Dear Dr. Wes & Kelly: My parents procrastinate with decisions. Often by the time something needs to be decided, it's too late to do it. I've tried to take a more active role, but when it comes to some things my persistence isn't good enough. There have been many occasions when I need my parents' permission and too often I'm told "we'll talk about it later." I've lost many opportunities because of this. One of the biggest annoyances is when we go out of town to a museum, concert or event. I gather the information even before registration or ticket sales start, and give it to them. I even print duplicates so they can't say "we never got anything." No matter how often I remind them, nothing happens and all I get is, "there's still time, stop nagging me."
Kelly: Any issue we have with parents, we claim "parents just don't understand." And of course, this leads to a lack of communication between teenager and parent. If life was simple, it would come with an instruction manual telling us exactly what to do in situations like this. But it doesn't leaving us to the torturous task of figuring out life's greatest lessons on our own.
As a teenager, it's sometimes difficult to clearly articulate your thoughts, opinions and feelings to your parents and once you do they may mistake it for complaining. This leaves you frustrated, not knowing what to do, and feeling under appreciated. Eventually you give up trying.
However, you have to look at it from the parents' perspective as well. You may take their procrastination as blowing you off and ignoring the situation. They may see it in a different light. Perhaps they just don't want to hurt your feelings and say the one word that teenagers despise the most - "no." Often, when kids do hear it, we are more inclined to rebel. Maybe this is their way of sheltering you from disappointment.
It must be frustrating to feel as though your social life is coming to this drastic halt. However, these same situations are all typical in the average teenager's life. Many of us feel our parents neglect our opinions and just push us off to the side. But alas, your parents are being, well, your parents. You may disagree with them, but there isn't much you can do.
Continue to try to talk to them and discuss how much you feel their procrastination is affecting you in a negative way. They may acknowledge what you say, but it sounds unlikely they'll suddenly make a drastic change. For the remainder of the time before you turn 18, just be patient. You have your whole life ahead of you to do whatever you want. As for right now, your parents will try to make decisions to what they feel is best for you.
Wes: Call me rebellious, but I'm with you here. You describe a young person trying to broaden his/her horizons, take in cultural events, go to museums and in response your parents are less than enthused. I think they should throw you a parade and encourage you in every way possible. If you were asking to go to a frat party, I can imagine them putting you off until they can think of an excuse not to let you attend. But that's not it at all, and something seems really wrong here and I think they may need to make a drastic change.
However, before pushing that issue I think you have to be sure of the underlying problem - of which there are several possibilities. Are they experiencing financial hardships in this deteriorating economy and aren't telling you because they don't want to alarm you? As I said a few weeks ago, I think we all need to have some frank discussions with our kids about the economy, today more than ever. If most of your wishes involve money, ask them up front if this is a concern and be empathic. You may have to earn more of your way than you realize. If this isn't the problem, you need to have a very serious talk with your folks about how much and how deeply this hurts your feelings and makes you feel marginalized. Perhaps they are so caught up in whatever is going on in their lives that they don't realize the burden this places on you. Some folks get to the point of thinking teens are kind of on autopilot by 16 - when they definitely are not.
Another possibility is that they are just very disorganized people (thus the need for duplicate registration forms). If that is so, explain that you understand it's not their intent to be hurtful - but their discombobulation is creating a situation that is more than unfair. It's neglecting your attempts to better yourself, and that in turn makes you wonder how much stock they put in those efforts. If all else false, a couple of trips to the family therapist would probably help this out. Hang in there.
Next week: It's never too early to plan for spring break. We revisit the issue of what to do when teens want to take off on their own.