Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Parental Control

I had very cool parents growing up. And I knew it then, believe it or not. I'm not just coming to this realization some 20 years after I moved out of their house. They were also (in my opinion) very strict. They expected a lot - good grades, no trouble, obscene neatness, politeness and respect (I even had to answer the phone with a specific greeting which was horrifying when it was my friends calling and I sounded like the freaking butler). I was also grounded if I was one minute late for cerfew, which sucked but got me home on time.

They also told me that they smoked pot (once, really?), talked about sex (I was given the birds and bees talk at the dinner table as if it was no big deal), had a fully stocked bar and cold beers in the fridge in the garage, they swore (but I wasn't allowed to), my mom wore bikinis and my dad wrestled with us on the living room floor, they went to concerts, went out with friends every weekend and took my brother and I out for ice cream every Sunday night. I was never told to stop watching TV (probably because I read books more than I watched TV), we ate birthday cake with amazing buttercream icing for breakfast (even though it was nobody's birthday, we just wanted to get a cake). We drank soda with dinner, were never forced to eat green vegetables, got our drivers' licenses the day we turned 16, were handed the keys to the car and told not to screw up. I had my first boyfriend in sixth grade and had a boy/girl party that year as well. They never said I was too young or I should wait until I was "older." Basically, as long as I didn't do stupid stuff, they trusted me.

So. Where am I going with this?

I've never related to the controlling, over protective, detatched, dense, almost invisible parents that proliferate YA books. While I understand that the stories are about the young characters, the role parents play in the life of the characters, even if off screen or in the past, is really important to me. It doesn't have to be negative or huge, but it doesn't have to be non-existant or non-influential, either. Parents can be normal and still have impact. In fact, in all my books the parents are there. They don't need to lecture or teach life lessons, but their presence is felt in the person they raised, the main character. They're the invisible thread that runs through the character, a thread that is woven tighty into the complete fabric of the person and yet a thread that is also tugged and pulled and potentially unraveled as the story and person evolves.

My parents have influenced how I write parents and how I look at the interaction between my teen characters and their parents. My own parents were three dimensional - silly, funny, strict, ridiculously anal retentive about stupid things. they were real. And that's the type of parents I want my characters to be raised by. (And that's them in the picture, in this year's Valentine's golf tournament at their club - in matching outfits. Horrifying and yet totally adorable, just like parents should be.)

6 comments:

  1. What a lovely tribute to your awesome parents!

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  2. Lol, I love that picture!

    I'm like you. I had parents who were strict in some ways, but really liberal in other ways. I had to get good marks in school, be polite and had less freedom than my friends, but I was treated like a person at home. I knew my parents liked me as well as loved me, and that's so important for self-esteem.

    Great post.

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  3. What's so funny is that my best friend in high school had a party when her mom was away (her mom was the overprotective type). I never would have done that, my parents would have killed me and it wasn't worth getting caught. Of course my friend got caught (because someone stole the potted plant in the corner of the living room and she couldn't explain what happened). And you know what? I was grounded that night and couldn't even go to the party!! I always found the irony funny - girl with overprotective parent has raging party and gets caught, girl with more permissive parents is home grounded. A good character has similarly complex and contradictory characteristics!

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  4. Awww thats so cute. My parents were slightly more strict with me when it came to boys and dating, I wasnt allowed until I was in high school (not that I didnt just do it before and not tell them) but I too hate when the parents just disappear. Granted, I understand when there's a parent that dies that helps shape the child who grows up but I dont like how there are so many parents who dont seem to mind that the kid has been out all night and comes in bleeding, or invites boys in and sleeps overnight with them or the parent that ends up being taken care of by the child. It all seems so...stupid at times.

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  5. That is so true, Jenny! Parents in our books really should be every bit as complex as the parents in our own lives.

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  6. Awwww they are adorable and remind me a lot of parents. I knew how lucky I was too! Great post!

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