Why parents call their teenager lazy when it's not so.
Posted April 27, 2010
"I'll tell you what the problem is," griped the parent. "My teenager is lazy! She never wants to do what I want her to do when I want her to do it. She's always putting me off with excuses and delay. All she wants at home is to be left alone, kick back, lay around, and do nothing. I mean, how lazy is that?"
"Does she put off doing what she wants?" I asked.
"Heck no! She always does what she wants right away."
"Then you're teenager isn't being lazy; she's being selective. She's not slow to do what she wants -- only what you want. What about you?" I ask. "Do you ever put her off when she wants you to do something?"
"Sure, if I'm busy or tired or don't want to be interrupted. I tell her I'll do what she wants when I get around to it. After I've had chance to rest. Later."
"Isn't that being lazy?" I ask.
"No. It's being the parent. I've had a long day and need some down time. She doesn't have half as much to think about or take care of as I do. Her life's so simple. She's only in high school. Wait ‘til she has to function out in the adult world! She has no idea what it's like to be really busy. How do these high school kids spend their time, anyway?"
Good question. So I had a chance to ask one young woman what her typical high school day might be like. Piecing it together, her account ran something like this.
"First I have to wake myself up and get myself up after too little sleep because I was up working late getting that history project done while messaging and texting and posting back to all my friends. I don't want them to drop me for not responding and be cut out of the loop.
"Then I have to fix my appearance for school. I have to look in the mirror to see what my body has been doing, never growing in ways I like. Next, I have to do my face and hair and figure out what to wear. That's the problem with going public: how to show the best and hide the worst. Then start thinking about school. Which friends are going to act friendly today? What teachers are going to be in a bad mood? When will I have time to straighten out that argument I had last night over the phone? Are we going to break up again?
"Now for the hard part: trying to get out of the house without getting into a fight with parents over things I was told to do but haven't done yet. I know another lecture on the big R, responsibility, is coming up. I just hope it's not this morning because I have to leave early to make a 7:30 AM practice session at school. So I run out of the house promising over my shoulder to finish folding and putting away my laundry, emptying the dishwasher, and straightening up my room as soon as I get home. And I arrive at school just in time to get called down in front of everyone for being five minutes late. Why is it every teacher and coach think their demands of me come first?
"Now I rush to make first period class. Major test today. Hope the questions are something I can answer. Now matter how much I study; I'm never really prepared. Can't wait to get out of high school, but then what am I going to do? Parents keep asking. How should I know?
"Rest of the day in and out of classes, rushing to find enough time between to be with friends and repair last night's argument. Someone passes me in the hall and offers sympathy about our breaking up. Why does everybody know more about my relationship than I do?
"Classes finally over, with assignments stuffed into my notebooks, I rush off to my job - a few hours after school each day acting cheerful with impatient customers to make a little money to have something to spend. On paying friends back what I borrowed. On paying some of my own expenses because parents want me to act more grown up. But the more I make the less I seem to have to get what I want. There's never enough!
"At last I get home, ready to slow down, settle in, and chill out. But as soon as I turn on the TV, parents want to talk to me. Responsibility lecture number one zillion and one. I don't have much energy to put up a good fight so parents feel like their talk went well. To get them off my back I put a few dishes away, fold a few clean clothes, and kick the dirty ones under my bed. Then, to blot out the day, I lay down and relax with some loud music that parents yell at me to turn down.
"I'd like to go to sleep - for about a week. But I can't. Not yet. Got to make that phone call and see if we can talk to each other without getting into another fight like last night. Then there's homework to do. More messages to answer. And something else at school I know is coming due, but can't remember what. Then I start worrying and wondering about tomorrow."
It's a good question: what do some teenagers do with their time?
Well, if parents had as much to do and think about as their teenager, sometimes they might feel like acting "lazy" too.
Next week's entry: Adolescence and senior prom.