When I couldn’t see the apple on the picnic table, I knew I was in trouble. I was twelve. It was the school-wide eye exams. The tests involved looking through a device somewhat like the old Kenner toy projectors – the ones with the removable slides. As you gazed, the nurse would ask, “Is the apple on the picnic table or is it off? On, off, I could barely see the apple – never mind its placement. Four Eyes – I thought dispiritedly, they are going to call me Four Eyes. I needed glasses and I was not looking forward to it.
Some of us remember when Jan Brady got her glasses. Marcia may have had to wear the braces, but she still got Davy Jones and her date for the dance turned out to have braces too — it was Jan who we really worried about. The path from clear-eyed to bespectacled can be rough. Adolescence can be a road filled with bumps where self-image is a sensitive issue.
Navigating your child’s course through these years can be challenging. Many parents have turned to books like Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher, and Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon and Michal Thompson. These two books came out in the 90’s but are still relevant and helpful today. Another updated and popular title is How to Talk so Teens Will Listen – and Listen so Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber – its original version was directed at younger kids and came out in the eighties.
If you are mystified as to why your child went from being a chatterbox to responding in monosyllables, then Not Much, Just Chillin’: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers by Linda Perlstein might give some insight. And if you want to hear what kids really think – in their own words – try Real Boys’ Voices by William S. Pollack or Ophelia Speaks by Sara Shandler. Both feature the unfiltered voices of adolescents talking about their struggles and passions.
Books to hand to your teens directly include Am I Weird or Is This Normal? – a girl’s 411 on what happens to your body, feelings and relationships during adolescence by Marlin S. Potash or The Teenage Guy’s Survival Guide by Jeremy Daldry – a humorous but practical guide on everything from shaving to peer pressure and why girls make guys crazy.
For fictional titles that deal with self-esteem and self-image in these formative years, some oldies but goodies include One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte and The Goats by Brock Cole. More recent titles include: What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and Peter Cameron’s Someday this Pain Will be Useful to You. These titles and others are all available at the Chelmsford Public Library. Check out our website at www.chelmsfordlibrary.org for a complete list.