Thursday, April 19, 2007

RM column March 23 - There's nothing to do

‘There’s nothing for us to do’ is a frequent cry from young people and in fairness to them there is a lot in that statement.

As a Dub blow-in I am tempted to say ‘try being a teenager in the 1980s in Belfast’ but I don’t think that will hold any kudos at all.

It is hard being a teenager in Dublin in 2007, what is there for them to do? Not much really that doesn’t bring them into temptation’s path. Being a teenager is hard enough without having to say no to things, without having to go against the grain of teen pressure, can we expect them to always have the courage and balls to say no to the things we hope they will? Come on, you were a teen once, be honest, you know it can be hard.

When I was a teenager there was an amazing live music scene in Belfast, with bands made up of other young people I knew. While the only place to play was in bars, one of our favourites was a place called the Orpheus.

When I would say ‘we’re off to the Orpheus’ my Mum or Dad would tell us about the bouncing dance floor the original Orpheus club had. The springy dance floor allowed them to jive like bajaysus. However in the 1980s incarnation of the Orpheus there was no such thing but it was an amazing venue for live music as a teenager.

While the regulars would be drinking downstairs in the Orpheus all the young ‘uns would be upstairs enjoying the music.

The point is while there was frig all to do in Belfast we did have somewhere to go. Some of my pal’s parents would have been horrified if they knew their precious offspring was in a bar, but generally we were safe and with people our own age. Besides which if we somehow managed to get a drink we didn’t have the money kids have today so we would nurse our half pint of cider and blackcurrant all night.

I suppose the point there is that generally we were doing something we technically were not supposed to be doing but it was something and something generally good and wholesome, well apart from the cider that is.

So far I have been lucky drinking hasn’t been an issue with the Young Wan, yet… But I know it will be and I hope I will be cool, calm and collected about it all. In fact I hope I can be a lot cooler with that than other rites of passage that have taken place in our house when there was much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, from me.

I was talking to someone who has a 13-year-old and they intercepted text messages from them which talked about hidden poteen and smoking and they were worried and rightly so.

However as mad as it sounds and maybe it is easy and naïve of me to think that was a rite of passage, they’ve been caught (well done Mum), sure drinking has an allure for young people so they are bound to do it. It is not like they will be able to do that every night of the week, certainly not if you are about and watching. Smoking however is another matter and more worrying for me.

But don’t get me wrong, I am well aware and worried about how much our young people are drinking (as I have said here before), it is just that the first time getting drunk is kinda a rite of passage. If you spend enough time with your child you should know, will know, and will find them out.

People should lay off teenagers particularly when they are just hanging out, I did it and I am sure many other parents did it too.

I can understand the fear of some people when confronted with a gang of teenagers hanging outside a shop can feel uncomfortable, sure I feel that walking home on a dark night when a man is walking behind me, but that doesn’t mean they are up to mischief. So is it so bad they have somewhere to go, somewhere they find cool and not somewhere you think as a parent they will find cool, cos well they won’t.

Regarding drinking all we can do is keep talking to our teenagers and hope something is getting through the layers of peer pressure they are under, oh yeah and watch them like a hawk.

To counter the ‘there’s nothing to do’ scenario do more with your teen. Find something you will both enjoy and try to do it regularly. Now this is a practice what you preach moment and something I have to make time for myself.

Myself and the Young Wan are not out every weekend playing ten pin bowling or going to the movies, but now is the time to make sure this time is sectioned off. Because for now I am lucky in that she is not old enough to say ‘Nah, I don’t want to do that’ and before she is I want to ensure we have this fun time together. Besides it is during those times she will probably talk more about things that are actually going on in her life that she may not have mentioned before.

So it is bowling this weekend. What about you?

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