The Mom Stop: Don’t treat teens as adults
In 1996, I wrote a will.
I didn’t have many belongings — I had my beloved boom box with my CD collection and my art class pottery that won first place in a junior high art show. I still had my collectible dolls, the ones I had gotten every year from Santa for most of my childhood, and my frayed, yellow baby blanket.
I guess it was a bit morbid, writing a will on lined, wide-ruled paper pulled from my pre-AP English notebook. After all, I was only 14.
In June 1996, I was headed to Europe for the first time, alone, and was terrified of flying. I still am, although just not enough to write my obituary beforehand.
Luckily, there was no plane crash. The collection of dolls sit stuffed in a Rubbermaid box somewhere at my mother’s house. The glazed pottery bowl is still on display on the shelf of my old childhood bedroom.
The summer of 1996, I spent living with my cousin and her family in Norway. During those six weeks, I experienced a freedom I hadn’t had as a young teenager back home — my Norwegian cousin and I roamed through Oslo on the subway, took an overnight train ride to visit Bergen on our own. We camped on beach on the Swedish island of Koster, only to be mortified at the sight of nude beachgoers at our campsite when we awoke the next morning.
At 14-years-old, we rode bikes a few miles into town on our own while staying at the family’s summer cabin, and took a day cruise to Denmark without any adults — just two teenage girls, my cousin’s 13-year-old brother and a group of his friends. The only thing I remember from that cruise while trying to avoid being seasick. The smell of perfume wafting from the duty-free shop didn’t help much either.
But that trip to changed me. It opened my eyes to world. I turned 15 in Norway and came back to Alabama more confident, more independent, with a thirst for travel and an excitement for what my future could bring.
Like so many teenagers, I thought I was an adult. Only, I wasn’t. My parents knew it, my teachers knew it, and looking back, I now know it, too.
It’s something that (hopefully) most adults recognize — that a 14-year-old is still a child — 15-, 16-, even 17-year-olds, too. I don’t have teenagers. But I know that the years will pass quickly, and 14 will be here before we know it. And it honestly terrifies me, knowing what struggles teenagers now face.
In my column two weeks ago, I mentioned how fatigued I am over the number of times my home state of Alabama has made national news for something backwards or “just plain wrong.” Those words were written before the latest scandal came to light involving U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and allegations from five women that Moore made sexual advances, or in some cases even sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers. Moore has denied the accusations.
The fallout has varied. Some Alabama politicians have pointed to biblical figures as reasoning that whatever occurred was OK, or say they’ll stick by Moore no matter what, as long as it means they won’t have to vote for a Democrat. But then many other politicians in the U.S. Senate denounced Moore, and said he should bow out of the race.
It’s true, as some people have pointed out, that we don’t really know what happened more than 30 years ago. But as the saying goes, if it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. The women should be believed.
And when it comes to teenagers, it’s never OK for a 30-something-year-old adult to prey on someone half their age. Teenagers may think they are adults, but we know better. We were 14 once, too.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at email@example.com.