Wednesday, April 11, 2012


This post is prompted by a conversation I had with a friend the other day. I won't go into details but you'll get the gist as I go along.

When Takumi was in Jr. high, he hit his "difficult" years. I just didn't understand him. He didn't understand me. Tetsu kept a fairly neutral, authoritative position as "Stubborn, Frowning, Japanese Father". I think I got the brunt of Takumi's rebellious years.

As Takumi would tell it, he wasn't very rebellious compared to his friends. He claimed that his friends swore at their parents and called them dirty names. Some of them stayed away days at a time. They smoked, skipped school and were angry when family members hunted them down.

When I think back on it, maybe he was right. There was never any bad language in our house, Takumi went grudgingly to school. He didn't smoke (I think). His hang-out place was in front of the train station riding his skateboard and doing break-dance with friends. Compared to what sort of trouble American kids could get into with drugs and sex, I suppose this all sounds mild.

But according to the Jr. high school and Japanese society, Jr. high students are SUPPOSED to be preparing for high school entrance exams, and high school entrance exams are going to mold the child's future. At the very least, Jr. high school students are SUPPOSED to be involved in sports activities and wearing off some of those aggressive attitudes in competition. Takumi dropped out of sports fairly early and became a "STRAY" club member. (A nickname taken from stray cats that don't have a home.)

"You've got to think about your future. You've got to get into study gear. You're a bright boy, don't waste your life. Blah, blah, blah."

There was one summer when we were in the States and I spent so much time crying and worrying about Takumi that my mother invited a counselor friend to come over and talk to us.

Of course I did the translating for Takumi (he understood but couldn't express himself in English). There I was translating his feelings to the counselor (and apologizing for his angry attitude) and basically she bawled me out!

"What are you so worried that he is going to do? Skate boarding until 7:00 at night doesn't sound like a major infraction. If you keep such a tight rein on him it is going to backfire and you are going to have bigger problems."

"You don't understand! (and she didn't!) That isn't the way it is done in Japan. Kid's are supposed to be in school or at home. They don't go to fast food shops or the movies, they don't have school dances or school events where everybody turns up for a football game. If a kid isn't at home after school hours then he is labeled a bad kid."

I still think that that counseling session wasn't very "fair". I was labeled the strict, hysteric mother and Takumi was the normal adolescent son.

But it was probably a successful counseling session because I verbalized Takumi's feelings and maybe he was surprised to see me being scolded by the counselor. No turnabout right away but somewhere along the line Takumi and my relationship changed.

I have friends whose children dropped out of Jr. high school (you can do that in Japan!) and others whose children have attempted suicide. I know people with children who were deathly anorexic and some who were reclusive and shut themselves away.

In past years, counseling wasn't available but that is changing now. Even without counseling though, all those children; whose mothers' tears I have seen; are now happy, active, working or studying adults. Somehow everyone, parents and child, got through those hard years.

That's my message to my friend.

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