By: Bobbye Pyke
Teenagers and parents have a complicated relationship. Teenagers feel like they are grown adults and want to be treated as such. They expect more freedoms, want less rules, and want to be treated as equals in their households. I know, I was a teenager not too long ago. And while I am not a parent, I am sure that parents struggle with their teens because no matter how grown up a teenager thinks they are, their parents know better. The rules they subject onto their teens are not arbitrary. They serve a specific purpose to protect their child and help them grow up to be responsible, capable adults.
Looking back now, no matter how independent and grown I thought I was at 16 years old, I was not. My poor mother got to deal with a teen who was headstrong, fiercely independent, and dead set on doing things her own way. I thought I knew everything, but I still needed her rules and guidance to move me from arrogant teen to full functioning adult.
Rachel Canning is the teen from New Jersey who is suing her parents so that they will pay for her daily expenses, her final semester of private high school, and her college tuition. She has been portrayed as selfish and entitled in many news stories. Her story is that of teenage rebellion to the extreme. According to statements made the lawyers for Canning's parents, Rachel did not want to follow her parents rules about curfew, doing household chores, and to stop seeing a boy of whom they did not approve. Rachel is 18 years old.
And at her age, I didn't want to do any of those things either. I wanted to do whatever I wanted, regardless of what my parents thought. But the big difference between Rachel and I is that I realized that my parents' financial support was a gift, contingent upon my following the rules of our household. The money was never used as a tool to force me to obey, but I also did not expect my parents to continue supporting me if I disobeyed them and moved out on my own. If I wanted to be treated like an adult, I was expected to act like one.
Rachel left home at 18 because she no longer wanted to follow her parents' rules. And that is fine. But Rachel also expected her parents to continue to pay her expensive private high school tuition, her future college tuition, and her living expenses. She filed a motion for an emergency order that would have granted her immediate support, seeking more than $650 a week for her expenses. To put that into perspective, she essentially asked her parents to pay her a salary of $33,800 a year on top of providing her an education. Her motion was denied.
What I find most appalling about this situation is that her lawyer fees are being financed by the parents of one of Rachel's friends, with whom she is living. Parental groups may disagree about parenting techniques, but for these parents to financially support this lawsuit seems to me to overstep too many boundaries. While some parents seek to be friends with their children and their children's friends, others do not. My mother always told me, "I have my own friends. I don't need to be friends with you." And when I was a teenager, that attitude is what made her a fantastic parent. Now that I am grown up, my mother and I are close friends but in that essential stage of the teen years, the last thing I needed was for my mother to be my friend. I needed her to be my parent.
According to a statement today by Snyder & Sarno, the law firm for Rachel's parents, Rachel has returned home and reunited with her family. Her parents, Sean and Elizabeth, say that, "her return home is not contingent on any financial and/or other considerations." Good. I hope Rachel has learned from this experience. Acting out is normal. Wanting to be treated like an adult is normal. Having your rebellion broadcasted across international news platforms is not normal. Hopefully Rachel has learned that adulthood is more than doing whatever you want: that it has consequences and responsibilities, as well as benefits. Her lawsuit is ridiculous and I applaud her parents for not giving in to what I can only classify as a "terrible-twos type tantrum."
Rachel will graduate from high school later this year. Perhaps her media attention has forced her to reexamine her choices. Perhaps college will cause her to grow up. Perhaps it won't and she will spiral out of control and her battle with her parents will continue.
Teenagers, you are not as grown up as you think you are. You will look back one day to the pictures of you from high school and stare in horror about what you used to wear, how you did your hair, who you were friends with, and what kind of trouble you got into. Your teen years are when you grow up a lot, but you are not done. Your parents do want what is best for you, so no matter how dumb you think their rules are, remember that they love you and they are your parent first and friend second. And if you must throw a temper tantrum, try to keep it out of the news.