Chapter 11 Bridging the great divide
By Chris Wilson
Unless born out of assault, trickery, or external manipulation it has to be said that parents are to blame if they decide to have children. They can waffle on for hours about genetic propagation, and the importance of passing on tried and tested family values; whatever they may be, but if they decide to have children they cannot complain when such children grow up to become teens. The list of things that can go wrong with such offspring is of course unending, but if we talk to most parents the biggest challenge they face is when their kids progress through their teens.
They will state that though they love their children, and wish to see them do well in life, but secretly they also wish that, during this period, they would remove themselves from the family home or at least securely lock themselves away.
If they are honest then parents they don’t care where their kids go, how they go, or what mode of potential isolation they chose just as long as they move well out of eye and earshot, and don’t return until they have rediscovered how to behave. This of course rarely happens and so it is that most parents seem to suffer approximately five to six years of unmitigated hell. So this is the battleground upon which most encounters occur, so lets go back to our happy couple, and see how they managing as the twins hit their teens
It has to be said from the very onset of this period, that Bob and Sue have done everything that any set of parents can do before their children hit their teens. They have carefully studied the changing nature of their children, they have poured through endless books and pamphlets, and their eyes and minds are run ragged through what they have absorbed through the internet and the television screen; but they are still slightly apprehensive about what is to come. The problem they face is that though they believe their plans are both good and fair, they know that such plans will be laid in front of two new yet fully-fledged teenagers, and, as a result certain difficulties might arise. They were quite right to be worried as bang on the twins thirteenth birthday their children disappeared, and two quite repulsive creatures suddenly entered their home.
They looked like their children, and when addressed by their recorded and baptismal names of Adrian and Dani, they even answered to both of their names, but any resemblance to the children they had known and lived with for nearly thirteen years ended there. As we join the family, it is once more a Sunday, but for the next five to six years Sundays will never quite be the same.
As we enter the happy home there is a strange and menacing rumbling in the air. A door crashes open, then a second door, and standing at each threshold, and glaring across a seemingly bottomless divide we see two very alarming forms. At one door we see Adrian, and at the other Danielle, they are Bob and Sue’s twins of course, and, up until now they have been quite adorable. Unfortunately it is their thirteenth birthday, and upon waking up from a long nights slumber, they now both wish to use, secure, and control one very important room. That room is, of course, that bathroom and over the next seven years it will be the battleground for many wars to come. Where are Bob and Sue during this stand off, do they stand, compassionately between the two? Do they hold a loo roll and a sanitary towel in one hand, and a shaving kit in the other?
Not quite, but secure in their own room, and unseen by both their offspring they have been listening very, very, carefully. They look at each other, nod in silent agreement, and then fish out a book that they have kept hidden for years. It is time to unveil, and then enact a plan that they have been preparing for years.
Oh yes, Bob and Sue have been very cute indeed, for not only do they have a plan, but also it is theoretically a very good plan again. As such they know exactly what they are going to do now their children are thirteen. Both are co- founders and co-directors of a highly successful motivational and human resource management company, so they are quietly confident that, with their proven personnel management skills, all will be well. So far so good, but they have forgotten one small but hugely significant detail.
Such schemes are good for children, they are generally eager to learn; they are good for adults who, with maturity, appreciate such techniques and rationales; but they are absolutely useless when applied to teenagers.
What Bob and Sue have failed to remember is that on the stroke of thirteen teenagers know absolutely everything, and their parents know sweet beggar all. As a result their parents are automatically insensitive to their needs and therefore they are virtually a waste of space and time. The bank of Mum and Dad is very useful of course, but that is their automatic role during such a five to seven year period, so therefore they have no reason to complain.We will see how Adrian and Dani view the plan during the course of the chapter but first we need to see what kind a strategy Bob and Sue have chosen to deploy. They have called it E.M.P.I.R.E, and, on paper it seems to be ideal.
The first thing they will do is to EDUCATE the twins as regards their life to come. They will make then lay down reasonable rules, and create MAINTAINABLE rules, for all concerned. Their children’s right to PRIVACY will of course be respected, within reason, and so long as they behave then certain leeway might be given Once such measures have taken they will carefully monitor the twin’s response, and pinpoint any battles that might have to be fought. Should such battles arise, which they feel is very likely; they will keep themselves informed as to their causes, and then work with the twins so such INCIDENTS might be amicably and permanently RESLOVED. Finally Bob and Sue will EMPATHISE.
There you have it E.M.P.I.R.E, a brilliant plan for the 21st century, and a plan that cannot go wrong. As modern parents they will not make the same mistake that their parents made for, as they have told their respective parents, they live in a different age and as such, their parent’s rules simply no longer apply.
The really annoying thing for Bob and Sue is that nobody seems to take their plan seriously.
When the plan was laid before both sets of their parents, they just burst out laughing before stating that Bob and Sue were at best temporarily away with the fairies, and at worst totally insane. On reflection they came to a consensus that, as the years had proved, the latter was more applicable, but as Bob and Sue seemed determined to press ahead, the parents were more than prepared to book front row seats, and enjoy the show.
Disgusted by such a response Bob and Sue turned to their children, just one month before their thirteenth birthday, believing that a little more sense and decorum might be found there.
The best thing that can be said about their response is that at least they listened to their parents.
It is true that they regarded them with open contempt, and it is equally true that a few moments later their derisive, if still childish laughter filled the air, but unbeknown to Bob and Sue even worse was to follow. Their so called secret plan had been discovered months ago by the twins, so now, after a lot of careful planning the twins are to both become teenagers, and to move in for the kill.
Breakfast was late that Sunday morning, as it took Adrian and Dani over an hour fight over rights of usage, and then eventually vacate the bathroom. They all had breakfast, Bob and Sue finally gained access to the loo, and they all sat down, as a family, so that the full plan might be explained. This is when Bob and Sue realised three things. The first thing they came to recognise was that all their initial plans were, at best, a partial waste of time. Then they realised that their secret plans had never been, and were never going to be, any kind of a secret from their children, and finally they began to appreciate just how difficult their next five years were going to be.
The circumstance by which these realisations became clear, was as obvious as it was simple. Like so many parents before them Bob and Sue decided it was time to talk to their children about the birds and the bees, it really seemed to be the natural way to begin. There was to be no embarrassment, no awkwardness, and do hesitancy about such a discussion, for by being well informed and thoroughly progressive they knew that now they were ready to carefully, but frankly, usher the twins into their brand new world.
What a waste of time.
Caught up in their own world, and submerged in the preparations for the teenager’s years to come they were somehow unaware that Dani had the body of a sixteen year old, and totally unaware that Adrian had defiantly developed in a very masculine way. Such lack of awareness didn’t last for long however, as the twins graphically demonstrated how they had both mentally and physically grown. In addition they then educated Bob and Sue about such matters, leaving both of their parents feeling very ignorant and very shocked indeed.
There was one good thing though, no clothing was removed during Bob and Sue’s education, not even as an aid to practical demonstration, but outflanked and sent packing by the twins counter attack, they wisely retreated and, once having done so, they resolved to live on and fight another day.
Though neither Bob nor Sue enjoyed such a ritualistic humiliation, it did at least occur within the privacy of the home. On balance they were actually quite happy as the children, through their knowledge, spared them the embarrassment of dealing with certain subjects, and in addition the little darlings inadvertently showed themselves up for what they really were. So it was that Bob and Sue moved on to stage two.
If Adrian and Dani wanted to be treated like adults, or young adults, so be it, but if they wanted such recognition then, as far as Bob and Sue were concerned, it was time to lay down some rules. Once more a family conference was convened, but this time even the twins realised that a new force was in the air. To the victor the glory, to the victor the spoils but that was only one battle, now they were enmeshed in a war.
As Adrian and Dani sat down a list of rules lay before them, followed by second list of expectations that both were obliged to sign. For a second both looked back towards their parents, and stated that such rules weren’t fair, but both needed some money, and without their signed agreement, they knew that none, or at least, very little would come. The precise rules that were set were actually of no great value, as they dramatically changed with time, but out of such a meeting a new and powerful family dynamic emerged.
Before their birthday it was Adrian and Dani that sung from the same hymn sheet, and it was their parents that silently fought for overall parental and marital control, but now, much to the kids annoyance everything has been turned upside down. Now the parents seem to act in unison, while it is Adrian and Dani who are at war.
This reversal is as old as time itself, and is based on the two simple yet powerful factors. At such a time parental unison makes sense, but for any teenager concerned a very different scenario unfolds. As we have seen already their bodies and minds are often going in entirely different directions, so what hope of unity can they possibly hope for there? For Adrian and Dani of course it is even gets tougher. Physically they believe their bodies and minds are already well beyond their years and that is causing problems. Outside of the house they are eying up the opposite sex as if they were bees attracted to a huge pot of honey, but as regards their ongoing sibling relationship no such attraction occurs.
Adrian views Dani as a dirty little hussy will flaunt her ridiculously clean body at anything guy that moves. Dani knows that Adrian has become a facially infectious nauseating runt of an imbecile whose brains, if he has any, now lie firmly between his legs. Neither view is correct of course, as they are just normal mixed up and confused teenagers, so looking on in silence Bob and Sue just smile. It gives them wonderful leverage for the rest of their plan, the next part of which is about to begin.
If there is one thing that Bob and Sue have enjoyed since they have been married it is privacy. Even when their children were growing up they found time and space to be alone so that they might pursue a lifestyle that, as consenting adults, they both enjoyed. Of course Adrian and Dani were inclined to pester them occasionally, but they had always understood that, at times, Bob and Sue needed to be alone, even if the kids had little or no idea what was going on.
Now of course the rules of privacy need to be redrawn, so once more the family conference resumes. As might be anticipated another difference of opinions occurs.
As far as Bob and Sue are concerned, the rules regarding privacy are really very simple. To begin with it is their house, they are paying all the bills, so therefore they can make the rules by which their now rather loathsome offspring must abide. They have a right to their own marital privacy, and this must be respected at all times, even when so-called teenage emergencies arise. They will in return respect their children’s right to privacy and freedom of movement, but such rights must be carefully monitored and probably slightly restricted due to their age, physical development, actual mental maturity, and in deference to the dubious life forms that already seem to surround them. Finally any conditions applied to Adrian and Dani must be open to continuous review as their years progress, and any perceived breaching of such rules or conditions may result in restrictive measures being applied.
Though Bob and Sue think this is a very fair approach, they appreciate that certain aspects of the package might meet with some opposition so, once having outlined their plans, and placed a printed copy before the kids for inspection and countersigning, they sit back and wait to hear a reply.
They don’t have long to wait for Adrian and Dani are furious and, not unnaturally, they initially refuse to sign.
Although they are only just thirteen they know that if they sign the document that lies before them, then God help them when further freedom is demanded in time, and anyway, at their age why do Bob and Sue need to be alone. As far as Adrian and Dani are concerned their parents are not just old but also decrepit as well.
They are the ones who are young and fertile, and they are the ones who should have automatic privacy and the freedom to play. This being so it is quite obvious to the twins that, as normal, their antediluvian parents have got everything wrong. Finally they are proud of their circle of friends and acquaintances, but such is the ageing decrepitude of their parents, that they fully understand that no decent recognition will ever come.
Bob and Sue return fire vigorously, pointing out that they are not so very old, and that as such intimacy between them both still, most enjoyably occurs. This of course disgusts the opposition, but Bob and Sue are not stupid. They have always known that this clause might have to be rewritten, to a degree, so a second more malleable, but equally restrictive document is swiftly put on the table for their children to peruse. Poor saps they know not what they sign.
Their minds are still so full of the disgusting notion of their parents kissing, let alone having sex, that they neither wish to read any more words nor even stay at the table; so in the end they sign. Little do they know that by signing the new document they not only forged their very own set of chains for the next six years, but they have also built their own jail, locked themselves in, and then handed over the keys.
Never mind, Bob and Sue have now got the keys, and the replacement signed contracts. Even more critically, their checkbooks, pin numbers, and bank cards are securely locked away. Are they feeling satisfied with their day’s work; the answer is of course both yes and no. They are of course pleased that, to a certain degree, they still retain a good deal of control, but they also know that Adrian’s and Dani’s power is only just emerging. One day much harder battles will come.
Such battles obviously do occur during the next few years, and they are the kind of battles that most parents would easily recognise as their own. To begin with there is the unending battle of clothes and cleanliness, and this is a fight which, though changing subtly over the children’s teenage years, will never really come to an end. Right at the beginning of the battle it is hard to get any clothing off or away from Adrian, and even at this early stage Bob consider buying themselves gas masks and veils. Whereas as Dani, who is developing more rapidly, continually showers both Bob and Sue with a quantity and range of allegedly dirty washing that neither of them particularly wish to see or really know. Outer layer clothing is of no concern, as that is perfectly harmless, but as regards what their daughter wears underneath, well that is an entirely different story, as that seems to be getting skimpier all the time. In addition neither Bob nor Sue has ever particularly enjoyed laundry duties, so when the daily mound is dumped before them on the floor, they get rather annoyed when over half of it seems to be clean.
The other battle that occurs at this stage of their children’s development is the conflict surrounding access and control of the bathroom, and other related bathroom activities. The problem that Bob and Sue face is very simple. They cannot get Dani out of the bathroom while Adrian seems to regard the area as a long lost world that should never be rediscovered or explored.
He does of course recognise that it has its uses, namely to shave off his invisible yet, to him, rapidly growing facial hair, but as regards cleanliness a strange smell seems to envelope him, and it is an aroma that nobody else in the living house enjoys. Dani, of course, is disgusted by the aroma, and tells everybody about Adrian’s lack of cleanliness all the time, but as far as Bob and Sue are concerned they wish a delicate compromise could be found between the two extremes.
They get rather sick and tired of Dani’s cleanliness fetish and her continually whining, but at the same time they desire that Adrian should at least have a bath once in a while. Finally they desire to use such facilities occasionally, and at this time in their lives such opportunities are hard to find.
Then of course the real fun starts, for a couple of years down the line the question of privacy, and other related topics, take centre stage. As regards their own privacy there is no real cause for concern, as they have maintained the tough line they set at the beginning, so, being dismissive of their offspring’s views about oldies and sex, they happily carry on very much as before.
Yet there is a problem, Adrian and Dani are approaching the delicate age of sixteen, they are forcefully demanding far more privacy, freedom of movement, and freedom of choice of their own of their own.
Up until this point any paramours that both kids have had with the opposite sex have largely been of a technical nature. Since they have hit thirteen they have both had a string of very eager potential partners, but, unusually for their age, as parties have been fairly inexperienced. Shadow boxing has occurred, rather than a full blown punch up, where all sides have generally aped their friends or peers, rather than joining them. There have of course been exceptions within their circle of friends; including a couple of near misses and a full-blown pregnancy, but by some fluke both Adrian and Dani have avoided such occurrences. Now such halcyon days are at an end, and both are demanding the right to both chose their friends, and any course of action that they might wish to pursue. In doing so they, for the first time, create a division between Bob and Sue.
Bob and Sue have always assumed that any caveman and cavewoman tendencies within them both had long been ironed out by careful discussion, reasoned debate, and exhaustive examination of modern model parenting, but now, bang on cure Bob the caveman makes an unwelcome appearance on the scene. As far as he is concerned Dani is his little girl, a notion that Dani has carefully fostered, and no testosterone charged Neanderthal is going to drop her to the ground and deflower her. As regards Adrian he has more ambivalent views. Of course he is desperate that Adrian does not casually increase the world’s population, but on the quiet he is quite proud of how much of a man he has become. So it is that while in front of the cameras, and in sight and sound of Dani, he reprimands his son’s desire to follow a more active or licentious path, he secretly ensures that at least Adrian is fully equipped and informed about what he is very soon likely to do.
Sue, of course, is totally aware of the game that Bob is doing, and balances up the equation by educating Dani. Sue knows how Dani has been playing Bob, and secretly admires the skills that are so deployed, but then she also recognises the true young woman that Dani has become. She is fully aware of how manipulative and flirtatious Dani has become, and how even more aware of the various stages of intimacy that her daughter has reached so far. So while Bob is taking Adrian in hand, so Sue is doing the same as regards Dani.
She knows that she cannot stop any intimacy that Dani decides to enjoy, and she also knows that any choice of partner is Dani choice and her choice alone, but she is also determined that Dani is not going to treat Bob like some cretinous fool. She tells Dani that such privileges are for her to control and enjoy, and though she doesn’t actually disagree with her daughter, Dani would do well to remember exactly that is Bob who is paying the bills, and officially setting the curfew hours and visiting rights for any of her friends that wish to call.
The joke is that everyone is actually keeping everyone else informed and this carries on over the next few years. Adrian is fully aware of what Dani is getting up to, and keeps Bob informed all the way, while Dani as doing exactly the same for her Mum. What is the result of all this activity?
Adrian and Dani fight like cat and dog, and dish the dirt when ever they can, while Bob and Sue frantically adjust their thoughts actions and lifestyle so they can at least keep step with the twins for at least some of the time. In some respects though Bob and Sue are lucky, for though during the rest of the twins teenage years, certain predictable yet unwelcome incidents do occur they actually escape very lightly indeed.
Of course each twins home an astonishing array of quite loathsome potential partners, of course they experiment with booze, but as regards any other more serious physical or simulative lapses they remain largely in the clear. The twins still have had to endure one more lesson in life though, and once the twins had hit sixteen it was a lesson which Bob and Sue enjoyed giving to the full.
This is the final part of their plan, and the one that they had been looking forward to for years. It was to time to empathise with the twins, and that means it was time for Bob and Sue to have fun, and in doing so to have a long awaited revenge.
In order to see why Bob and Sue desired to be so vindictive it important to see how the balance of both power and understanding had shifted over the years.
As far as Adrian and Dani are concerned any earlier notions about the inadequacies of their parents that they may have conceived have been clearly amplified and clearly proven over the years. The twins could clearly see that Bob and Sue are perfectly adequate wage earners, and therefore could fund their teenage lives to the full, but beyond that their parents had no other redeeming qualities at all.
They had no knowledge of life; no comprehension of the modern young adult or of teenager needs, and a set of moral codes that were so redundant that they might as well had never been formed. Even worse they had increasingly refused to act their age as the years have slipped by and by now they had become a continual embarrassment to the twins. If only they would rejoin the real world that the twins so clearly understood. If only they would listen to them, and learn about life so that they, as parents, might enjoy a happier and more fulfilled life than the one that they then enjoyed.
As far as Bob and Sue were concerned this was absolute rubbish, and therefore it was time for the twins to be taught the last lesson in life that Bob and Sue feel that they could realistically pass on. They were actually very happy with how the twins had dealt with the teenage years, but they were very annoyed regarding how the twins view them during this time. Regarding the twins as slightly priggish idiots they rejected their views, and decided that if that is the game they wished to play then they, as parents, will delicately show them how such a game could be run.
Thus began a carefully orchestrated battle whose aim is to cause as much embarrassment to their little fledglings as possible. As considerate parents they openly read teenage magazines, offered to host parties and, of course, dress for such parties in a most appropriate manner. When the twins brought new partners into the home Bob and Sue not only enthusiastically got to know them, but they also painstakingly empathise as well.
They carefully mimicked teenage slang, but made sure they get it slightly wrong. They sent voluminous text messages, but not in the current predictive text style, and carefully listened to and seemingly comprehended the music and lifestyle that both of the twins enjoyed. Finally they brought out the family albums, just to show their little darlings how wonderful their lives once were.
They loved playing this game, as it hugely embarrassed their loathsome offspring, and played well, they could make it last for hours. This of course infuriated and embarrasses the twins, but they did not have the skill, the knowledge, the prints, or experience, to fight such a battle so in the end the parents won.
Is this the full story of how teenagers interact with their peers, both inside and out of the family? Certainly not, for there are as many variations on this theme as there are families all over the world, but our little story does at least demonstrate just how complex yet dynamic such natural scenario can be.
This is this not the last we shall see of Bob and Sue, for this is as much their story as it is ours; but we shall leave them for now as they need to rest and sort out their lives, and their children’s lives for a couple of years. It seems to both of them that this period in their lives will never end but as we shall see some relief is actually close to hand.
- Fat Lady May Sing for the Last Time: The New York City Opera Files Chapter 11 (steelvalleybankruptcy.wordpress.com)