In my time working in the juvenile justice system I always admired one thing about every kid I came in contact with. This was their professed love for their mothers and family. At the age of fourteen or fifteen they have assumed the role of patriarch and feel an overwhelming need to provide for the family. This can be from support with taking care of siblings or feeling the need to be the bread winner. This has a noble motive behind it but a destructive application. Knowing that no matter how big or strong the body grows, the brain only grows at a certain rate. So what we see is a child that has assumed the role of parent. They then are required to make adult decisions with juvenile experience and a juvenile brain. This is not to say that juveniles are any less intelligent than adults. It is to simply state making adult decisions when we are not prepared to, leads to poor decision making.
Time after time I would have talks with teenagers who have been supplying the monetary needs for the family for some time. They could not focus on their own progress because all they could think of was their loved ones and how they needed to get back to them to be that provider they have come to be. There was a constant struggle to teach them that it was healthy for them to love their families but to the point that they forget to work on themselves. How do you tell someone that they are wrong for wanting to love someone more than themselves? Over time I started to tell them that they need to be right for themselves before they can be right for anyone else. This got them to stop and think about what they were really doing and to reflect on if they were truly providing a long term solution or putting a band-aid on an open cut.
Soon I began to see this in my own life. I was loving others more than myself. I was killing myself to help those in my life that I loved. Because of this I was only a percentage of what I was capable of being. I had to take a look at myself and accept that I have been a great teacher but a bad student. I would sell a great product but I wasn’t using what I was selling. For me this happened after a 12 day coma and coming close to death. I began to look at the decisions I had been making and realized that I needed to start practicing what I preached. Since then I have completed College and currently working on my Masters Degree. I feel that I make better financial decisions and I am working on my health decision. This is not a quick process and don’t fall into the trap of thinking all will be good in the morning.
If you are a teen and you are struggling with some of what I said here today, just remember that you have time. You don’t have to solve all your families problems today. This thinking is what leads you down the path of loving others before yourself. Take time to be a kid and experience live in chronological order. It is not your job to step in when one or both of your parents are deficient. Your time will come to be a parent and nobody has the right to steal your childhood. If you are a parent reading this, it is your job to be a parent and fulfill your obligations just as you expect your children to do. If you are not pulling your weight, examine your decisions and be strong enough to accept your short comings and make the change.
Lastly to the teens struggling with being a faux parent. Please love yourself first. Spend the time to be a kid. If you really want to help your family, grow and live life in such a way that it brings joy and love to your home. This is more effective than hustling for money.
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