Friday, 15 June 2012

No one Cares!

When I first came to Europe, I was extremely impressed when I met a woman who I wanted to adopt as my mum. I thought that she was the coolest mother around and wished that my own mother weren’t so strict. Now, ten years later, I look back and think that maybe there’s never one perfect solution. That woman’s kids have now become adults who think that responsibility and rationality are things that happen to other people, there are so many things that I would like to thank my own mother for but will never be able to and my own son pretends to gag every time his friends want to replace their parents with me. Does this mean that whatever a parent does, whichever methods parents apply in raising their kids they will always be seen as uncool? Is it human nature to be grateful to our parents only when it’s too late?

Being a teenager in a strict Indian family was hard and I only now realise that every single rule was put there for a very good reason. I just didn’t know it at the time—and teenagers shouldn’t be expected to know it either. In Anand Giridharadas’ novel India Calling, he talks about how his family tried very hard to integrate themselves into American life, exposing their kids to the Western world instead of shoving their noses in their own culture. In the end, this made him want to experience India for himself…and he moved back to the motherland. I grew up in Malaysia and when my parents tried to make us watch Tamil movies we all but feigned temporary blindness brought on by appendicitis. Why the difference in reactions?

My protagonist Anjeli in The Scarlet Omen is fighting with her mother at every turn. She is convinced that Indian mothers ferociously try to ruin their teenage daughters’ social lives so that they don’t come home pregnant. All she wants to do is run away from her mother’s suffocating concern. Does everyone at one point or another behave like that? Do we treat our parents as dispensable parts of our lives as teenagers?

“…The young person proudly asserts individuality from what parents like or independence of what parents want and in each case succeeds in provoking their disapproval. This is why rebellion, which is simply behavior that deliberately opposes the ruling norms or powers that be, has been given a good name by adolescents and a bad one by adults….Although the young person thinks rebellion is an act of independence, it actually never is. It is really an act of dependency. Rebellion causes the young person to depend self-definition and personal conduct on doing the opposite of what other people want.”-- Welcome to the hard half of parenting, Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D.,

So we can expect that anything we say or do as parents will be held against us 25 years later on a shrink’s sofa. Just great!

I personally don’t think it will come to that though. Once my parents allowed me to do stuff that they didn’t really approve of, it sort of lost its appeal. I use this method on my son often and it works wonders! The whole point of rebelling is probably just to see how far you can go (and how much you can upset your parents before they drown you in the fish pond). I suppose freedom is the key; everyone wants to be able to make their own choices and learn from their own mistakes.

As authors of young adult fiction, it’s important for us to integrate such influential adolescent feelings into our novels. Readers like to see their own trials and tribulations mirrored in their favourite characters. However, it’s also important for them to see that there is a way out—that there will be a solution at the end of the character’s journey. Remember, to young adults, the world DOES revolve around them…and I think it’s awesome.

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