It never occurred to me as a child that my parents were human beings. They seemed to be very smart and to know what they were doing. Sometimes they’d get angry and I assumed it was my fault. It never occurred to me that perhaps they’d eaten something that disagreed with them or maybe someone at work had looked at them the wrong way or that maybe another driver on the road had given them the finger when they forgot to go when the light turned green because they were worried about some bill they’d forgotten to pay.
Parents just seem to know what’s up. They manage to keep us from dying (most of us). They don’t know everything (I’m a parent – I don’t know much). The strangest part of growing up for me was realizing that parents are simply kids who have gotten bigger and have more hair (or less, later in life).
My dad actually told me one time in his sixties that he still felt like a child. He told me he had no idea what was right, except for music, which he knew absolutely was right (he knew this as a child, too).
Weird, but also fascinating.
For me, one of the great joys of writing YA has been to explore those moments when kids are figuring out the fallibility of adults. They are such powerful moments.
In the book I’m writing now, Felton, my lead fellow, is in the process of being enraged by his mother’s behavior, terrified by her lack of concern for he and his brother’s future prosperity, filled with a sense of empathy for her struggles, and filled with a certain kind of power at slowly understanding the difference between kid and adult is a fine line and that he, with a modicum of reasonable behavior, might be a better adult than most.
What is a parent? The only thing you can know with certainty is that they’re older than their children. Do they make good decisions in a crisis? Did they eat a bad lunch? Can they pay their bills? Who knows? A huge part of growing up is learning that your parents are human beings just like you. And, that’s fun stuff to write.