Or, more importantly, why parents can come off as..well..clueless in YA work. They come off that way because when we're teens, that's how we see them. But we tend to be very very wrong. I found this out because I'm 20, and my parents still sugarcoat the truth.
My mom just called me, saying that they were going through their old VHS tapes, and my brother was there, so we should all watch them together. Boyfriend, hearing this across our small apartment, decides we HAVE to go.
So, we do. And my mom puts in this tape of me, butt naked, in the tub. Boyfriend finds this funny enough to begin with, but finds it even funnier when I exclaim bubbles! - yes, just like the yellow fish from Finding Nemo - and promptly face plant in them. As my dad in the video hoists me out, my dad in the living room says, well, you were an enthusiastic kid. Of course, this makes me feel a little less challenged than I clearly was.
Next up is the video of six year old me, in footsie pjs, still rubbing sleep from my eyes, shoving a helmet over my bed head (my mom wouldn't let me cut it until I was thirteen, there was lots of bedhead) and getting on my big wheel, racing down the driveway, and promptly slamming into the fence. Once again, I'm assured, I was just enthusiastic, as I was my entire childhood. Looking back, I think they may have been sugarcoating.
But, of course, this is not the end. The end comes with my kindergarten class singing It's A Small World. Apparently, I thought I was Madonna, because I am SCREAMING along. Not singing in the slightest. Just screaming. I pick myself out immediately, hoping no one else does, but boyfriend looks right at me and asks, "Why are you wailing?"
So I answer. "I'm not wailing, I'm belting it out. I'm singing enthusiastically."
I wasn't singing enthusiastically. I was screaming embarrassingly and had no idea.
Thanks Mom and Dad for shielding me all these years from that realization.
What does all this mean? It means that when we're writing, and the parents come across as clueless, they aren't. Our teen MC's just think they are. And our parents are way too nice to point out just how wrong we are. Like the time I roadtripped to New York at midnight without informing them senior year - not one of my finer moments, but one of my best memories. We get back somewhere around 6 a.m., never having gotten to Times Square, and no one says anything. Then, about a month later, I tell my mom, because I was just always that good of a kid. Her answer? "Oh, yeah, I know."
Completely flabbergasted - come on, our plan was airtight and fool proof, except for when we lost the directions - I ask how she knew. "You'd been talking about New York for a few days, then you were gone." Keep in mind I was gone all night all the time. But she just knew, and I had no idea.
When you're following a story from a 17 year old's mind, the parents are probably going to come across as a little dumb. But they aren't. They're just sugarcoating you. And when you move out, they will make you watch movies that are proof of just how 'enthusiastic' you were.
Yes, that is a photo of the infamous night. Yes, my best friend is taking a picture while I'm trying to navigate the New York traffic in a Wrangler. But look, I'm wearing my seatbelt!