Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A friend is a friend - even 30 years later

Recently, I had the pleasure of going back to my hometown to see friends.  I knew the women when we were all young girls who went together to church and school for twelve years, then, as usually happens, many of us scattered as we chose different kinds of careers and colleges, married and made homes.

After more than thirty years, having reconnected on-line, we wanted to meet in person, and were actually able to make it happen.  Coming from Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia, we made our way back to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where we convened for dinner.  Each of us was a little older, a bit wiser, slightly weathered by the twists and turns of coping with daily life.

What surprised me, however, was not the changes in our looks, but how unchanged everyone's basic personality seemed to be.  Not only did I feel immediately comfortable and content to be back in the company of my friends, but I still knew these women.  They were, after decades, still the strong, solid people I knew as a kid.  I found it gratifying, yet hard to believe, that everyone at the table has been successful at what we chose to do.  Each person seemed confident and poised to one degree or another.

I never read Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village, but I wonder if she included friends in the influences considered important to a child's formation.  As I looked around the table at my childhood friends, I knew they had helped to shape my values and attitudes.  Although my parents were the central figures in my upbringing, no one can deny peer pressure and opinion is one of the strongest motivators in our lives as we muddle our way through the teenage years.  It wasn't hard to remembering lessons I learned from one of my friends in sharing; from another, I developed a sense of compassion; a third showed me a thing or two about humility;  another taught me the importance of letting go and having some fun. 

For all of these gifts, and more, I owe my friends a giant "thank-you."  I was lucky, and I hope my readers were also blessed with good friends.  I also hope you will check on your children or grandchildren and their pals.  It's a cliche that a kid can "get in with the wrong crowd" and get into trouble; it is, however, quite true!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Compassion for Teens?

My book, Snowstorm, is about the struggles of an angry sixteen year-old girl in a mental hospital.  She is not, according to a couple of people who have read an excerpt of the novel, a lovable character - at least not in the first few scenes of the book.  In my opinion, however, Carly and other teenagers like her evoke a great deal of compassion.  I suppose that's why I chose troubled kids as my subject matter.

I can never quite understand how adults who found the antics of a toddler endearing, suddenly have no tolerance for the same kinds of foolishness in an adolescent.  Now, I do get that the teenager is larger and can do more damage, but it seems like so many people miss the point. 

When Mom is talking on the phone to a colleague, and her four year-old taps her on the shoulder over and over, Mom understands that the child wants attention.  She also knows that if she doesn't deal with her son in some way, he will escalate to crying or screaming. Why then do Mom and Dad not seem to understand that if they've been working late every night of the week, their teenage son may call them at work a dozen times in an effort to connect.  And like the little child ten years ago, if the parent just gets aggravated without giving the young man some time, he is likely to escalate his efforts by going out with friends without permission.

I guess I just expect adults to see that even in an almost-adult body, a teenager is just a larger version of that same little girl or boy who needed his mom or dad so much.  It's the same child, still asking for attention, and to me that young adult needs more understanding than ever.

Of course, I happen to like teenagers.