I've been thinking a lot about how people treat children. And in my thoughts I think I've realized a possible answer to why YA tends to feature parents/adults that aren't present, have problems, etc.
Back in the day—what I like to call "Pre-Baby"—I had this idea that parents could mold their children into whatever they wanted. I mean, all they had to do was discipline properly, provide essential nutrition, and give copious amount of love. How hard was that?
If I saw a child misbehave in public, I rolled my eyes, groaned, scoffed, etc. "What a horrible parent," I'd think. "They can't even control their own child." I think I had this idea that kids were more like dogs than people. Proper training! Train that child and he'll do whatever you want on command. Child rearing shows only enforced this thinking.
More than anything, I was annoyed at these little, loud people invading my life. They were such a nuisance! I'd see a baby on a plane and groan, never thinking of how nervous and stressed that mother probably was. I'd glare at the loud family in the restaurant, wondering why they bothered to take their kids out if they couldn't behave.
It was all about me. Me. Oh, and more me. And I didn't even realize it.
Then I had Dino Boy and Ninja Girl.
I promised I wouldn't be like those other parents. My kids would be perfect. They would sit still in church, never have tantrums, never yell. They would eat everything on their plate, never watch TV, and take commands without question.
Looking back, I laugh at myself. I basically wanted robot babies! What I got were human babies.
And guess what? Dino Boy and Ninja Girl have, like, their own personalities. They have likes and dislikes. They have things that scare them and things they love to do. They have good days and bad ones, times of fatigue and times of infinite energy. They have emotions.
They might be small, but they are people.
This might be a simple realization, but it changed my whole world. Instead of glaring at that little boy screaming in the check-out line, I felt love for him. He wasn't ruining my life—he was just trying to deal with his own problems in the only way he knew how. I wasn't any better than a child; I still have tantrums and bad days and times that I cry because I don't know how else to deal with my life.
This is the ultimate hypocrisy of adulthood—we're really just big kids.
Yet we expect perfect behavior from the little people in our lives, while at the same time allowing ourselves to behave poorly rather often. We forget that children are people, with thoughts and feelings very real to them. We forget that they deserve respect, compassion, and patience as they learn to cope with this thing called life.
But because they are trusting children, they follow our lead. They try to be what we expect them to be, even if we aren't that ourselves.
Then these children turn into teenagers. In my experience, puberty comes fully equipped with the most sensitive BS-o-meter on the planet. Teens usually still get treated like children, and yet they're quickly growing into adults. They're not so trusting anymore, and they're smart. They see that adults aren't any better than they are—that their parents don't live up to their own standards.
This is incredibly frustrating. It doesn't matter how "good" a teen is, they will see this hypocrisy and get upset about it. Heck, I get upset just thinking about the expectations other adults put on my kids. When I hear some comment about "parent fail" or "there's a kid doing insert-annoying-thing here," I have to breathe deep and force myself not to point out that those adults are acting like children.
Because really, they aren't acting like children. They are acting like people. The tantrums may change form (like, uh, this one), the emotions may stay inside more often, but adults are no better than when they were little. We still feel all the same things. We're all still learning how to cope. It's time we stop burying our inner child—our inner self—in this mask we call adulthood.