Friday, December 2, 2011

Institutionalized - Teen Angst

"Institutionalized" (1983), by Suicidal Tendencies is one of my favorite teen angst songs of all time.

I have the soundtrack to the Mike Nesmith (from the Monkees) Executive Produced, and Alan Cox written and directed film, "Repo Man" from 1984. So I've been hearing it from time to time all these years since it came out.

I've been a fan of Mike since he was on "The Monkees" TV show in the 60s. Oddly enough, what locked me in as a fan of his, was him quitting the Monkees and their trying to continue on without him. I even wore a green stocking cap in High School because he always wore one. Mike went on to head Pacific Arts records until they went out of business.

Mike worked on Other films by the way that I liked are, "Tapeheads" (with Tim Robbins and John Cusak, both favorite actors of mine since their start, especially, John, and his sister for that matter), and "Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann". Pacific Arts video was a leader in home video and I still have Nesmith's quite entertaining Elephant Parts (which won the first grammy for music video in 1981) and Television Parts videos.

You might ask, why am I talking about Nesmith in the same space as Suicidal Tendencies. No reason really, I just thought it might be fun to put the two together. Besides, their paths did cross you know and how many people really know that?

Getting back to the lyrics of Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized", here are the relevant ones to my liking it so much:

"I was sitting in my room and my mom and my dad came in and they pulled up
a chair and they sat down, they go:
Hey Mike, we need to talk to you
And I go:
Okay what's the matter
They go:
Me and your mom have been noticing lately that you've been having a lot of problems, you've been going off for no reason and we're afraid you're gonna hurt somebody, we're afraid you're gonna hurt yourself.
So we decided that it would be in your interest if we put you somewhere where you could get the help that you need.
And I go:
Wait, what do you mean, what are you talking about, we decided!? My best interest?! How can you know what's my best interest is? How can you say what my best interest is? What are you trying to say, I'm crazy? When I went to your schools, I went to your churches, I went to your institutional learning"

You kind of have to hear how that is played out to really get it. But, Hell yeah, I say! If you don't like how I turned out, parents, well? Who raised me? I mean what are you saying? That, this is all my fault?

That's a good point and one I've wanted to speak to for some time, so I might as well do it here.

So, what IS the point?

Especially, this is about parents with a kid who is hard to deal with, difficult to raise, problematic to interact with, or whatever... along that line. Now granted, some people are just bad, but really, I think they are few and far between. Still, you have to ask yourself if you have a child like this: "why are they like this?"

Parents tend to want to say, "Oh, I don't know, he's just difficult." Or, "She is such a pain, I don't know how she got to be that way; her siblings aren't like that, so that abdicates us from any responsibility in her problems." Right?

Okay. Sure. You can take that tact. Uh huh, go ahead, wash your hands of any responsibility there. That's probably not the case though. You do realize that, don't you? You probably had a lot to do with how they got that way. Sure, there is always an exception to the rule, or at least saying that, let's me get on with my argument without too much distraction.

But you do have to consider that if your kid isn't working out so well, not growing up with the ideal you had in your mind of how good you'd be at raising a kid, or how you "hoped" they'd grow up, maybe that is part of the problem. After all, by observing the experiment, you alter the experiment and affect the results.

We raise kids to be adults. At least, that's our job. But so many parents raise kids to fit a form, not to grow into being the person they are going to grow into being. And that is a big difference. And a good way to end up in trouble. On both sides.

Sure you should try to raise them well. Do the best you can. But there are things you can do to avoid their being such a problem, both to themselves and to you.

Like giving them enough, Love, trust, time, attention, and explanations. And decreasing the amount they can get of distrust, annoyance, putting them down, expecting too much, not expecting enough. And forcing them too much into what you want out of them, be it in the way of education, religion (especially, and that is a nasty one), sociability, and inclinations (be it social, sexual, musical, academic, entertainment, whatever).

Here's the thing... basically, do the best job you can as a parent. Love your kid, unconditionally. That doesn't mean you don't lay down the rules, but expect them to get broken. That shows spirit. Americans, have spirit. But if you want to break them, I don't know, you're a commie? I mean, breaking a person's spirit is kind of anti American. But don't break or try to break your kid's spirit. That way of thinking put us here to begin with. Guide your child, don't control them. Control, by not controlling. But that doesn't mean don't parent. People get that confused.

You hear about the "touchy feely" way of parenting. That came to be because people started to realize that the old way didn't work, so they thought an absence of that behavior fixed things. But it didn't, it made things worse. Then parents got upset because kids didn't turn out how they expecated and wanted. What they didn't realize was that they had to rework things, not give up on them.
Geez, people, it's not that difficult. Just don't take the easy way out all the time. Sometimes, sure. I mean, it's easier to say, "shut up, do it because I said so," but that will come back to haunt you if you do it even one time more than you should have.
Help your kid. Don't "manage" them. You "manage" someone at work, or in prison, but you don't have to love them, or live with them, or have them ignore you when you are 90 and can't get around.

There's a line in The Breakfast Club, where the Detention Teacher Vernon, tells the Janitor, Carl:

Vernon: You think about this, when you get old, these kids, when I get old, they're going to be running the country.
Carl: Yeah.
Vernon: Now this is the thoght that wakes me up in the middle of the night. That when I get older, these kids are going to take care of me.
Carl: I wouldn't count on it.

That's something to think about. Yes, you have to raise your kids, make the tough decisions, they're not always going to be happy with you, but they should always love you, and you should always be sure that they know, that you love them. And just saying it, isn't enough; just expecting that they should just know it, isn't enough.

There are a few other songs that I think made me a better parent. One is "Cat's in the Cradle", by Harry Chapin. I love how Harry starts this song by saying: "It's about my boy Josh and frankly, it scares me to death." Yeah, I can relate, I've felt that feeling every time I heard that song and it chokes me up. Partly because I was the son in that song to my father and my step-father.

It tells the story of a typical dad who works hard to make a life for his family and year after year, necessarily ignores his son. After the years pass, the kid grows up, moves away and has his own family. Now dad calls and wants his son's attention and what does the kid tell him on the phone? "I'm busy, and I have to go now, but hey, nice talking to you, Dad." What a horrible moment that would be if you were the Dad. That realization that the kid grew up just like me, and now I'm the one suffering.

Sometimes, it's just that simple, we reap what we sow.

So remember, you aren't here just to put up with your kids. You're here to raise good people, good adults, good citizens of this country, of this world, and yes, think ahea... of this universe.

So if you find that your kids are screwing up and you think it's their fault? Take another look.

Yeah, I love that song....

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