|Photo courtesy Charles Lampe-Kaktovik, Alaska|
Yesterday Sandi’s daughter, Kendra, climbed into a twenty foot boat with a group of close friends and family. They pushed into the Arctic Ocean off the shores of Kaktovik/Barter Island…the only permanent settlement in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the North Slope of Alaska. They scanned the waters and hunted just as their ancestors have done for centuries. A boat in their crew spotted a whale, harpooned it, and dragged it home. Kendra, who felt a little sad as the magnificent mammal drew its last breath, was soon after elated at the significance of what she’d witnessed.
And while her teenage peers are lounging on a sofa, somewhere in the deep inner city, watching reality television with a remote in hand…Kendra, seventeen, is living her reality on the open bow of an ocean vessel, learning the ways of the harpoon and how to feed her family.
|Photo courtesy Sandi Semaken|
But Kendra has had the unique opportunity of living both lives. Last year Kendra lived in California and experienced the fast paced city life. Now she is spending a year in the Inupiaq village which is her heritage, learning the culture, the trades, the ancient ways of her people.
|Photo Courtesy Sandi Semaken|
Teenagers…any teenager…will adapt to their environment.
Stick them in a gang infested area…and they will adapt. Drop them into the wilderness with nothing but a pocket knife and they will adapt. Stick a tomboy seventh grade girl in with a group of giggling teenyboppers, and they will have makeup on her by morning. I’ve seen it happen.
Teenagers…for the most part…are like chameleons. Their beliefs, their ideals, their sense of reality, are changeable depending on who is influencing them at the moment. If that weren’t true there would be no such thing as peer pressure. There would be no keggers, no party bongs, no regrettable trendy hairstyles and teen pregnancy would not exist.
Give a teen a chance to change…and they will. Whether it’s for the better…or for the worse. I’ve heard time and time again from parents…
“I don’t like who my child hangs out with.”
No? Then why do you let them?
“I don’t like how my child dresses!”
No? Then why do you let them?
I understand demographics. I understand job locations, financial restrictions and that not everyone’s child can be as blessed as Kendra and travel the world experiencing all walks of life. Not all kids are going to be able to pick up and move from a bad neighborhood or leave behind a lifestyle they’ve known their entire life.
But sometimes…things are more in control than we believe. Sometimes, a move thirty minutes down the road to a new house can make or break a child’s entire future. A move, a school change, a hobby…anything to redirect the child’s mind from the negative behavior long enough for them to adapt to the new environment.
Sometimes spending Saturday night with your son rowing a boat across a lake will keep him from lying down with a girl at a party that night and creating a baby he can’t afford to raise. Sometimes taking your daughter to the mall yourself may keep her from walking around with that bad influence she’s been hanging with.
Sometimes it’s as simple as time spent.
If we plop our children down in the muck and expect them to surface on their own, we are bound to be disappointed. But throw them a rope and stand their cheering…and more often than not, our children will adapt to our expectations and meet us at the top of the pile.