Monday, March 1, 2010

Failure to Thrive

March 16, 1985 Saturday

Dear Ophelia,
"Well, I missed both track meets cuz I hurt my foot, more on that later.

Last night I was going to the Aragon dance but my ride didn't go, Travis and Nanette, so neither did I. Oh well. Tonight we're going to the laser light show in San Francisco. Luke's going so it should be fun. I don't want to go out with Luke like I did with Chris. I just want to go out with him once in awhile and kiss him you know. I want to be a close friend but not a friend, know what I mean? I don't know if he even likes me at all. I think he knows I like him though. Nanette does, but she just figured that I did. I didn't tell her.

I have to write an essay this weekend. Fun huh? Yea, it is! Tomorrow I want to go shoppin' (ha ha) and stuff. I gotta go, bye Ophie. Love ya, Jennifer. P.S. Here are my measurements (32 1/2, 23 1/2, 33 1/2) sucky!"

I believe it's a good thing that Jen kept her twelve-year-old figure well into her high school years. She had enough troubles with boys as it was!

March 21, 1985 Thursday

Dear Ophelia,
"Hi. I was sick Monday (tired actually). Today we had a track meet at Carlmonte High School. I ran the mile. But I haven't practiced for a week. I was trying to decide whether or not to keep on track. I finally decided to stay on and I'm happy for it.

Well, I ran the mile in 6 minutes, 16 seconds. Kris L. (junior) tried to pass me on the last lap but I didn't let her. We ran neck and neck for most of the lap, then at the end, I pulled away and got fourth place. I was proud of myself. I was so determined not to let her pass me. I think she was a little mad at me though but I hope not.

I'm going to write about myself now. First of all, I'm not very self-confident right now. In 7th and 8th grade, I was trying to 'find myself' like I am now. But at Bartlett, I had so many good friends. I was a lot more confident and happy every day. I think that's why I'm not confident now. It's because I don't have many good friends.  

I crave attention. Sometimes I may be a little immature but hey, I'm a freshman (ha ha). I think all the time. My friends catch me looking off into space. I like to think and fantasize about all kinds of things. I like to think of glory, money (what I would do if I had it), horses, boys, heroism (me) and stuff.

I need attention. I need to be appreciated. I can tell because: I dream about it a lot, being well-known, a heroine or a great athlete etc.; the way I dress attracts attention now; whenever I'm alone I talk to myself and pretend that someone else is with me (I do this a lot lately). Anyways, this proves that I crave attention (good attention). I even like (sort of) to get embarrassed (not humiliated) in a good way.

I can't understand why I don't have good morals. Remember the things I've done. I've also been stoned three times. I'm not sure what to do with guys. I want to make out with them and even have sex with the ones I like. Most of my friends are virgins. I think I'm a slut (I hide it though) but in my mind--I'm not.

I'm still stubborn, but in a better way and I'm still proud, but in a better way. I am flirty. I flirt with Luke and it is so obvious that I like him.

I've decided to just be a happy person. If I'm nervous about something, instead I'll just smile and not worry about it. I don't get as nervous now before a meet as I used to. Maybe it's because they're not as serious in California.

I do want to be respected by guys and girls. I hate being used.

My temper isn't as bad, except with my dad. I don't get as mad as often.

I want to be self-confident without being phony, you know. I hate phoniness. I'm working on it. Love ya, Jennifer. P.S. Stay cool!"

Jennifer has had a frail grasp of herself in relation to others for a long time. When her parents divorced, she felt insecure for the first time in her life. She remembers clearly her first emotion the day her parents told her they were divorcing--it was shame. Somehow, she wasn't enough for them. She and her brother weren't worth the effort to remain a family. That's how she felt.

The assault at whale park destroyed the last bit of confidence she had left. It spread through her like poison. She took on the demeanor of an abused person. Even though it was against her will--Jennifer didn't realize for many years that the assault at whale park was his crime, not hers. She labeled herself a slut rather than label him a rapist. What is it about people who blame themselves for everything? Where does that come from? Jennifer didn't seek help for any of her problems. She tried to be tough. She bore the responsibility.

But young Jennifer wasn't tough, she was hyper-sensitive. If she were a zoo animal--she would have required careful attention. Jennifer's upbringing goes against everything a zoo keeper is taught about how to keep animals healthy and happy. Animals, especially primates, need consistency, security, stability, lasting social relationships, stimulation, protection, family bonds etc. Adjustments to living conditions need to be made slowly and infrequently.

Jennifer experienced frequent moves, separation from key family members (mother, father, brother), radical dietary, cultural and temperature changes from state to state, constant grieving for the missing parent, broken friendships, attacks from juvenile males and the stress of trying to fit in with a new father and brother.

Just because Jennifer is a human being who can think, doesn't mean that she can handle all of this upheaval any better than a sensitive, social animal like a gorilla could. Insecurity and abnormal behavior would be expected with the gorilla. It would need to be rehabilitated. It won't be a big surprise when Jennifer ends up in a rehab center, not once, but twice!

People expect teens to act out. Adding hormones to immaturity is just asking for trouble. Parents still need to be aware that some behaviors aren't "normal". It is obvious when an animal or a human baby is failing to thrive. It's not so obvious in teens.

I don't have the answers but I think teens are more fragile than they act. They need everything that a two-year old needs--fuel for their growing body, time-outs after their tantrums, lots of sleep, clear boundaries, mommy-and-me time, huge praise when they do well, lots of hugs, two parents (whenever possible), snacks and naps, supervised play dates, pencils to chew on (yes, teenagers are still teething), exercise to tire them out and stability.

They are not always lovable, they can be more like porcupines than bunnies--but the teen years are the worst years to let a child fend for them self. We should care for them with the same quality and attention to detail that the animals get in the zoo, at minimum! (A good zoo, that is!)

A keeper plays mommy to an orphaned young gorilla!

When you were a teen, did you thrive or just survive?

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