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Parenting teenagers is not for sissies

Most of us will eventually face tough decisions as we watch our loved ones begin to deteriorate. It can be heartbreaking as they lose interest in family activities and start to forget their responsibilities. Sometimes their personal hygiene will start to slip and they may even become surly and withdrawn. I am speaking of course of the onset of the teen years.

My teenagers used to sleep 18 hours a day and would subsist on a diet of Doritos and Ramen noodles if we didn't force-feed them vegetables. All of them, the girls and the boys, had bedrooms that were post-Katrina. I never understood why we invested in dressers or hangers, since every article of clothing was strewn on the floor. I had forgotten my elder daughter's room was carpeted until she went away to school and we rented a small dozer to clear the room.

Like butterflies emerging from the pupae, I'd watch my daughters float out of their caves on prom night looking absolutely beautiful, while the bedroom looked like a crime scene. The boys would undergo a similar transformation, although I always suspected that underneath those fine-looking suits were basketball jerseys or rock T-shirts. While the kids were out, my wife and I would be worried sick that they would be in horrible car accidents, get dumped by their dates or spill soda pop on their rented tuxedoes. Parenting is not for sissies.

My grandmother always said that children need constant "minding" -- a curiously Orwellian phrase -- so they will turn out right. In her day, not only was mom at home watching the kids, there were a hundred other mothers in the neighborhood who were more than willing to discipline other people's children. Add to that the fact that corporal punishment was still the rage in schools and kids were pretty much kept in line.

Today, both parents usually work outside the home and teachers get sued if they mispronounce a student's name. The kids are unsupervised, Internet savvy and loaded up with growth hormones from the food supply. I don't want to scare you, but your 16-year-old has the ability to move every penny from your IRA into his Christmas club account and you won't figure it out until you get the postcards from Cancun.

It is time that society considered warehousing teens the way we've done with the elderly. We'll put them all in assisted living facilities to be watched over by trained professionals until they reach the age of 20 or the age of reason, whichever comes first. Think of the advantages: no more sleeping all day, no more unprescribed medications, no more unhealthy diets and no more wandering off in the middle of the night.

The time for desperate measures is upon us. We have met the enemy and they are playing Wii in the family room. Once your child is tall enough to reach an ATM, it is time to turn the minding over to professionals. No one is suggesting a return to reform schools or work houses, we simply need to consider that teens would be happier among people their own age and we parents would sleep better knowing the kids were safely tucked away in buildings with guards, security cameras and alarms on the windows.

There is often a point where we of the sandwich generation (I prefer to call it the vise generation) recognize that mom or dad would be better off in communal living because they can no longer care for themselves and they are making poor decisions. Clearly, the post-pubescent need 24-hour supervision, too.