Monday, July 5, 2010

Students, work on seeing your parents' side.

Antelope Valley Press
Edward Mooney, Jr.
July 5, 2010

Title: Students, work on seeing your parents' side.

Well, school's out.  The world just changed for teenagers.  They're excited as they start to deal with the long, lazy days of July.  On the last day of school I heard so many mentions of barbecues, beach trips, sleepovers and movies.  Of course, the new standards of video games, iPods, texting and web surfing were bantered about as well.

My students teach me so much about being young and carefree, and I need to get in touch with those feelings from time to time, but I'm concerned that there is something they cannot understanding about people like me.  They have yet to struggle with the burdens and responsibilities of adulthood.

To all who have sat through my lectures, my tests, my discussions and my homework, there is something I want you to study this summer - your parents. No, I'm not going to collect some paper when school resumes; I'm actually giving you an assignment you'll struggle with for decades.  You see, your parents are just as human as you are.

As you play the latest version of your favorite video game, try and understand the wrinkled brow your father is wearing these days.  Your mother's, too.   Take my word for it - I've been around for over 54 years now and these are the worst economic times I've seen.

Your dad and mom are worried about paying the property taxes in November as you're asking them for $20 to go and get a cheeseburger.  You see, they look further down the road than you do - that's the price (or benefit) of having been burned a few times along the way.  We who are over 30 years of age have learned that small choices today equal huge payments tomorrow, and I'm not just talking about money.

We take on debt and when the economy "goes south" (as it has) we frantically try to figure out how to cut expenses to be able to hold on to the cars and the house.  So, if your parents seem a bit angry when you ask for money, try finding a way to save some dollars for them before hitting them up for cash.

Can you see where I'm going here?  We of the "black and white TV was all we had when we were kids" crowd are, without saying anything, looking for help, not more bills to pay.  No, this doesn't mean we don't love you.  Heck, we'd all love to fly you to Paris for the weekend - but notice we don't even do that for ourselves nowadays.

Try to see our side of life.  Our employers are asking us to work more hours for less money.  They're cutting our hours.  They're asking us to do without in more ways than you could possibly understand.  If your parent owns his or her own business, they're seeing fewer orders, and fewer customers.  That rattles one's confidence, believe me.

We also know we have to conserve our money as much as possible right now. So, when you ask for that twenty dollar bill, realize we may have to offer you a five, or ask you to go without this week.  Look at our expression - it's not anger, it's fear and frustration.  We really do want to go back to the good old days, but those days seem far away right now.

None of us want you to have to grow up in these circumstances.  None of us want to live through these times.  We have plans and hopes, too, in case you didn't know that.  We have to postpone a lot of plans just to be able to put food on the table.

We envy you - we really do.  The tasks of feeding, clothing, housing and entertaining you fall completely on our shoulders.   We don't mind under normal circumstances, but, well, in 2010 we're pained that we have to turn you down too many times.

What would really help is if you look inside our over-30 hearts and souls and understand what we're struggling with.  A simple taking out of the trash goes a long way - we feel less alone, less like the whole problem is ours only.

So, here's your "summer homework" - try to find that soft spot in your heart for your parents.  Try to see that they're fighting some hard times right now.  After you do that, look deep inside of yourself and find the inner strength to end a hand, to give a smile, and, every now and then, a hug.

Sometimes, in an economy like the one we're dealing with, a hug can feel like a million dollars.  I mean it.

Thought for the Week: "Wrinkles are hereditary. Parents get them from their children." - Doris Day

Edward Mooney, Jr., a Palmdale author, is the 2010 DAR History Teacher of the Year for California.

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