I see a lot of teens in the emergency department. They come for injuries and abdominal pain, for colds and vomiting, for drug use and and alcohol intoxication, they come for pregnancy and wounds from violent assault. This is no surprise. What is a suprise is how many come alone.

They aren’t always alone. Frequently, they have a friend (usually a boyfriend or girlfriend). But too often, there are no parents to be found. They may be somewhere, at the other end of a cell-phone. They may be available in spirit. Just not in body.

I understand how this can happen with college students. But not with students who are middle-school or high-school aged. I think it’s tragic that these children (and that’s what they are) have to navigate frightening situations without the support of their adult care-givers.

The problem is that our society wants us to believe that teens are adults. From television to movies, music to magazines, culture says that around age 13, everyone is an adult. At 13 they’re smarter, in fact, than full-fledged adults with jobs and diplomas or degrees. They’re competent to decide if they want to use drugs, want to have sex, want to be pregnant or want to dedicate themselves to education.

The reality is that teens are children. Furthermore, and I say this as a father, a former teen and an observer of humanity, teens are idiots. They don’t have the capacity for proper decision-making. They aren’t full informed, haven’t seen or experienced enough (or read enough) and can’t comprehend the world properly.

So, when I see them afraid or angry, intoxicated, beaten, sexually assaulted or sick, all the while alone except for their equally incompetent friends, I feel a sense of deep tragedy. And I can’t help but think that whoever may be at home, in the car smoking or at the other end of a distant cell-phone, these children are orphans in need of kindness and compassion. And desperately in need of the attention and guidance of adults who have actually grown up.
Ed

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