Growing up I always felt like something was missing. If it wasn’t a close-knit, happy family, creating joyful memories together it was me desiring to have my own space and doing things at my own time. If it wasn’t asking for my parents to buy me a cool fashion item so I can fit in with the crowds (of course acting out when they couldn’t), it was me wishing to be accepted just by being because I knew how stretched my family’s finances were.
I don’t recall, especially as a teen, understanding a lot that was happening around me. A lot felt contradictory and I spent most my days and years conflicted and confused. Like how I felt vs how my family or society expected me to feel. Because of this, it always seemed like how I genuinely felt was not important. Or what I dreamt of wasn't attainable. Like many of my peers, at times I put up a brave face even when I was scared or confused.
Putting a full display of my true emotions on a pedestal wasn’t an option because you would get called names such as weak, cry baby, tell tale and the likes. Emotions were labeled as either bad or good. Behaviour, resulting from how I felt was labeled and categorised as either good or bad too. So like most, I wanted to be a good girl. What seemed prevalent was the etching encouragement from adults and peers to “toughen up” when expressing my hurts. Applause came when I “sucked it all in” by not expressing how I felt, for instance when a friend at the playground hurt me. An applause came too when I fell and stood up without crying literal tears. At the clarion of “big girl”, from the proud grinned faces of those who expressed it, my heart bled at the pain I was feeling. Despite the urge to scream the pain out, I kept it all in to keep their gloat on.
I don’t wonder, but now know how differently my teen life would’ve been empowered by knowing that all of these things were simply debilitating. Joey Dlamini’s book, The Teen Top 25: Foundational Life Lessons for a Thriving Journey to Adulthood is packed with gems I so much relate to. Gems I wish I read of or knew about when I was younger.
Until someone shares their story, you never really know that you are not alone in your feelings and journey of life.
Navigating teen life, let alone life in general should not be an isolating experience. Now that I’m older, I’m always reminded of the song “no man is an island” when I feel alone and challenged by life.
Written for teens in mind, the book covers many things that affirm the journeys of our young selves and also contains some great lessons for our old selves which we need to be reminded of in order to unlearn and apply in our parenting and relationships.
It is true, when we know better, we do better. But the same is also true that at times, despite our knowledge and experiences, we will still find ourselves in a chapter of what I call, self-imposed turmoil simply because of the decisions we’ve taken. Something we keep fronting and never really want to admit to ourselves or anyone. A simple example here is someone going out on a phuza Thursday drinking spree and then reeling from an unpleasant hangover the following day at work. Like the time my friends and I skipped quite time at boarding school to spend time together at the sports field (no, we weren’t playing sport, we were just walking around, chit chatting 😅). Of course we knew what the repercussions would be when the matron found we weren’t in our rooms, but at that moment, all we wanted was the freedom to roam around freely.
In her book, Joey touches on a lot of things she wishes she knew whilst growing up. Wishing that those whom she was placed in their care - if they’d also known better - should’ve taught her or given some insight on how to navigate her young life. So many of us, parents in particular, raise our children with values and beliefs systems we learnt from our nurturers. If we are not careful, and if we don’t take stock of what has framed our lives up to this point, we run the risk of enabling history to repeat itself.
I love what one parenting expert says: in parenting our children, we need to remember that we are raising adults and not kids. When I first heard this, I was blown away because even adults make mistakes, despite their perceived maturity. So as parents, we should strive to continue parenting our children from a place of empowerment, with the mindset that we are teaching them how to BE, when they are older. They may be rebellious during their teen years but we need to be accepting that that's all part of their growth - remember how you were whilst growing up 😅. Also, even if they are not in their teen years, we need to learn to give them the free will to make their own decisions. What's important is teaching them that for every action, there’s a consequence. This is something I’m teaching my daughter actively now that she’s approaching her tween years. Proverbs 22:6 puts it more aptly, that "teach them in the ways they should go and they will remember it when they are older".
The lessons in Joey’s book are absolutely phenomenal and critical to a “thriving journey to adulthood”. I love how all 26 of them (there’s a bonus chapter) are premised on a good solid foundation, which is having a relationship with God. It’s an absolute must have for teens and parents alike. With additional reflective questions, it serves as a good communication tool, which I believe is the key to thriving relationships, with the self or with our nurturers.
What was your experience growing up?
What are some of the things you wish you knew as a teen?
How have your young adult experiences affected or are affecting your parenting?
Are your parental anecdotes aligned with your desired parenting? If not, what changes do you need to put in place?
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