OPINION

Vulnerable teens and guilt

So, we finally categorized the emos. Geographically, we slotted them in somewhere between the northern and southern suburbs of Athens. Financially and socially, we put them in the middle class. Politically, we know them to be apolitical. I don’t know whether it’s because we (40-somethings) are getting older, but the conversations we have with friends are beginning to get a little scary. But at least I am certain of one thing. When we were teenagers, we could never have imagined that we would experience such a reversal of roles with our own children as we see today. I now recognize my mother’s famous adage – «you’ll see, one day, when you become a mother» – which she used to keep me in check, as a forewarning of revenge. And that revenge has manifested itself in the form of difficulties. Difficulty in understanding today’s teenagers, and even more difficulty in accepting them. All we can do is burden them with guilt. Maybe not the same kind of guilt with which we were burdened by the postwar generation, not guilt generated by a sense of self-sacrifice. It is guilt of a different scale, but is, nonetheless, guilt. Even though we grew up in the more peaceful periods of Greece’s modern history, we feel as though we have made significant sacrifices for the sake of our children. Some of us have spent our savings on their education. Others have preserved, for their sake (or so we like to tell ourselves), family relationships that have long passed their expiry date. Others blame their children for their workload. Above all, there is the very hard work which the average Greek parent must do to ensure that his or her child succeeds in their university entrance exams. For they must pay for private tutors, viewed by the majority as an investment which children must respect. Our parents certainly encouraged us in the past, pressured us and pushed us, but the reason they gave was that it was necessary so that we could do well in life. Today this seems a rather insignificant achievement compared to what we expect of our children. Either we don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, how vulnerable teenagers are; a boy who is at the same time a man, a girl who is also a woman. They are everything and nothing, and they are constantly on a cusp. Lucio Della Seta, a Jungian psychoanalyst, argues that all parents have experiences and values that they wish to pass on to their children and by doing so generate corresponding expectations which, when unrealized, will bring them face-to-face with their own problems. He also adds that this is why it is so difficult to react to a crisis.