The Tunnel

Funny Tragedy
March 28, 2013
May 26, 2013

If you have teenage children then you and they may be experiencing The Tunnel. If your kids are not yet in the tunnel they will go into it one day.Everyone needs to go into the tunnel. Did you go into the tunnel? What was it like and how long did you stay in there? Are you perhaps still in the tunnel?

I learnt about the tunnel from a wise old man in England. He explained to me that the tunnel was a place all people, normally teenagers, have to go to, in order to find themselves. It is a place of discovery of one’s own ideas and opinions. It’s a time for identifying their own likes and dislikes and it is definitely a time of rebellion. Rebellion against structure, order, society, institutions (school) and people (you the parent).

It can also be – in fact it absolutely bloody is – a time of great discomfort,  misunderstanding, arguments, slamming doors, grounding (locking them in their rooms with armed guards at the door) and what may seem like monumental stupidity.

So what is The Tunnel?

Imagine if you will, a water tunnel approximately 2 m wide with water walls ½m thick, continuing into the distance for what will seem like forever. Your teenage kid is inside and you’re on the outside. You can vaguely see each other.

You know that they are there because of the mess they leave behind, the food which keeps disappearing from the fridge and strange noises emitting from their caves. You hear a door slamming and see a foot disappearing around a corner. You hear someone in the bathroom but when you look again you find nothing but a pile of dirty clothes and wet towels on the floor, an uncapped toothpaste tube and an unwashed basin with soap and toothpaste marks from a month ago. The tunnel people disappear into their caves and you’re required to iron their food and push it under the cave door.

In extreme cases the tunnellers start wearing black, sport jet-black hair and start body piercing – this nonsense needs to be nipped in the bud before it even starts! The average tunneller becomes moody, misunderstood and is always a victim. You never see their faces except when they look up from their twitter feed just long enough to grunt or moan.

When you try to speak to them in the tunnel all they hear is a drowned out “wowowowoooo!” When they speak to you, all you hear is a “wowowowoooo” that for some reason sounds illogical and irrational. How long they spend in the tunnel is up to them.

The wise old man told me of how his son, at the age of 47, sat him down and said “Dad I’m out of the tunnel!”

The journey into the tunnel should not last that long, a few months or years at most. So for those of you experiencing tunnel people, here are a few ideas on how to handle, live with, and survive the tunnellers.

Ideas to finding the light at the end of The Tunnel.

  1. Understand that the tunnel is normal. Tough for everyone associated with the tunneller and especially for the tunneller, but normal.
  2. When dropping them at an orphanage seems a good idea – don’t; just be grateful that they are tunnelling with and around you – someone who loves and cares for them.
  3. The earlier they do it the better. There is nothing worse than seeing a 30 or 40 year old in the tunnel on his Harley, or her wearing an Ed Hardy t-shirt and ripped jeans to parents evening.
  4. Don’t stop loving them. In fact, love them more.
  5. Give them just enough space, but do not abandon them or ignore them. They need your love, care, concern and more stealth checking than ever.
  6. Firm up on the rules and give loads of tough love if necessary. And believe it or not they thrive on structure and consistent rules.
  7. Crack the whip when needed. Not literally but sometimes you will feel you want to use it to strangle someone.Fair, firm, discipline from a place of love is required.
  8. Stay involved and monitor. Pick your fights and let the little things slide.
  9. Don’t be afraid of the words “I hate you!” If you never get those words from your kids then you are not a good parent.
  10. They need to know their worth, so love them and stand by them for as long as it takes. Kids need to know that you will be there and that you will fight for them.

As the 47-year-old said to the wise old man, “what helped me through was that the whole time I knew you were always on the outside with every step I took. I knew at any time I could step out and you were there. If I stumbled I knew that no matter what you would step in and be there for me.”

Have a happy Mother’s day

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