Kids aren't trophies to be shown off for a few moments at a time and then put aside.
We parents talk a good game, don't we? With our demands and expectations and all the other standards we put on our kids, we get it into our heads that by virtue of having a child, we're somehow elevated to being true and veritable authority figures.
We take that word "authority" oh so seriously, in spite of the fact that before we were parents we didn't know diddly-squat about raising children, or teaching them how to live in a world we ourselves don't understand.
So what is being a parent? Is it about having a malleable human around to project our hopes and dreams on to? Is it about being responsible for a burden that we can only hope will eventually unburden us? Is parenthood pure narcissism, pure selflessness —or both?
When we bring children into the world, are they extensions of us — tiny human beings with no borders or boundaries, whose minds and bodies we can impress upon at will and without consequence?
What you're about to read right now are the thoughts and unedited words of 17-year-old Alex Contreras.
"Kids are not accessories. When you have a child, you are not creating a body; you are creating a person. Take a moment to elaborate on what a person really is.
A person is not a cluster of cells to form tissue, to form organs, bones, and muscles. That is a body. When you give birth, you have created new thoughts to be thought about.
You have created new habits to be formed and maybe broken. You have created emerging ideas. New jokes to be laughed at, new tears to be shed for new reasons. New artwork or writing based on new psychological questioning, and new discoveries about society.
Kids aren't trophies to be shown off for a few moments at a time and then put aside, only to be acknowledged when talking about how good a football player he is or how beautiful she turned out.
When you bring your daughter to every family party, just to tell your friends, 'This is my daughter,' and then tell her to run off while you stay partying for 3 more hours, what are you actually telling her to do? She is not a PC you can put on hibernate and open up again when you want to show your co-worker something.
What does she do after you tell her to run off? Chances are you probably don't know. Maybe she sits alone because she's too shy to talk to anyone else, or maybe she flirts with all the boys.
Maybe she writes songs on her phone, or maybe she plays with the dog because she has a passion for animals. Or maybe she looks through the bookshelves, because she loves literature.
She could be doing any one of those things and perhaps even many of those things because she's a fully functioning human.
You may be completely attentive when noticing the academic medals and rewards nailed up on your son's wall, but won't hear it when he tells you he wants to become a guitar player, all because he heard Led Zeppelin one night at a friend's house.
And when he complains to you about how he feels physically sick when he thinks about school, you tell him that he's there to do one thing: learn.
But the truth is, school is learning, socializing, organizing, forming crushes, losing friends, getting into fights, collecting phone numbers, sharing social media, and finding new muses.
If you are going to brag about how beautiful and talented your daughter is to make yourself look like a good parent, make sure you listen when she tells you about the boy who is harassing her over Facebook or the nightmares she's been having.
Make sure you listen when your son tells you that he feels alone sometimes."
We glow with pride over our children's moment of brilliance, and then we pat them on the head in our most patronizing way to show that whatever they said was a fleeting coincidence.
Never do we stop to think that perhaps they really are brilliant and that their tales and expressions aren't merely naïve mini-moments of revelation; rather, truths that we adults can apply to our own lives as well.
And that even more so, perhaps we should be the ones to listen.
So, when our children speak to us, let us keep the words of Alex Contreras in mind: "Take a moment to elaborate on what a person really is. A person is not a cluster of cells to form tissue, to form organs, bones, and muscles. That is a body. When you give birth, you have created new thoughts to be thought about."
This reminds me of the old line, "Children are people, too." Simply because children are brilliance in potential, doesn't mean they're not brilliant before they reach full potential.
Open your ears, parents. The kids are speaking.