I would rather lose an argument with someone than lose someone over an argument.
On television, radio, in newspapers you always hear parents talking about why they argue with their children. They tend to feel like it is necessary, a tool for exerting their authority. They know that eventually their children will reach breaking point, and will either give in, or they will just be sent to their rooms. I think parents think that we argue for the fun of it, to test them. They think we don’t care about arguing. But we do. It’s not fun for us either.
To be perfectly honest, growing up, I was never one to argue with my parents at all. I would just accept what they said as fact, get on with it, and do it. I had the mindset that it was wrong to argue with my parents, that I shouldn’t and I should just get on with doing whatever it was they wanted me to do, without complaining or compromising. We were told that arguing was naughty. I didn’t want to be naughty; I didn’t want them to get angry with me. ‘Because I said so’ was the end of every possible quarrel.
But inevitably, as I have grown older, especially in the past few years, I have begun to develop my own personality and beliefs. This means that more and more, there are times where I feel frustrated in how my parents treat me, or angry with them for handling a situation differently to how I would have handled it, talking for me, or just generally when we have conflicting views.
Everyone says this is normal at my age and it has been said that during your teenage years you argue as much as a couple when their relationship is breaking down. But deep down, I don’t think that this is OK. Being brought up in the background where arguing is completely and utterly wrong, because you should just obey your parents and that’s that, I take arguing very hard on myself. As soon as I have said something that makes my parents angry, I want to take it back and just pretend I don’t care and that I don’t have any opinion.
I don’t want to spend my life arguing with my parents when we could all be enjoying each others’ company. I don’t want to risk a long standing feud and regret my actions for the rest of my life. But neither do I want to have my opinions and independence crushed down. A family is like a team, and in a team everyone should be valued for what they offer. I should be able to offer my opinion, or exert my independence without being faced with a half hour argument over what I said, which usually results in an (in my opinion) unjustified punishment, or not being spoken to for the rest of the day so that I understand the gravity of what I have said/done. I can understand this if I have done something very wrong. But if I decide that I don’t need to take my cardigan to Church, or wear a hat, and they don’t agree, I should not be faced with an argument or the silent treatment. I am 16. If I make the wrong decision, I’ll face the consequences myself.
I feel like I am going to have it worse in this regard, since I am the eldest child. My parents haven’t quite worked out yet how to let go of me, and allow me to do my own thing. So every time I try to offer an independent opinion, or do something new, we argue about it.
I don’t need them to approve what I wear every day. If you knew me, you would know that I don’t own anything potentially provocative or inappropriate anyway. I don’t need them to come shopping with me anymore to choose clothes for me to try. I can do that myself. I don’t need to give them a full run down of what I did each day at school, and what grades I got on all my work, and which teacher said what to me today. I don’t need them to know what I did 24/7, what I ate, and which activities I want to go to. I can manage my school life myself. That’s what school’s about, to be independent and learn how to manage relations and work without your parents constantly intervening all the time. I feel like you’re a parrot on my shoulder that I can’t shake off.
So as much as I feel it’s hard on me when we argue and I get upset, I need to remember that it’s probably harder on them. I know they are just arguing with me because they care about me. They don’t want to let me be independent because they’re scared of what I will do. So they try and control my life so that I will never properly wrong them. But I won’t.
Yesterday, I argued with my Dad. We were walking back from the station, we had to take the bins back to the house. There were 4 bins, and the handheld food recycling bin. I pointed out that the boys (who were keen to take the bins back anyway) could put the food bin inside one of the garden waste bins, and then take 2 bins each, whilst I went ahead, unlocked the gate and door, so they could get in. I was surprised when Dad said that he needed me too. I said he didn’t, and pointed out that my brother and I do it every week without another person, and he didn’t say anything and did it, so I went and opened the door as we had agreed. He didn’t speak to me for the rest of the evening.
I don’t know what he is going to do today. I know there is a punishment because I could hear him plotting it with my Mum last night. It turns out he was angry with me because ‘that was the second time I had blatantly refused to do something he had asked me to do this week.’ The other time was when he asked me to take out the food recycling, standing by the door holding the bin with shoes on. I took it from him, opened the door and went out barefoot. Apparently that wasn’t allowed because I needed shoes on to make the minute walk out to the bins and back. I was not on a road, just in our driveway, so there was no risk of being hurt by cars or bikes etc. I asked him why didn’t he do it since he had shoes on. He did it. I didn’t see there was any problem. He didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day.
These incidents are petty. They are every day chores that need to be done. The points I made were perfectly reasonable. He didn’t tell me he was angry with me, and didn’t ever explain why, or try to resolve the issue. He just did the jobs anyway. If he had told me to go get shoes on, or explained why he needed three people to bring back bins, I would have done it. But he didn’t. How am I to know what I have done wrong or how to resolve the situation if he doesn’t talk to me?
And not talking to me makes it worse for everyone. I get upset because I don’t know why he is angry, and he won’t talk to me to resolve it. I suggest making a chores rota like we used to have, so that everyone knows what they have to do, and there are no arguments. He blanks me. My Mum gets cross because we’re cross and my brother argues with her because she’s cross. This is not the way families are meant to work.
Sometimes we argue, and that’s OK. I think it is a normal part of growing up, and establishing your own beliefs and values. But we need to treat each other like adults. I am 16, legally old enough to get married, and own a house, but you treat me like I am 4, approving my clothes, wanting to know what this teacher said to me, and arguing about whether I take the bins out wearing shoes or not.
I love you, and rest assured giving me independence does not mean that I will not come to you when I am in trouble, need your advice, want to talk something over. I am 16, and I just need a bit more space. I need to work some things out by myself. We can avoid some arguments, like those we had this week about chores. I’ll try not to argue and just accept what you say, like I used to when I was little. But at the same time, I need to express my own opinion. If you don’t like it, explain why and we can reach a compromise, but please just talk to me.
I know neither of my parents will read this, but I want them to know that I do love them, and I do care. I just feel frustrated and angry sometimes. Above all, I want them to know that when we argue and you send me to my room like a child, I get really upset, because we don’t have to argue. I’m sorry for what I do or say sometimes. I’m sorry that you have to get angry with me. To be honest, I’m just sorry for everything I’ve ever done. I just want you to come up like you used to do when I was 5, and hug me, and tell me everything will be OK, and help me to find a solution. Because I don’t like arguing either.