Finally, parents get their chance to pipe up.
We do things a little differently at 20Below. For nine months, parents have watched silently from the sidelines as the 20Below News Team teens have stood on a huge soapbox.
The team members have been free to voice their opinions, express their emotions, and in many cases, reveal a little about themselves and their families to the public at large.
Such a power shift can no doubt be a little uncomfortable for parental units, who are more accustomed to setting the rules and don't always see eye to eye with their children.
So, in what is an annual tradition, we've turned the section over to the 20Below parents to let them have their say.
In a recent meeting, the 'rents decided to examine the difference of perspective between teen and parent. The assignment: A teen and a parent would provide separate answers to one question of their choosing.
We hope you find today's experiment informative, insightful and perhaps even humorous.
- Mark Johnson, Features Editor
When was the moment you realized your child was no longer a child?
I was extolling the virtues of the University of Oregon - quality journalism, in-state tuition, near home - when my daughter Mary rather kindly said, "Well, you know, Mom, it isn't really your decision."
She was right. At her age, I felt the same way. I had joined the legion of traumatized empty-nest-phobics. She was charting a course for an East Coast school with a compass that might even point to a foreign country.
My amazing little girl had become an incredible young woman.
Although this realization hit me like a wave of water, I had been standing on wet sand for years. Mary didn't suddenly become an unchild. Flashback time.
Eighteen months: Her intentional acts foreshadowed that Mary was not a psychological extension of me.
Age 4, self-determination: Her pre-school teacher reported, "Mary decided she is getting her ears pierced today." Her stoic quality was matched by her good choice in jewelry.
Age 6, interpersonal self-management: Mary tells a rough playmate, "Do that again, and I won't be playing with you."
Age 8, character: Mary read "The Diary of Anne Frank" and began regular correspondence with "Dear Diary." Instead of writing to Santa that year, she wrote a letter of outrage to Adolf Hitler.
Age 10, courage: Mary became playground legend when she fell out a swing and broke both arms. Mary coped and wrote to the superintendent demanding safer swings.
Middle school madness, independence: Mary obviously made lifetime friends who were not her mother.
High school, assertiveness: Mary pulled the car over when my multitudinous questions were distracting. She left the store to wait in the car when I was dawdling. She is who she was, and no longer a child.
Mary will go to the college of her choice, while I finally put that photo book together to chronicle how the bud became a flower.
- Carol Morse (Mary Pilon's mom)
In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, I would like to believe that I have not fully grown up. Children have an honesty, curiosity and passion for life that I aspire to retain, even as I sell off my Barbies one by one at garage sales.
However, at the age of 12, I was catapulted into adolescence. My family spent a weekend in Lincoln City that summer, and I dutifully packed my R.L. Stine books, Converse high tops, and Binky, the baby blanket from the gods.
Binky was made from pure cloud. With Binky in my grasp, nightmares looked away, monsters under my bed crawled to my brother's room, and any fear of the dark was switched off. At the age of 12, I took Binky around more out of habit than pure necessity.
We returned one evening to our humble hotel room, tired from shopping, to freshly made beds, to sanitized-for-our-protection seats, but most ghastly, to no Binky.
"Mom! The maid stole Binky!" I wailed. Calls were made to the front office, and searches were waged under beds. Catastrophe. We left Lincoln City without Binky and part of my childhood dependence. I now faced the world without extra security or infant confidence. I had to face the world Binky-less, and I couldn't have been more terrified.
In the long run, that maid (yes, I still believe it was her) did me a favor. But if she's out there, I'm willing to negotiate.
- Mary Pilon
What are the differences in the culture of teen-agers between our generations?
Talking 'bout my generation: Our music espoused an "all you need is love" philosophy, laced with sublimated drug references parents only partially understood. Their big band music was decidedly quaint. Having lived through the Depression, their strong work ethic focused on providing a better life for their children.
The younger generation protested the degradation of the environment, rigidly defined male and female roles, and a devastating war. The relevance of our parent's mores were suspect, because new societal influences, such as drugs, were confronting us. The rigid power structure of the parent-child relationship made discussion between the generations difficult.
Hopefully, our generation has striven to bridge the generation gap, realizing the critical role of that dialogue during the anguished struggles of our personal experience.
Our rock 'n' roll and bellbottom, flower-child fashions influence our children's taste. Today's youths have more possessions and are incessantly courted by our generation's big business interests. With 24-7 media access, they're more worldly, and tolerant of diversity and nonconformity.
Today's youth have a less definitive ideological focus. As an antidote to the jadedness of age, may youth always inspire and challenge us!
- Cathy Seltzer (David's mom)
I find that my generation is a little hard to define. It seems like we are obsessed with other generations. For instance, this whole retro thing. Right now, it's very hip to be into the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Every thing is cool from those time periods - the music, the clothes and the ideals.
I think this obsession is due in part to the fact that my generation lacks a defining event of its own. Previous generations had the Vietnam War, generational gaps and World War II.
Some would argue that Sept. 11 and the war on Iraq are defining events, but I say they aren't. The war on terror is so vague and undefined it's difficult to form a dominant opinion that would mobilize a movement.
We are a generation raised by understanding parents. We have entered a sanitized and inoffensive world in which everyone is so concerned about being conscious of others and political correctness that we are scared to speak our minds!
We have nothing to revolt against or stand behind. We have no cause. Perhaps it's not too late. Maybe we will revolt against the massive power of corporations and the consumption-driven economy. Maybe we'll revolt against the media and their sensationalism, which makes real life feel like reality TV. Or perhaps this movement will be left to our kids.
- David Seltzer
Being a teen-ager is most like what ride at Disneyland?
You're floating a gentle waterway. Songbirds twitter amid lush greenery. Playful bunnies and bear cubs beckon with merry strains of, "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay. My-oh-my, it's a wonderful day."
But suddenly, an eerie energy takes over the ride. You feel a tinge of apprehension as your boat lurches forward, the sound of grating chains, menacing, beneath the happy clamor. You find yourself climbing up, up the riverbed, defying gravity and logic. Ominous signs appear: Danger ahead! Go back!
You're riding Splash Mountain - a perfect metaphor for adolescent tumult. There's no turning back. Sweet, smiling youngsters are suddenly tense, moody teens, taking over our households with alternating bouts of mania and depression. They hover on the edge of a scary precipice, instinctively clinging to us in our frail watercraft, and suddenly - whoosh - we're together in free fall.
But never fear. Walt has everything under control. We emerge, soaked but exhilarated. We hop out of our skiff, laughing, congratulating each other on our daring, and together we walk toward our next adventure. It's the happiest place on Earth.
- Carol and Michael
Stephenson (Kelly's parents)
"Mom? Dad? Do I hafta?"
"Everybody does, Sweetie. It's fun - you'll see"
"But it's dark, and I'll feel lost. It'll be going too fast - I won't know how to slow down! People will be screaming!"
Space Mountain. It's every child's worst Disneyland nightmare - and best fantasy. A high-speed roller coaster. In the dark. It doesn't get any scarier than that, nor much more fun.
The topsy-turvy road through adolescence is the ride through Space Mountain. Wild jolts, frightened screams, rises and drops like predictably unpredictable moods, zips through a black abyss where the next fall is not in sight, let alone the end of the magical horror - all these things live within the teen-age years and the galactic mountain alike.
Or so I've heard. I still haven't mustered the courage to ride Space Mountain. So where does that leave me with maturity?
- Kelly Stephenson
What do you consider most impressive about your teen or parent?
My kids delight and amaze me every day. They are each so special and individual. Because Hanna is the middle child, and yet the oldest girl, she holds a unique position.
She is mature but can be silly, too. She is sometimes demanding one minute, helpful and accommodating the next. Her imaginative and loving nature is a constant source of joy. I have known her to be responsible beyond her years. I have also been there when all she seemed to need was her mother's presence.
Hanna's writing this past year has blown me away. Don't get me wrong; I knew she was good. In fact, the year 20Below debuted, I turned to my then kindergarten-age daughter and said, "Han, when you are old enough you're going to write with kids like this."
But seeing her thoughts, her voice there in print was dazzling. I am proud of who she is, and I am impressed with who she is still yet to be.
- Julie Hanavan Olsen
"Impressive" is sort of a strange word to use when talking about one's parents, but I'm trying. I guess my parents impress me most, just because I know I can talk to them. Not in the "Leave It to Beaver" sense, where I ask them about "the birds and the bees." I mean I can talk to them about my life and my problems, and they don't only listen, but ask me for updates later.
And I know that they trust me, which is such a cool thing, because they let me go out and know I won't do anything really stupid. Also, they'll pick my friends and me up anywhere, anytime, no questions asked if we need a ride. I think that's really important, because I know they understand.
The fact that they've created that kind of relationship with my brother, sister and I is pretty impressive.
- Hanna Olsen
How has your teen's life changed while writing for 20Below?
When Grant first started writing for 20Below two years ago, he had just finished his sophomore year. He has now graduated from high school.
In between, he got his driver's license, had a couple of fender benders, endured a French class where knitting was required for part of the grade, flipped burgers and toured the Southeast, Southwest and Mexico.
I began to squirm when I saw that he chose his middle name, Conrad, for his byline. What else would he surprise us with? At dinner, when the rest of us suggested absurd subjects for him to write on, he humored us and stated, ``Just so everyone knows, any suggestions for articles will never get written.''
This led to a declarative statement of my own: Anything written about anyone in the family had to be filtered by that person. He did not have carte blanche to expose personal information.
For instance, Grant could not do an article on his dad's snoring, remarkable as it may be. That would be disrespectful and inappropriate. And he dare not report that I talk to myself. As if. Big deal. I mutter. I'll probably live longer.
All references to his siblings had better be kind. No repeating the time Garrett came home disgusted at how his friends had gone goo goo over girls, only to report two weeks later that the cutest girl he'd ever seen was moving the next day.
If he tells that his sister Ashley wouldn't play with her dolls and stuffed animals because she was afraid that if she played with one, the others' feelings would get hurt, then I'll have to bring out the big guns. I will be forced to reveal that Grant apologized to his favorite pillow for leaving it outside overnight. While he thought he was alone. Last year.
Not to worry. The family secrets are safe. Grant never intended to expose us. Through the many changes that the last two years have brought, one fact remained constant: I love him. Well done, Grant - I mean, Conrad.
- Phares Gilchrist
(Grant's - er, Conrad's mom)
Since I was accepted for 20Below way back in May 2001, it is hard to say exactly what has changed about my life.
It was a great diversion. When I was bored, alone, annoyed or whenever my fingers had the itch to type, I could write a column. When my homework was too long and annoying, I could answer some "Bites" questions. When I had nothing to do, I could check my e-mail for assignments or reader responses.
It was a great excuse. When my homework was late, I could blame it on my deadlines. When I didn't feel like hanging out with people, I could fault my need for a story idea. When my parents wondered why I was on the computer, playing solitaire for hours, I would spit out ``20Below!'' and hope for the best.
It made me sound important. Terms such as "word count," "editor" and "deadline" kept my friends impressed. I could relay e-mail responses and explain that I have connections within The Register-Guard.
It was a conversation starter and an obligation ender. It would keep me up on Sunday nights either because I had to get an article in, or I was excited to read one the following morning.
I wouldn't say it changed me, I'd say it added to my plate. Whatever 20Below was and did to me, I liked it.
- Conrad Gilchrist
What are the best choices my teen made during middle school and high school?
Brilliant children are children at risk. It is not easy to meet their needs unless extraordinary efforts are made. Even then, a parent must hope for blessings and answered prayers - for how else are children's lives graced with friendships and caring teachers?
As much as Eva was helped by others, she helped herself. Given the chance, Eva took the chance! Consequently, she deserves the credit for making her successes happen during her middle and high school years.
Highlights include skipping sixth grade; taking second-year Japanese at the UO; being editor of the Kelly Flyer in eighth grade; being editor-in-chief of the North Eugene Caledonian for more than 3 1/2 years; taking private guitar lessons for 3 1/2 years; taking five advanced placement classes and six AP tests; and singing alto in the NEHS Concert Choir, the Hot Scots Jazz Choir and the Central Lutheran Chorale.
Special recognition and gratitude to Mary Holland, Pamela McCarty, Tia Holliday, Tad Shannon, Mike Jodoin, Kevin McCauley, Al Villanueva, Jill Roth, Nancy Iwakawa, ElRay Stewart-Cook, Bill Harkleroad, Jane Harrison and Pat Latimer. They each gave Eva challenging opportunities to realize her potential, and she took the chance! Her accomplishments pay tribute to their dedication as teachers.
- Steven Sylwester (Eva's dad)
I got involved in lots of extracurricular activities and advanced classes in high school, which were all rewarding in their own ways. All of those choices boil down to one driving force: I found things I wanted to do and did them.
I didn't rely on the opinions of "everyone else" to run my life. I didn't always do what everyone else did - my school newspaper, the pride and joy of my high school career, usually had fewer than 10 people on staff - but in the end, I got respect for what I did do.
- Eva Sylwester
What are your hopes for your teen/parent during the next 10 years?
During the next 10 years, Adam will develop from a teen-ager into an adult. I was present for his birth, and I want to be present in his life as he matures into a man.
I hope that he immerses himself passionately in his education during his college years and finds a career that will provide him with meaningful work.
I hope that he emerges into adulthood with his religious faith deepened and that he lives his life according to the values of his faith.
I hope that he is fortunate enough to have a few friendships that last from youth into old age.
I hope that he marries a woman whose character and pilgrim soul he will love and admire for the rest of his life.
I hope that someday he has his own children and experiences the joys, challenges and profound satisfaction of being a father himself.
I hope that when I am an old man, I still can stand knee deep in the clear cold water of an Oregon stream, look 30 yards downstream and watch Adam casting his fly to a rising trout.
- Bill Stater (Adam's dad)
A decade brings tremendous changes, even to a 54-year-old man who claims to be entering his prime. I want Dad to become more active, whether he is exercising or volunteering in the community. I want him to enjoy life and not stress over life's daily challenges.
I want Christ to remain a central part in his life. I hope his trust in me will continue to grow and that he is around to see the man I become.
Finally, when I celebrate Christmas with my own family someday, I want Dad to be there in a red suit and white beard, thoroughly convincing my kids that he is Santa.
- Adam Stater
What's the best advice my parents ever gave me?
As a teen-age girl splitting firewood early on a Saturday morning in October 1963, I asked my father for his definition of success. He paused and told me he would get back to me, and hurried off to a prior commitment.
Three weeks later he was once again helping me get my four wedges, splitting mall and double-bit ax unstuck from a log round. He had an answer for me.
Simply put, he required three standards of conduct: One, you must love what you do; two, you must live frugally and care for the needs of your family, your extended family, be responsible to your community silently, pay your taxes, save and then treat your family to a few things they want; and three, you must do numbers one and two in just competition. You will never be successful taking an unfair advantage of anyone.
He's gone now, but I still have more questions.
- Martha Kocer
(Connie Thomas' mom)
When I was too young to take "right and wrong" for an answer, I asked my mother why I couldn't lie.
"You don't have a good enough memory," she said. "When you tell one lie, you have to tell another lie to cover it up, and then another and another, and you have to remember all the lies so you can tell the next one. Soon you'd be carrying a big book around to write down all your lies in. My memory's not very good, so I just tell the truth."
I didn't like the thought of carrying a gigantic lie dictionary on my 5-year-old back, so I remembered what she said. Now that I'm 18, my memory is better, and I'm quite a bit stronger. But I still don't think it's worth it.
- Connie Thomas
How should the public high school dress codes be written or rewritten?
The results are in. The findings are clear. The case has been made. Students in schools that adopt uniforms show improved academic performance, fewer discipline problems, better peer relationships and happier parents.
Of course, there are those who would argue that these results are not as important as the right to free fashion expression, but that is not the direction my taste runs.
Before being branded a fascist or a communist, I agree that students need and benefit from having outlets to express themselves. Having experienced 12 years of parochial school uniforms, I know there are numerous ways students can express themselves through creative adaptation of their uniforms. Besides, learning and exchanging ideas is a far richer avenue to free expression than the color, cut or brand of clothes one wears.
I am sure my daughter Anna is in total agreement with this perspective.
- Dan Reece (Anna's dad)
I agree with the dress code at my high school. It simply requires shoes and shirts, and eliminates extremes, such as profane, drug or gang language, or wearing undergarments as clothes.
I like the idea of heading to school knowing that I can express myself through fashion. I'm not a particularly unique dresser, but I think it's cool when kids try out new things.
I believe that rules at some schools, such as banning ripped pants or the exposing of any midriff, are silly. I've never heard of anyone at my school being offended because of someone else's pant style or shirt length.
Of course, some parents think uniforms are the best way to go because they equalize students and reduce distractions. I agree that competition over clothing can be hurtful. However, I also believe that free expression in public schools shouldn't be limited unless it is something unacceptable in most other public places. I like the dress code as it is.
- Anna Steves-Reece
How do you/did you view diversity and tolerance as a teen, and how far does our society still have to go?
I went to high school in Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco, and I don't remember thinking about diversity and tolerance at that age. Of course, that was 1968 through 1970 - the times were changing, and we were all focused on peace, love and harmony!
Even so, I grew up believing that people were all equal, regardless of race, gender or sexuality.
We moved to a small town in South Carolina before my junior year, which was an extreme change. That definitely opened my eyes to bigotry and lack of acceptance. However, I still don't remember it being a big issue with teen-agers.
Here we are in the Eugene area - a diverse community, open-minded, accepting, tolerant? I'm not so sure! In local schools, I see more cliques and stereotyping than ever.
There are kids who are literally afraid to go to school every day. There's the tragedy of teen-age suicide. How far does are society have to go? A long way.
- Lynne Dorsey
(Amelia Anderson's mom)
I've grown up surrounded by diversity and acceptance. As a child, I never acknowledged the concept of discrimination - there was no superiority, no classes of people. I truly thought that everyone believed `all men are created equal.'
But, as we grow up, we are all exposed to the overbearing hate that fuels discrimination. It seems as though everywhere I go I witness people being despised based purely on religion, race, gender or sexual orientation.
As a society we are ignorant. Why can't we live so we do not regret years of injustice to others? I feel like America's history is cyclical. There has always existed a dominant hate for a group, whether American Indian, African-American or homosexual.
We are still a long way off from true tolerance of diversity.
- Amelia Anderson
When did you realize your child was no longer a child?
Quinn and I were in the eighth grade (I have never felt much older as a parent than my eldest child!). It was early April as we boarded a plane to join a group of strangers in Washington, D.C.
Quinn was my captive audience, sandwiched in the middle seat. I produced the dreaded, avoided documents that were past deadline: his high school registration.
He slumped in his seat and scowled, "I don't care, sign me up, just no science, no math!" I was speechless. Was I to be the bearer of the bad news of pesky graduation requirements?
At that moment, I saw a boy assert himself into the world, without having a clue that the world had expectations. This assertion of selfhood was both a thrill and a dilemma.
Days later, I watched as a maiden arose from the sea of unfamiliar faces and spellbound my son. My eyes traced them around the dance floor as my newfound friends teased me and flung sympathetic arms across my shoulders. No longer a child, now a teen. I had some catching up to do!
- Linda Reilly
(Quinn Wilhelmi's mom)
The defining attribute that separates children from their teen years is a sense of freedom. I say "sense" because the shift from perceived independence to actual autonomy represents the progression from teen to young adult. For our teen years, most of us are doomed to suffer the facade of freedom.
I first discovered that quasi-independence in middle school. Like many classmates, I was old enough by seventh grade to ride the city bus home from school.
Of course, my friend Jeff and I thought this was just the coolest thing since penny candy. We walked two blocks to our stop near school and disembarked four stops apart 15 minutes later. Every day, by the time I reached my front door I had been unsupervised for an astounding 35 minutes. If I was lucky, my mom might still be at work when I returned home leaving me independent for a short but glorious afternoon.
I remember the first day I returned home to an empty house. Using my very own key to open the door, I called out a welcome to the quiet house. Knowing that my parental unit was far away at work, I went to the pantry, grabbed a box of Girl Scout cookies and started eating. I ate the whole box. Why? Because I wanted to? No, hardly. I ate because I could. Because I was free.
- Quinn Wilhelmi
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|Title Annotation:||General News|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jun 23, 2003|
|Previous Article:||A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE.|
|Notes from the underground.|
|Letters in the Editor's Mailbag.|
|Triggering movements into and out of child poverty: a comparative study of New Zealand, Britain and West Germany.|