I come from a small town in America's heartland, a true American town, surrounded by cornfields in all directions. The biggest events that take place are high school sporting events, where the entire town shows up, regardless of how terrible we are. We have one or two cops on duty at the same time, whose main job is to patrol the streets and bust underage drinking. It's a small town where nothing happens.
The big drama from the town comes from its people. More specifically, the grown adults, the parents – the antagonists – who entertain themselves by making something out of nothing, from the lives of kids – their protagonists.
I think the biggest favorite pastime of some parents were crossing-the-line and being nosey into the lives of kids other than their own– because their own kid could never do wrong. Parents were ruthless growing up, and I'm petty and hold a grudge.
Parents would pose as their children on Facebook to attack sixth graders through comments because they were "leaving their kid out."
Parents would whisper rude comments into their children's ears about their classmates, which then, of course, would be passed along to their friends, creating a reputation for that child.
Parents would take their kid's phone to text back their child's friends with messages that would make The Plastic's Burn Book look nice.
Parents would yell and shout cruel things at youth sporting events attacking *other* children's athletic performance making sports, not a fun activity, but a personal Hell for many.
If a peer got a piercing, colored their hair in an experimental way, listened to the 'wrong' music, dressed abstractly, or didn't confine themselves to the social norms, they were perceived as weird, troubled, or seemingly had parents that didn't care about them. Being different, finding your voice, discovering your style, or being experimental was discouraged and would automatically make you an out-group. True bullshit.
I'm sure parents can be that cruel and ruthless in towns of all sizes, but in a small town when grown adult parents have more power than its mayor and law enforcement, they control everything. From sports, social lives, academia, and even college scholarships, the reputations parents create for you will haunt you until you break free, if you are lucky.
If you are unfortunate to have the parents of your community not on your side, it can be Hell. When you have enough parents that feel strongly about a particular issue, the equivalent to a union can be developed.
An example of this is when a "party" was busted (I say "party" because it was a small gathering in a friend's garage where leisurely drinking was taking place– there wasn't loud music, heavy drinking, or raging going on) and a jealous classmate called the cops on it, which resulted in tickets for all of its attendees. A group of around 10 of us received tickets– and it was like a damn arson crime was committed. I will take full responsibility that it was wrong and we were underage so the tickets were deserved, but what we did not deserve was the community outcry.
Parents went ballistic. As 15 and 16-year-olds, when you have grown adults talking down on your character and openly judging you through Facebook, at school events, and creating rumors, it turns a common adolescent mistake and experience into a trauma. There were parents discussing developing an anti-drinking campaign against us claiming that a mistake like ours would be "life-ruining". Jokes on them because we are all still here, and most of us are thriving.
Their kids went ballistic as well, which is especially ironic now, because as soon as senior year came around, the classmates that so openly talked against us and judged us, got in the habit of blacking out on the weekends and developed an appreciation for underage drinking as a hobby. Underage drinking is still underage drinking regardless if you are a junior in high school, or a senior, friends.
I'm no longer bitter towards the classmates' cruelty, but I do have a slight grudge towards the parents. Parents are grown adults who should know that shit happens. You have to go through moments, like getting caught drinking underage, to learn and grow. Shit happens and you have to accept your wrongs and move on. These parents must have been perfect growing up, obviously, considering they still have sticks up their asses and would start a parent union against a group of 15 and 16-year-olds.
My parents know that they got caught up in the bullshit of being parents in small towns. I watched them get caught up in the narrow-mindedness small town parents can have. Countless times growing up they told me I couldn't do something because _____ was involved and they were "trouble," simply because there were unpleasant rumors going around the parent-community, and they didn't want me to be associated.
My parents would say things about other peers of mine without thinking twice that they were adolescents just trying to find their way. They know they were wrong because I made it known. It also took a strain on our relationship. There were instances growing up we would fight over something and it didn't matter if the situation we were fighting about was true or not, all that mattered was the effect it would have on my reputation – and that destroyed me for a little bit.
I hope something has changed within the last ten years, and millennial parents aren't as cruel. I hope kids can make mistakes and are encouraged to do better, rather than be bullied by adults. I hope parents now understand that not all kids have the same resources as others, and they won't be punished or pushed away because their parent(s) can't provide them with the same things as they provide their child with. I hope kids now are encouraged to find their voices and be experimental, rather than be deemed as weird or troubled.
I hope parents are doing better.