One hundred and sixty years ago, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “You may say the wisest thing you can, old man – you who have lived seventy years, not without honor of a kind – I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away from all that. One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.” Many parents today may agree with Thoreau’s sentiments.
Teenage hubris makes for one-sided conversations, where parents’ well-intentioned advice, gained through experience, seems to fall on the deaf ears of their children. Instead, teens often follow the suggestions of equally seeming all-knowing, yet inexperienced teenage friends. In the words of one parent, “I wish I had a device to hold over one ear while I’m talking, so less falls out of their heads.” Although frustrating to parents, creating a generational divide may be a necessary step for teens to develop the wisdom of experience.
Eventually, we grow up and understand that our generation is not so terminally unique from the last. As Thoreau states eloquently, “For the improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential laws of man’s existence; as our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors.” However, during teenage-hood, the complex task facing parents is standing by, watching their children learn lessons “the hard way”, even after giving ample warnings of “what not to do.” And, to endure that challenge, in the words of another parent, “There’s wine.”