Jon and I watched “The Fog of War” the other night. Robert McNamara gives an apologetic for his involvement in the US military during WWII all the way to Viet Nam. To say that I felt a distinct chill in the room as I considered the implications of his “lessons of war” when looking at Iraq would be an understatement. Should be required viewing for everyone.
But a more satirical purpose for his lessons of war presented itself to me today: therapy for the parents of teens.
As I wrote down each of McNamara's lessons, I saw an uncanny correspondence to raising teenagers. So I’ve adapted his lessons for what I call “The Fog of the Teen Years: Lessons for Parents of Adolescents.”
So how do you really feel about it, Bob?
Empathize with the Enemy
Empathize: Walk a mile in their moccasins with their iPods plugged into your ears. I’ve found that the secret to teen thinking lurks in the lyrics to their favorite songs. To gain empathy, one must spend time decoding those lyrics.
So I, I will paint you in silver.
I will wrap you in cold.
I will lift up your voice as I sink.
Your sins into me,
oh, my beautiful one, now
Your sins into me. (AFI, Silver and Cold)
Couldn't be clearer. This teen is singing to his dad's Lexus that he just towed to the body shop after that "unfortunate incident" in the parking lot at the Metallica concert, right?
Rationality will not save us.
As Dr. Michael Bradley says in his excellent teen survival guide Yes, Your Teen is Crazy, teens are brain damaged. Typical parental unit comments like “Check the oil” and "Drive carefully" are utterly pointless.
Instead, invest in a triple A card and a cell phone. (Oh, and three sets of keys... don't ask me how I know that's important...)
There’s something beyond one’s self.
There is? Oh, wait. The Internet, that's right. DSL for every teen.
Which of course means let them launder darks and whites together. Strip the sheets off their beds when they happen to have rolled out of them at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. Remake the bed at about 1 a.m. since they are sure to be elsewhere at that hour.
Proportionality should be a guideline
So if he decides to grow his hair halfway down his back, remember that’s better than growing it as long as Cher’s. If she pierces her ears all the way up both sides and adds an eyebrow ring, at least she hasn’t succumbed to the pressure to pierce "hidden parts." He may get a speeding ticket, but hey, he's not in prison!
Lessons 6 through 11 later.