually abnormal for a teenager not to drink, do drugs, date, get pregnant, or even want to drive? That was me. My interests at 15 (apart from a furious crush on a boy who was conveniently several states away) were violin, math team, and making paper airplanes.

But now we're afraid that our tender young ones will be thrown into "drunken hookup culture" in college without warning or prep.

Darrell said...

WaPo is concerned that Planned Parenthood will lose customers and salable body parts. Sustainability, people!

Fernandinande said...

Kevin said...
Is there a better exhibit to prove the point that the media's job is not to inform the public but to peddle fear?


I agree.

We have been inundated by pro-marijuana for the past several years.

I think you might have fallen for some of that fear-peddling:

"Colorado's Teen Marijuana Usage Dips after Legalization"

Angel-Dyne said...

The kids aren't the problem, their elders are the problem, and have a great deal to answer for:

...and the rising costs of college keep her up at night.

“I’m already panicking and having nightmares about the student loans that I’ll never escape, and I’m worried that I’m going to end up homeless,” she said.

Her parents try to assuage her fears. “They’re just like, ‘Dude, that’s not happening for the next three years, so chill.”


This is the (inadvertent) gravamen of the piece; I'm surprised no one is remarking it.

Middle-class parents ought to be up in arms about an insane system of debt-peonage credentialism that is blighting their children's futures before they've even begun the world. Instead, they just seem to accept it as an ineluctable fact of life, instead of the irrational, corrupt - and remediable - system that it is.

"Sure, honey, it's gonna but tough, but having to pile up tens of thousands of dollars of debt every year to get a "job permit" from the bullshit academic-industrial complex...well, you gotta do what you gotta do."

I feel so sorry for the lost young people who cannot rely on their parents or other putative "respectable authority figures" for honest, informed advice. People bitch about "millenial snowflakes", but the passivity of their clueless parents in the face of this insanity, in the face of their own offspring being vampirized, is a wonder to behold.

Darrell said...

Sign up your daughters for a male or female bukkake party or two (as guest of "honor") and they'll turn out just fine. Hell, same for your sons.

Professional lady said...

The only time I really look at teen or women mass media style type magazines such as Glamour or Cosmo etc. is when I get my hair done. It's pretty appalling what they consider normal behavior. It's not that I haven't made my share of mistakes, I just know better now.

bagoh20 said...

I tried most everything that would have terrified my parents. I don't know if it contributed to success, but it sure was fun, and I would hate to have missed it all.

What about fun? Life is for living and dying. Rocks have a safer, longer life, but they don't live.

bagoh20 said...

I miss being bad so much.

bagoh20 said...

I dropped out of college in my senior year, becuase I was just having too much fun to do what was required. I wish I had graduated, but not if I had to take back all that fun. Priorities!

William said...

Life is not something to confront and conquer (like that's even possible) but rather to be avoided as much as possible.......There's something to be said for her strategy. Perhaps she plays a lot of video games and doesn't do her homework. We shouldn't be so quick to judge. Perhaps she's having a dissolute youth but on her own terms.

mockturtle said...

Well-said, Angel-Dyne. Most young people today are not mature enough for higher education, anyway. But they have to get those 'credentials' even if they want to drive a garbage truck.

Earnest Prole said...

Experiments with guns and gasoline, stealing fruit from the neighbor's trees and candy from the neighborhood store, riding motorcycles at 90 mph through fields without a helmet, leaving the house in the morning and going wherever you wished knowing that no adult would think to inquire about your whereabouts unless you failed to come home at dusk -- all before the age of twelve. That was normal then. The times, they are indeed a'changin.

Jim Grey said...

When I minored in sociology in college 30 years ago I remember reading about a far-flung culture where teenagerhood was not remotely characterized by rebellion and trouble, but by increased family harmony and bonding. The thesis was that our American norm of teenage trouble was a result of some aspects of our culture and not endemic to being a teenager.

But my 1980s teenagerhood was characterized by being a fellow who wanted to get along and play by the rules. I just wasn't rebellious at all, never got into any trouble. I turned out just fine.

mockturtle said...

Teen-age rebellion and insufferable attitude is part of God's plan. Otherwise, we wouldn't want them to grow up and move out.

Bill Peschel said...

This is what you get as society continues to protect and coddle you.

This is why the barbarians can come in and destroy us.

There's a saying: "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations."

Now we get to experience it as a nation.

Besides, what's the point of rebellious behavior when talk show hosts throw Nazi salutes and sports stars beat their women on video? When politicians bank millions and get away with it?

Darrell said...

At 13, I shot a mime just to watch him die without making a sound.

tcrosse said...

Erma Bombeck once said that the two hardest years of her life were when she was thirteen and when her daughter was thirteen.

Michael K said...

Middle-class parents ought to be up in arms about an insane system of debt-peonage credentialism that is blighting their children's futures before they've even begun the world.

My grandson loves military stuff and I may encourage him to think about military when he graduates from high school, instead of college.

I see kids all the time doing this and I encourage it. They do their enlistment, grow up some more , see the world and come back with GI Bill to help with college.

I used to work for a company doing workers comp reviews and the guy who we hired to run the IT was a Marine who got his Computer Science degree while on active duty. He was with us for about 6 months after getting out of the Corps, and then began getting offers we could not afford to match.

ALP said...

Reminds me of Saffy, the daughter in "Absolutely Fabulous" - a show that features a middle aged party mom and her buddy despairing over her academically inclined, socially limited daughter.

mockturtle said...

Tcrosse reports: Erma Bombeck once said that the two hardest years of her life were when she was thirteen and when her daughter was thirteen.

Having two daughters, I can certainly relate.

exiledonmainstreet said...

I know a few kids who have no desire to get their driver's license. While I am relieved they are not interested in drugs or excessive drinking, I am startled by the lack of interest in driving, since I couldn't wait to get my license.

I didn't get my first car until after my freshman year in college though. It look me a long time to save up $700 (particularly since I blew a lot of my pay on albums and concert tickets).

exiledonmainstreet said...

"Teenagers" are really a 20th century, First World phenomenon. Throughout most of human history, people went directly from childhood to adulthood. In "Gone With the Wind," recall that Scarlett O'Hara pities the "old maids" who are 20 years old.

Nowadays, the trend seems to be to prolong childhood well into the 20's.

exiledonmainstreet said...

But now we're afraid that our tender young ones will be thrown into "drunken hookup culture" in college without warning or prep.

9/19/17, 9:08 AM

Well, when that happens the girl can claim "rape" and get the guy expelled if she didn't have a good time.

If "your tender young one" is a straight male, well, too bad for you.

Larry J said...

While it's good that the daughter isn't getting into serious trouble, she may be setting herself up for problems later on. There's an old saying, "Judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment." While it's always better to learn from other people's mistakes, most people learn best from their own mistakes. What will she be like when (if) she moves away from home and has to start making decisions on her own? Will she depend on helicopter parents being there to make decisions for her? Will she "go wild" when on her own for the first time or will she be helpless?

When my granddaughter was a toddler, she was absolutely fearless. That's because we did everything to protect her. It took her falling and suffering the inevitable scrapes and cuts to learn about gravity. Today, at 13 she's a lot more cautious.

Sam L. said...

I read "The Thunderbolt Kid". Didn't like it. Found the author too snarky, and, like Garrison Keillor, dissed the town and people he grew up with.

John Nowak said...

Just about every personality traits turns into mental illness if you take it too far.

ALP said...

RE: teenage risk taking. I used to think this was just to benefit the teenager (and annoy the parents), but I have a theory that teenage belief in their invincibility is key to our species survival.

Think about it - I hear so many parents complaining about how hard it is to raise kids today. If its hard now, it must have been nearly impossible to terrifying centuries ago. Pre-germ theory, pre-modern natal care, pre-industrial revolution. Toddlers wandering off to be eaten by wolves. You would have to be a risk-taking 18 year old to keep doing it, to keep popping out babies in defiance of all the risk around you. I propose that if it wasn't for the "I can do anything" attitude common in teens - we would have died out a long time ago.

Saint Croix said...

a 15-year-old girl who prefers to stay home and spend time with her family...

She'll probably want to live at home when she's at college. Because of course there's a 1-in-4 chance she will be raped in college.

Saint Croix said...

/sarc

Saint Croix said...

Also the ice caps are melting and we're all going to die.

Howard said...

ALP: exactly, it's called the INFANTry for a reason.

Saint Croix said...

I heard back in the 50's you could take a girl into a bomb shelter and warn her about impending nuclear catastrophe and she would totally want to do it.

The next time I'm drinking in a bar, I think I might play Rocket Man on the jukebox and see if I can get lucky.

That's assuming I can find a damn jukebox.

Maybe I can bribe a bartender. Rocket Man, dude. Play it!

Caligula said...

Teens used to be in a hurry to grow up but now put off growing up for as long as possible.


Adolescence is still about about trying on different identities to see how they fit, still a just-for-me time because responsibilities can come later. It's just that adolescence is now something one does in one's twenties and not so much while still a teen.


So, eighteen has become the new fourteen, and fifteen is sorta like twelve and 21, well, some may get there when they're 26 but for others it'll take a little longer.

MikeD said...

It's getting really "old" to hear/read '60's teens explaining 50's teens. Ann & Bryson turned teen in 1964, a time in no way comparable to my turning teen in 1955. Everything they think they know is either 2nd/3rd/4th hand or from, the always accurate, movies.

Ralph L said...

Reminds me of Saffy, the daughter in "Absolutely Fabulous" - a show that features a middle aged party mom and her buddy despairing over her academically inclined, socially limited daughter.

The same actress (Julia Sawalha) played Lydia in A&E's Pride and Prejudice, a part that could not be more different.

John Nowak said...

>The same actress (Julia Sawalha) played Lydia in A&E's Pride and Prejudice, a part that could not be more different.

She was great in Absolutely Fabulous, until the show kind of fell apart in Season 4.

Also, voiced the female lead in the under-appreciated Chicken Run (2000).