To The Parents by Carlo Zolezzi
As I carry on writing my autobiography I have some advice for parents. I’m not a parent and I think being a mother to my cats is as close as I’ll ever be to being one. However, I have been somebody’s child and I remember it clearly. So here’s the advice.
First, observe your children carefully and with an open mind. You’re the parent and you know better than them, it’s true. You love them and you want what’s best for them, also true. But if you observe, you’ll be able to give them what’s better than best for them. Children, especially teenagers, withdraw. Observe them carefully. Let me give you an example. Let’s say your kid is doing badly in school. You cuss at him because he needs to buckle down and maybe after you do the situation does improve. Make sure though, that you address the underlying causes for his doing badly in school. That requires observation on your part. Otherwise, cussing at him would be the equivalent to putting a bandaid on a wound that requires stitches: eventually it may heal and leave a horrible scar or it may bleed again and even get infected. He will not tell you directly what’s going on because that’s what kids do, they don’t always tell, but he might be being bullied or he might have a secret that is consuming him or he might be struggling with identity issues like I did for so long. If you don’t know how to act, look for professional help. That doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you a better one. After all, you’re human and you’re bound to make mistakes. This, however, is not an excuse to be in denial about something that troubles you about your kid, like him being gay or him preferring ballet instead of soccer.
Second, be careful about how you deliver the message and be realistic about its content. When I was 14, my ultraconservative parents yelled at me not to have premarital sex because it’s a sin and because they would not take care of a baby if I got a girl pregnant. That was their idea of a lecture on morals and safe sex. My then 78-year-old progressive grandmother came to the rescue: “I love my daughter but I don’t know why she’s so conservative. She didn’t get it from me, I mean is she high? You don’t tell a horny teenager not to have sex cuz it’s a sin! You tell him to carry condoms in his wallet at all times! The baby, honey? That’s the least of your worries. When your junk falls off cuz you got a venereal disease you’ll wish you had put on a condom. There’s nothing wrong with having sex with your beloved if it’s safe sex!” My granny was raised catholic and raised to be religious but as time marched on she adapted and changed her views several times according to reality, even more so than my parents. Be like my grandma with your kids. Be realistic and speak calmly, only screaming when you really have to. Don’t make any topics taboo because that’s when your kids will feel more comfortable talking to their idiot friends in school than to their parents (who should know better but not always do) at home.