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Published April 08, 2013, 11:35 PM

Parenting Perspectives: Teen years bring new fears

On Friday, my older grandson will celebrate his 14th birthday. A year ago, when he entered the teen years, I wondered (in this space) whether he would soon find hugs from his grandmother just a bit too embarrassing. So far, so good. They’re still OK. In fact, he often initiates them.

By: Kathy Tofflemire, INFORUM

On Friday, my older grandson will celebrate his 14th birthday.

A year ago, when he entered the teen years, I wondered (in this space) whether he would soon find hugs from his grandmother just a bit too embarrassing. So far, so good. They’re still OK. In fact, he often initiates them.

But things have changed. He has friends who drive; he has friends who have jobs. And he is beginning to look forward to both of those milestones.

As someone who did not have a real job until I graduated high school, it’s hard for me not to discourage him from jumping into the workforce.

I know that having an income is a powerful incentive, but I hate to see him give up the leisure time of youth that he will never get back. It’s a long way to retirement. And I say that as someone who is now looking at a lifetime of employment from the opposite perspective.

I don’t know that I ever told my parents that I appreciated being able to enjoy my teen years, giving me time to concentrate on friends and fun and, of course, my schoolwork. My extracurricular activity was the school newspaper – the beginning of a 45-year connection to the news business. That first job I mentioned was as a proofreader at the local newspaper.

Fast forward a generation: My daughter’s first job was at one of Fargo’s Burger King restaurants, one of the few places you could work at age 14. I don’t know if that is still the case.

My grandson isn’t looking at the fast-food industry. He is interested in seeking summer employment with the park district. An outdoors/sports-related job would be right up his alley.

Of course, a job makes that driver’s permit/license even more attractive. My grandson is already studying the test manual.

His mother drove at a very early age, too, and the fact that I worked nights made the decision to buy her a car of her own was a matter of practicality. But as I look back on that now – what was I thinking? That gave her a frightening amount of freedom for one so young.

But she remembers that, too, which gives me some comfort, although her son may not appreciate her memory.

But I hope he does because the statistics are scary. Every year, motor vehicle accidents are responsible for more teen fatalities than any other cause of death.

And after declining for the better part of a decade, teen driver fatalities grew by 19 percent during the first half of 2012, when compared to the same period in 2011, according to recently released data from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

I hope those numbers will scare him as much as they do me.

Children grow up so incredibly fast. It doesn’t seem that long ago that he and I were playing with cars and building garages out of Duplo blocks.

Now he wants to drive and get a job.

I can hear it now:

“Grandma, can I borrow your car to go to work?”

And I’ll be watching him drive away from The Forum, just like I watched his mother a quarter-century ago.

Yikes! I need a hug.

Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum. Readers can reach her

at (701) 241-5514, or ktofflemire@forumcomm.com.

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