Overheard, as a group of kids waited for their pictures to be taken at a tournament:
"Here comes my lazy dad. Look at him, trying to work the camera. He's so stupid."
In shock, I turned around to face a thirteen year-old boy and said, "The man is a saint simply for putting up with you."
Another mom standing near me said, "A man who works 40 hours a week to take care of his family is anything but lazy."
The boy smirked but was unrepentant. I looked at him closely to see whether there was any basis for this level of disrespect.
He was dressed well. He was clean. He had no black eye, no fat lip, no bruises or other visible signs of neglect or abuse. His dad obviously cared enough to come to this boy's sporting event and was proud enough to take pictures of him. For those reasons and the fact that he'd never received the "attitude adjustment" that he so eloquently asked for, the boy owed his father respect.
There was so much I wanted to say to that boy. So much he needed to hear. So much that many teens need to hear.
Don't get me wrong. I, too, remember thinking that my parents were too strict, a little weird, and woefully uninformed when I was a know-it-all teenager. I thought they were from a different planet, but they didn't know it. I remember thinking all that, but I would never have said that to anyone other than a family member. Even then, only if I was feeling particularly snarky. And Lord help anyone else who might say anything disrespectful about my parents. I would have cleaned their clock.
The problem seems to be that kids have trouble accepting that their parents are human. Parents are not the superheroes of their children's elementary years any longer. By middle school, this fact is slowly asserting itself into their little brains. Their parents have faults and issues like everyone else - surprise! Because the idol worship is being replaced by reason, the parents inevitably fall off the pedestal they were unknowingly placed upon and become ordinary.
This process may be a shock to a kid. Their parents aren't really all that amazing; the kid just thought they were. Now the teen is suddenly angry at his parents for being ordinary.
What teenagers never seem to grasp is that these ordinary people are, indeed, extraordinary in one very important way: Their awesome love for their children. This extraordinary love transcends every harsh word, every act of rebellion, and every stupid mistake their children make. This extraordinary love is unconditional. It will be there until the end of time, no matter how hateful the teenager decides to be.
These ordinary parents have done extraordinary things for their children, over and over again, all in the name of love, and in spite of their child's behavior. They do not ask for anything in return. In fact, there are innumerable acts of love that their children never think about, or even know about. These are acts that teens and young adults may never reflect upon until they, too, are the parents of an ungrateful child.