Growing into their wings.

Based on 2001 column I wrote in the Esquimalt News. So if you think you read something like this sometime before somewhere…maybe you did. Or maybe not.

Perhaps my problem with teenagers stems from their being so accomplished at spitting. I’m not. Never have been. When I was growing up in Edmonton, at minus 35 it was very important to get that shot well away past your lips or risk having to explain a badly chapped chin to your friends.     

I don’t think there is anything more wrong with teenagers today then there ever has been. When my darlings entered that dreaded age, I lay awake several nights listening for the sound of a whole flock of birds from my misspent youth coming home to roost. The worst part was my mother not only lacked sympathy, she was downright giddy when I mentioned my fears to her. She kept muttering about ringside seats.

So why is it I feel creeping apprehension when I see a group of gangly youths  talking loudly with lots of liquid punctuation in startlingly bad English? I know these are good kids despite their inability to pull up their pants or keep all of their underwear inside their clothes. 

These are our future doctors and, God forgive them, engineers. Some may seek public office but the majority will be honest and hard working folk. 

I still remember once, ‘lo those many years ago, when I was still crossing guard for my daughter’s elementary school.  I asked a tall lad on his way to high school to wait for the light before crossing the street. I stressed it would help set a good example for the kids. To my great relief he waited as asked until the light changed. 

The next morning he walked up with some friends who were speaking loudly and colorfully but without much variety in their use of adjectives. The young man looked at the children around me and then at his buddies. Then he said something in young speak to his friends. I’m not sure but I think the rough translations was,  “Hey, guys. Take it easy, okay, there are kids here”.  

They looked down at the gaggle of two-legged puppies gnawing at their ankles and switched to normal english like they’d been speaking it all their lives. 

It’s important to remember that underneath all the nylon and profanity teens are just bigger puppies. Think of them as birds just before they fly for the first time: a lot of pinfeathers, big bellies and perpetually open mouths. They have to test every limit, eat constantly, squawk for no reason and make a big mess. Our job as adults is to set the limits again and again; teach them to feed themselves; introduce them to concept of laundry, listen to their dreams and set their feet on the branch when it is time to try their wings. 

That’s my theory, anyway. 

It certainly helps calm my nerves to imagine all I need do is toss them a couple of well chewed worms and they’ll flap away. 


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