“Oh, The Places You Will Go!” – To The Class of 2016

Cap Toss

You arrived eighteen years ago on a cool April breeze. You were late, as usual. The doctor swore that the ultrasound picture showed you with the umbilical cord connected into your ears.  It was only when he screamed, “bus, bus!”, that you decided to grace us with your presence.

Some of you were our first kids, while others merely slipped into a birth order and immediately began throwing elbows – fighting for food, attention and a sense of identity.  We often watched you when you slept to make sure you were still breathing.  It sounds creepy but that’s what you do when you get handed a complex piece of machinery with no instruction manual.

As infants, you won us over instantly with your first drunken sailor steps, gassy smiles, funny laugh, relentless requests for Goodnight Moon and your ability to look us right in the eye and disobey.  For a brief time we were the center of your universe but somewhere along the way, we were relegated to the status of a distant planet.

In time, we annoyed you.  We hovered – a relentless helicopter thump of windy opinions, emphatic ideas, dogmatic directions, do’s, don’ts – forever laying out an endless highway of guardrails.  You constantly probed the invisible fence line of our values probing for gaps and weak linkages – all the while  hoping for that one weekend when we parents would be dumb enough to go away and leave you at home swearing on a stack of Bibles that you were not going to have a party.  Speaking of parties, we never understood how your generation could be so environmentally correct as to pack up all your beer cans in a hefty bag only to throw them by the side of some random road.  Yes, we bugged you. We were always running out ahead of you trying to remove obstacles or prevent you from making the same mistakes that we made in another time when society seemed more tolerant of the self inflicted wounds of youth.

Our job has always been to love you until you learn to love yourself.  If you don’t believe us, it’s in our job descriptions which are filed down at City Hall.

You grew up during a time of silver technology bubbles, crimson red real estate busts, and a great purple dinosaur named Barney.  We taught you tolerance and tried to explain terrorism.  Life swirled around you at fiber optic speed and as the language of society changed, you adapted faster than we did.  You became our bridge to a new millennium – fluent in a new castrated language called texting. You shared that The Shins were not just bones in our leg. You gave us endless, magical hours by your bedside reading of Muggles, Wizards and Deatheaters.  You were our eyes and ears helping us understand that we were literally the last family in Connecticut that did not possess an iPod, iPhone, iMac or iPad.  Come to think of it, there seems to be a lot of  “I’s” in that list of essentials.  No wonder the Wii did not get much traction.

We never shared that we have worried for years that you were schizophrenic as you often revealed multiple personalities in the course of a five minute dinner conversation.  You multi-tasked like an Isaac Assimov science fiction robot,  studying, watching Hulu Plus, listening to iTunes, texting and looking at yourself in the mirror – – while still seeming in touch with reality.  Most people of our generation are precribed heavy doses of lithium to prevent this kind of manic behavior and claim to receive their instructions from an alien space craft hovering just over the tree line.

As your parents, we celebrated every one of your prosaic little accomplishments – I mean every one.  We attended more recitals, art shows, scrimmages, games, and microscopic milestones – not wanting to miss or regret a moment of your lives.  We were and are your biggest fans.  You taught us that material satisfaction has a brief shelf life while true joy that arises out of seeing someone you love get what they need, endures.

You are our chance to do things better – to be kinder, more resolute, less selfish and more open and understanding of a hot crowded world.  Speaking of  “hot”, we are so much cooler than you think but we are not allowed to tell you these stories as it violates the terms of our parole.

We live in a time of viral information.   Some of you learned the hard way that a reputation is easier to lose in a small town than your favorite hoody.  But don’t worry. One of the advantages of growing up in a small town is there are fewer witnesses. You may feel that you have not accomplished much but you are already ahead of 90% of the world just because you showed up. “And oh, the places you will go!”

To obtain your degree in Life, you are going to have to attend some night classes in the School of Hard Knocks. Bonehead 101 will teach you that your own best thinking can get you in trouble. Advanced Diversity prepares you for the fact that not everyone shares your values, politics or your belief that “The Hangover” was the greatest film of your generation. Tolerance 201 reveals that some may dislike you the moment they meet you because of what you represent or because you forgot to shower that morning.  Don’t sweat it.  There are 6B people in the world – most of whom do not bathe and who want the same things that you want – happiness, security and 24/7 access to a secure wireless router.

You will need to learn delayed gratification.  Whether you like it or not, everything gets a little harder from here and you will wait longer for things that you would like to have right away.  There’s more competition for everything – education, jobs, and natural resources – – many of the things that you always assumed would be there when you wanted them.

You will have to author your own definition of success so society does not typecast you into a role that leaves you unfulfilled. Your goal is to discover your passion – this is your “avocation”. Your mission is to find a way of getting paid for performing the aforementioned avocation so that we do not have to keep slipping you $20. This “mission” will be hereafter known in paragraph 3, subsection 4 of our social contract as your “vocation”.  The ability to combine one’s avocation and vocation is the holy grail of life. Otherwise, you end up in the insurance industry.  In parental vernacular, we refer to any form of compensation you receive from a third party for services rendered as “getting off the payroll.” That should be our mutual goal.

We are proud of you. We have a lot of faith in you.  You are smarter, more informed, more talented and more resourceful than many who have preceded you. You figured out how to avoid doing all your chores and still get an allowance.  You see the world – not in shades of black and white but as a broad palette of colors and possibilities.  As your revered principal has always told you, every door is open to you from this point.  It’s only through making wrong choices that you choose to close an open door.

We will miss seeing you at Zumbachs and Tony’s Deli. If you want to come back and visit, that would be nice.  We will be hanging out down by the Mobil station.  It is the greatest time of your lives – a convergence of youth, strength, possibility, lack of inhibition and personal freedom.

And “oh, the places you will go!”

Welcome to The Teen Behavioral Network

teen titans
Image by istolethetv via Flickr

How strange that the young should always think the world is against them – when in fact that is the only time it is for them.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

Tired of late night cell phone debates with your teens over dubious sleep-over locations and questionable acquaintances?  Worried what kind of den she is calling from ? Unsure whether those red eyes are really from studying or fighting forest fires?  Does your teen make OJ Simpson look truthful? Consider joining The Teen Behavioral Network (TBN)

At TBN, our mission has remained the same, helping teens avoid self sabotage.  During your child’s transformation from adolescence into adulthood, they are statistically at greater risk from a host of acute physical and mental illnesses ranging from situational retardation syndrome (SRS), serial mood swings (SMS), poor peripheral vision (PPV) and episodic events such as auto accidents, broken bones and ruptured relationships.

We want to take this opportunity to socialize you to the benefits, provisions and clinical protocols of our program.  TBN is an incentive based care coordination program underpinned by an exclusive network of friends, acquaintances and families.  Under a typical TBN program, your teen’s activities will require them to call an 800 number to obtain preauthorization for certain risk based activities. Our goal is to help direct them toward people, places and activities that are most likely to reduce their risk for catastrophic events which could sidetrack their progress in life.

Based on decades of evidence and outcomes based data, we have designed a comprehensive physical and mental health program that incorporates the following:

1)      Biometric, academic and psychometric baseline testing – At TBN, we believe you cannot improve what you cannot measure. Periodically, your teen will submit to a basic biometric testing administered by a primary care physician.  We will test key biometric markers such as fasting glucose (blood sugar), weight, blood alcohol and banned substances to baseline overall health status.  We triangulate this data with your child’s grade point average and a two-hour annual psychotherapy session to determine an overall risk score. The lower a teen’s risk score, the less likely they are to commit a monumentally stupid act which could irreversibly impact their future.  Our goal is to reward good behavior and to limit at risk activities to within our preferred partner network.

Based on each child’s risk score, we develop a customized plan to assist them in moving toward “first quartile” social stewardship and personal responsibility.  Our assessment may uncover abnormally high glucose and insulin levels from consumption of sodas, fatty foods and empty carbohydrate diets.  The absence of lactic acid in your teen’s muscles may suggest they are leading too sedentary a lifestyle. 

Our initial baseline risk assessment will graph your member teen’s risk status against local, regional and national peer risk groups to drive toward improvement.  As he/she achieves milestone events, our incentive plan rewards them with behavior points which can be converted into a range of valued rewards such cell phone minutes, PC and phone upgrades, sleep-overs at approved in-network homes and iTunes purchases. Failure to achieve agreed targeted benchmarks results in a series of compulsory physical and behavioral remediation programs offered through affiliated local law enforcement and armed services partnerships

2)      Preferred Partner Organization (PPO) – Every teen member will be provided a customized approved network designating “in-network” friends, family and institutions.  Members may participate in a range of activities in network with no out of pocket expense or preauthorization. 

TBN has gone to great lengths to develop a process for screening and stratifying in-network friends, families and institutions. We pride ourselves on the little things. Our “family” reviewers perform on site inspections and are sensitized to the most subtle signs of laissez-faire oversight such as the absence of alcohol or medicine cabinet inventory controls or content blocking on cable and computers.

While our criteria is kept extremely confidential, each network is unique based upon your teen’s risk profile and the risk factors attributable to other teen members. Certain low risk places or people such as a local church youth group, YMCA or deli are likely to be shared across multiple teen networks.  Certain “in network” friends may receive additional performance stars for characteristics such as intellect judgment, civic responsibility, home supervision and number of text messages sent in a 24 hour period. Five star friends are considered “centers of excellence” (COEs).  COEs are eligible for subsidized activities such as inclusion on family vacations, movies, deli and coffee coupons.

Given the extreme variability of teenagers, our PPO network guide is updated hourly

3)      Out-of Network PPO Access – A teen attempting to access out-of-network friends or institutions must submit an out of network request at least 24 hours prior to the planned event.  Our 24 hour authorization line is staffed with retired teachers, clergy, grandparents, animal trainers and clinical psychologists expert in dealing with pathological behavior.

 You will be provided five micro-chip GPS patches that can be surreptitiously  inserted in your teenagers phone, purse and/or high top sneakers.  The “soft perimeter” tracking device allows you to instantly access your teen’s location via any personal computer or cell phone.  

 Unauthorized Out of network PPO activity may include penalties such as chore deductibles and/or community service co-pays. Each teen must submit location information that includes a JPEG photograph transmitted via cell phone for verification. 

We have retained several per diem private investigators to assist the out of network approval review process.  For a few extra dollars a month you can receive full individual and family background checks and a risk dossier outlining of all public domain information of every person and institution with whom your child may be attempting to affiliate..

4)      Appeals – Teens desiring to appeal out of network denials can request a supervisory appeal from our verification team. Our appeals teams are composed of recovering alcoholics, parole officers and social workers – – all bi-lingual in text messaging and English.  We have recently contracted with Apple to introduce “ iTruth”, a polygraph based wireless application for the iPhone where teens can  attach sensor pads from their phone USB port to their temples. Through an ASP server, users can be evaluated to determine if they are telling the truth. Future programs include iBlow, a breathalyzer app and iBrain, a dopamine and serotonin measurement device.

5)      Final Appeals – Some determined teens may refuse to accept appeals as a basis for final resolution. In these cases, we have designated a “final appeals” protocol. A teen may invoke two final appeal challenges within a one year coverage period – similar to professional football’s red flag challenge.  We employ retired juvenile court judges on 24/7 retainers to arbitrate specific appeals.  Appeal overturn rates for 2010 were less than .005%.  Problematic or disrespectful members will be automatically redirected to a payphone at Bellevue Hospital for the Criminally Insane where teens can attempt to reason with equally irrational people.  These calls are recorded and forwarded to the member parent for entertainment value.

At TBN, our program is simple – – we seek to improve the health and well-being of your teen and to assist them as they navigate a period where they are physiologically and socially incapable of distinguishing risk and consequences.  Youth participants are socialized to understand that in a small town, one’s reputation is easy to lose and hard to recover.

Our motto: “Trust But Verify” reflects our mission to establish guard rails characterized by mutual respect, honesty and consequences for behavior.  We will leave no teen behind and our goal is to ensure that any misstep is minor ……………….(no pun intended).