Being Overlooked Sucks

Have you ever wondered why teenagers seem grumpy all the time? Why they seem to go from zero to furiously defensive in less time than it takes them to drink all the milk in your house?

I don’t have a teenager yet, although I’m close; my oldest is almost 12. But he’s trying out the teenager thing like clothes in a department store. He seems to like the outfit.

I think about him a lot, actually. Up until now his web moniker has been Spasmo, but that’s changing now that I’ve spent a lot more time thinking and praying about him and listening to and watching him. He is now T-Rock. ‘T’ for his name and ‘Rock’ for a lot of things. First, because he rocks.

T-Rock loves music. He hums all the time. We have to ask him to stop sometimes when the humming isn’t appropriate. He loves to play the cello and actually chose to take early-morning classes this school year. He sings along to his favorite songs. He has a good taste for rock music. I believe T-Rock has music in his soul.

Second, T-Rock is a rock. He is often flighty and seems disconnected, but he actually hears a lot of what goes on around him. He absolutely fits the description of the absent-minded professor in that he is extraordinarily smart and often spends extended lengths of time just totally caught up in the world in his mind. He thinks about things, deep things like gospel doctrine, ants, and science, on a level I’ve not seen in anyone else. Because of this preoccupation, T-Rock sometimes seems very inconsiderate.

And honestly, he does need to learn to deliberately connect with what’s going on around him and demonstrate active consideration. But this young man loves the people around him. He may just love ALL the people. Thinking of how important his younger siblings are to him fills me with a lot of emotion; I actually get a little weepy. How could I, flawed, vainglorious, sinful, weak, and always fighting the darkness, produce such an incredibly, fundamentally GOOD person?

T-Rock rescued his baby brother’s fingers this morning, with the help of his dearest friend and closest brother, Bill (9). Those two got so worried about Walnut that their emotion instantly overflowed, so they weren’t as effective as they could have been had they kept their heads, but that kind of calm comes with years and experience. Both of them were visibly affected by the baby’s reaction to getting his fingers pinched.

I watched T-Rock playing with Walnut the other day. The baby giggled in delight and pure unrestrained joy and love shone from T-Rock. T-Rock is a rock for our family because he loves us so much and will not let anything stop him from learning to be the best oldest brother he can be.

So why is this post titled “Being Overlooked Sucks” and why did I start with a discussion of teenagers? Because I really think that teenagers need to be watched, noticed, listened to, and deliberately allowed to stretch their legs, muscles, and souls. Most kids are good people, just like adults, although I think the percentage is smaller for adults.

Many of us are doing our best. Some of us are doing way beyond our best, digging so deep inside of ourselves to fall far from the fruit tree of our parentage, fighting each day and almost each moment to purge ourselves of darkness and soak up as much light as possible. We work hard, struggle to love and give and learn and grow in wisdom– and we aren’t doing this in a vacuum. We, including teenagers, aren’t doing our best only because we know it’s right, even though that’s a big part of it.

We’re doing our best because we love people- our family, our friends- and we want to be and do the best for those we love because they deserve our best. And we want those we love to be happy and safe and good and..

… and we want them to notice. We want to please them. We want to be noticed in our efforts. When we think long about it, we know that we shouldn’t want to be noticed. But we do. And as a person loved by many around me who are doing their best, I am trying harder to notice.

Teenagers and adults experience this, but teenagers are different. They’re doing their best and they’re often doing their best in the face of pressures and a world that we adults “remember” but have long forgotten our understanding thereof. Social pressures, friendships, family dynamics, class dynamics, racial issues, warring morals, and parents who love them and are sometimes blinded by experience and knowledge and understanding of the world to the point that parents don’t see their kids. Parents need to fight to SEE and NOTICE their kids and recognize their efforts.

The problem with this is that we can easily devolve into broad complements, meaningless “I love yous,” thoughtless encouragement, and damaging criticism. I am guilty of all of this. I am not saying I’m going to withhold “I love yous” to only the moments that I’m feeling it, but I AM saying that when I tell each of my kids every night that I love them when they’re going to bed, I’m going to say that with my heart. I can do that better by looking at them– really looking at them.

My boy, T-Rock, needs to be noticed. His efforts need to be noticed and commented on. Specifically. If he needs to learn something, that needs to be addressed specifically, and not in broad terms that totally devalue all the good he does and is. It is completely understandable if he gets frustrated and upset and emotional when all of the good he’s trying to do and be seems totally overlooked in a moment when I’m a nag. There’s no excuse for angry tones or voices or words, but there is certainly a reason for them.

All of my kids need to be noticed. All of the people in my life need this. I believe this so firmly that, at our weekly family night, we always take time out for each person to say one specific thing about that evening’s selected family member that they love. This doesn’t always go smoothly, and there are a lot of generalities, but there are times that beautiful things happen.

Like when my daughter, Princesa, told T-Rock she loved it when he did a certain very goofy thing. Everyone remembered the goofy thing and family night dissolved into laughter.

Being overlooked sucks. And too often we, particularly adults in emotional relationships, don’t know how to tell others we feel overlooked. I have no advice on this issue, but I understand it. We don’t want to be vain or selfish; we feel like that would diminish the good things we do and the struggle we launch ourselves into daily. It would diminish the good fight.

Again, no advice. But I intend to stop overlooking as much as I can. Nobody in my life will be or feel alone in their struggles.

When you stop fighting, you’ve surrendered.

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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