When one of my very loyal teenage followers, YES TEENAGE, reached out to me to guest blog, I politely declined, as it really wasn’t my “niche.” But right after I politely said no, I re-read her pitch, and thought… “Wow, wouldn’t it be great for mothers to get inside the heads of their teenage children.” And then, I wrote her back. “Chenice, it’s a go! Let’s teach the mothers!”
And that is how this very blog post, Teens On The Fence was born…
By Guest Blogger Chenice Louise Clarke
“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them – a mother’s approval, a father’s nod – are covered by moments of their own accomplishments.”
The quote above by author Mitch Albom author of The Five People You Meet In Heaven, is one that probably everyone can relate to. Especially if you’re a teen moving away to University or into the workplace. At 18 years old, you have to make what is potentially the most life-changing decision of your life so far, and it’s a decision that keeps many teens on the fence. As much as parents say, “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re happy,” or “We don’t care if you don’t go to University,” the truth is, deep down, they care about nothing else. The huge smile on a parent’s face when they tell their friends that their ‘little girl’ got into a great University is one that even the worst day couldn’t turn into a smile.
The pressure to continue your education, to get a great degree and hopefully a great job is suffocating at times with not only parents, but other family members and teachers all telling you that it’s the right thing to do and the best thing to do. Universities screaming at you to visit and choose them can be very daunting for even the most mature and academic student.
One of the hardest decisions is actually choosing the right University for you. Do you look at “League Tables” as we have in the UK, and choose one from there, or do you feel the pressure to follow in an older siblings footsteps and attend the University they did, to maintain the family legacy? There are times when you feel you can’t even choose the University you merely ‘want’ to, because you feel that’s not a good enough reason in itself. It’s a choice that could turn a great parent-child relationship into a tense one in just a few words.
Then there is the extreme stress we experience around the competition with other students. It’s fierce. The high SAT scores required to get into a great school, coupled with having to be exceptionally well rounded, play on the tennis team, the lacrosse team, be in the Chemistry Club– this pressure is at an all-time-high. I have seen even the brightest students get rejected from their school of choice, because they were number 4 in their class, not number 1.
But then there is the other option, of course. What if you choose NOT to go to University? Maybe you want to get a job instead or an apprenticeship or maybe even take a ‘Gap Year,’ or year off to ‘find yourself’ and meet new people? You would be surprised how many people turn their noses up when I tell them that I, a straight-A student am taking a ‘Gap Year’ to America before going to University. After many heated discussions with my parents which have led to nights crying myself to sleep and days walking around sullen, they finally realized that it’s my life and if I go on to regret it, it’s my regret, not theirs.
While ‘letting go’ of a parent is hard for a teen, sometimes it’s necessary to find out what we enjoy and discover what we’d like to spend the majority, if not, the rest of our life doing. To learn things that we will then teach our own children– perhaps, to let them know that it’s okay not to be sure. I would love moms reading this to realize, that even though we are only teenagers, we are still people with developed thoughts and opinions. But sometimes, we’re stuck on the fence too. Sometimes with all the stress, we just need a moment to pause. We need a breather. And it doesn’t mean that we are going to turn out to be a disappointment.
So if perhaps after reading this, you’ve decided to let your teen make a few of their own decisions, or to let them sit on the fence a while, unsure, remind them: Don’t be unsure motionless. Keep moving. Meet new people. Learn new things. The answers will come if you’re moving while standing still.
Chenice Louise Clarke is 18 years old, lives in the UK, and will be moving to America for a year to work as an Au Pair with a lovely family in the New York area. She is leaving home for the first time ever and travelling hundreds of miles to live in America. A year away from home, a year away from family and friends and everything ‘British’. Everything that’s made her who she is. But she’s welcoming the challenge and made a decision to go forward with her plan, despite many fears and apprehensions.
Ladies, what do you think? Chenice sounds very mature, but can we really leave important decisions up to our teens to make? How much pushing do they need? How much room must we give them? Can we let a teenager decide she is not going to college? Is that her decision to make or ours as her parent? Share your thoughts right here.