Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Two Teenagers

Yesterday I was watching YouTube videos while exercising. It was here that I was introduced to Corey Delaney. You'd think with my Australian obsession, I would have heard about this earlier. Delaney's claim to fame happened in January 2008.

What Delaney did was have a huge party while his parents were away. He advertised it on MySpace, and over five hundred people showed up. There were riot-type events outside. Damage was done to cars. It was a huge mess. The police had to intervene. The cost of the damage was $20,000.

All that in itself doesn't make my skin crawl. A teen having a wild party when his parents are out of town....what's new about that? Party gets way out of hand. It happens.

What's disgusting to me is Corey Delaney's attitude. In the video I watched, he shows no real remorse. In fact, he seems to think what he has done is awesome.

The other awful thing...maybe even more that there were people who were actually supporting this. According to this Perth newspaper article, Delaney got himself an actual celebrity agent. The kid had dropped out of school to become a carpenter. That's cool. Carpenters make nice important stuff. But that plan has been scrapped. Max Markson, the agent says, He (Corey) is going to do a national tour of parties. It's better than being a carpenter! Sorry no. I'd much rather know a carpenter than a person who shows no remorse for his actions.

The good news is I'm looking at a timeline on Google News, and it seems Delaney's fame faded as quickly as it came. He did a stint on Big Brother. This article says that it may have been that which made people lose interest. When Corey entered the house, he lost his trademark shades and with it, his mystique. The constant gaze of the camera showed the real Corey to the nation – turning up a shy, awkward, normal teenager.

Don't feel too sad for Delaney. His agent says he's made over $100,000. That's good he has some money, because Markson says Delaney's fifteen minutes are up. Delaney might have to go back to that oh-so-boring carpentry stuff.

The story of Delaney and Markson depresses me. To me, it represents the dark side of humanity. It reminds me that there are people out there who truly don't care. Well, at least they don't care about the important stuff. They care about money and popularity. And they'll do anything to get it.

The thing I'm learning lately is that too many humans are like Maryanne's zombies in True Blood. They do what they want. They seek pleasure and they don't really care who they hurt in the process.

Then today I read an article about another Australian teenager. After the article there was a comment from a reader. She (or he) said,
I hope something could be done to protect young persons at this age from over-zealous parents and also other potential exploitation, pushing them into risky situations that also cause problems for others. Even for adults, there should be some screening and eligibility test, medical, psychological, skill level, etc so as to prevent the costly searches and tragedies that happen so often. I hope all costs will be recovered from these irresponsible acts.
If this had been about allowing Corey Delaney to go on his world party tour and sign up with an exploitive agent, I would have probably agreed with this commenter. But it's not about him. This commenter was criticizing the parents of Jessica Watson.

Once again, I was ignorant about Australian teenager current events.

I had no idea that this Jessica Watson girl has been planning to sail around the whole world. She's on a yacht all by herself. She wants to be the youngest person to perform this feat without assistance. Her website says, In doing so, Jessica wants to show that even the most gentle among us can achieve great things and with determination and the support of those around us can live our dreams. Jessica hopes that her journey can inspire others to take that first step and be all they want to be.
I say, Go Jessica!

I read Obama's oh-so-highly controversial brainwashing speech to students today. I'm sad to report that it hasn't yet transformed all our innocent American school kids into Socialists. It's not Socialist propaganda. It's school propaganda. The basic idea is that the way to succeed in life is to listen to your teachers, do your homework, and stay in school. The speech wasn't exactly homeschooling friendly...definitely not unschooling friendly. But I think Obama's heart is in the right place. He wants kids to reach for their dreams. My argument is that this doesn't necessarily have to be via the school route. Sometimes we can follow our dreams in other on a boat.

Jessica Watson is the same age that Delaney was when he held his huge party. She has been sailing and racing since the age of eight. According to this article, she's a homeschooler. It doesn't surprise me. Sailing around the world sounds like something a homeschooling teenager would do.

As for her parents....Are they irresponsible? Are they selfish? Are they exploitive? Are they pushing their daughter to do something that is too dangerous? Maybe. I can't know for sure, but I seriously doubt it.

I think they're the type of parents who are brave enough to let their child follow her dream. I think they understand Jessica. I think they trust her. And yes, I'm sure they worry about her. What parent wouldn't worry?

But a supporter of Watson says, compared to the number of young Australians we lose in car crashes and drug abuse, adventuring around the world in a yacht is far less risky and far more inspiring. Amen to that.

Another supporter says,
We can't afford to over-protect our kids. They need to find themselves, challenge the natural world, and understand what it is to minimize risk and make good decisions.

I am admittedly overprotective at times. My excuse is Jack is only eight. I'm definitely not ready for him to sail around the world. But I hope I'd be brave enough if he decided to do something like that when he was sixteen. I won't give him permission to do irresponsible stupid wild things. But I hope I allow him to take well-thought-out and well-planned risks. I hope I don't imprison him with my own fears and prejudices.

My feeling is that parents today do too much pushing and not enough supporting. Sometimes I think we fail to see the difference.

When Jack was a baby, I'd take him to a mommy and me class at Gymboree. Towards the end of the class, we were instructed to put our babies on the parachute. With the babies on board, we'd lift the material up and give them a ride. A few babies enjoyed this. The others (including Jack) were terrified. I was one of those weak parents who let my kid control me. I didn't force Jack to ride. I didn't see the point of it. What was the benefit of riding the parachute? Did it make the kid smarter? Did it improve their health? Did it protect them from Whooping Cough? No. It did none of these things. For some of the kids, it brought them enjoyment. So let them ride! But I think the only point in forcing the terrified children to ride is to show them who's boss. For some moms and dads, that's their whole goal in parenting. Finally, they get someone to control and boss around!

Most of the parents at Gymboree weren't like that though. They often looked quite tormented about the whole thing. It's hard to be a new mom and dad. We often don't know when to be firm and when to give in. We're all a bit lost sometimes.

At another point in Jack's toddlerhood, he suddenly decided to climb up onto the high playground equipment. I was thinking what the hell?! And I was terrified. There's these big openings near the slide. It would be so easy for a young toddler to miss his step and fall backwards.

I could have forbidden him to go. I could have grabbed him, and taken him home. Instead I followed him up and made sure he didn't fall. There was no way, I'd let him climb up by himself. But as he got older, he was allowed to do that. He'd climb and I'd watch from the bench.

See....there's a difference between pushing your kid into doing something that terrifies them, and supporting your child in doing something that they feel they're ready to do. Of course as parents, we DO need to step in sometimes. There's nothing wrong with saying I don't think you're ready for this yet. Let's do some more learning and training. Or Yes you can do it. But I'm coming with you.

I think Jessica Watson's parents knew their daughter well enough to understand that she's ready seek out her dreams.

Unfortunately the girl has already met some big challenges. Her boat crashed on her first day out. To her critics, this might prove the whole thing was a huge mistake. I disagree with them. To me, it's just the universe testing her strength and dedication. Will she give up, or will she continue? So far, she plans to continue. I think that's very brave of her. If she decides she's not ready, I think that's brave too. It takes strength to continue after adversity. It takes strength to admit you're not ready and go back to the drawing board.

No matter what the outcome, Jessica Watson will be a hero to me. I am so glad I heard about her, and all the people who are supporting her. They have restored some of my lost faith in humanity.

And who knows....Maybe Delaney himself will be inspired by Watson. Maybe he'll realize that there's life beyond instant fame and trademark sunglasses. He's young, and he's still there's hope. 

You never know. He could turn his life around. I hope he does.