When writers write about their lives, they come at the subject from the point of view of a writer, which can be a good thing.
On the one hand, writers are uniquely qualified to describe a life in vivid ways that move the reader.
On the other, writers are often so in love with words and stories that in the course of expressing themselves, they have the tendency to make their narrative seem more original than it is.
Such is the case with the recent New York Times magazine article by Rachel Cusk about the difficulty of parenting teenagers.
The article was welcome to me because there are not many articles out there that I know of on this subject.
And in all her eloquence and writerliness it may appear that the author is making deep and original statements.
But what she is actually doing is rehearsing what has been known for a long time: teenagers are a handful and more.
Ms. Cusk, who is currently helping to put on a production of Euripides' Medea in London, is aware of this fact. She mentions Electra and Orestes, two teenage heroes from Greek drama who kill their mother.
For my part, I always remember a scene from Greek comedy: in the Wasps, a play by the irreverant Aristophanes, a father complains that his adolescent son won't obey him any more. "The youth of today," he moans, "is incorrigible."
Greek drama is about 2500 years old.
But there is an even older example: Pandora.
Pandora's story was first told by Hesiod, likely a father of girls, somewhere around 700 BC.
Pandora is the original teenage girl, a parthena, who is the prototype of the teenage bride in ancient Greece.
Pandora is beautiful, cunning, and brutal, a "sheer, impossible deception," having been given all gifts by the gods, including "the mind of a hussy," according to translator Richmond Lattimore.
Greek men tried to tame adolescent girls (the word damar, wife, means "tamed" in Greek; Artemis, goddess of the wild, is a perpetual teen) by marrying them off and making them mothers before they could punch their own mothers in the stomach, as the author of the article reports one of her schoolgirl friends once did.
But the essential wildness of the teenage girl is expressed well by Hesiod, the poet who created Pandora, by having her intentionally-- even spitefully-- open the jar of evils that Zeus had sent with her when he marries her to the unfortunately clueless Epimetheus.
The only thing left in the jar is hope, which to those of us from Judeo-Christian backgrounds, is supposed to be a good thing. In fact, hope is often for ancient Greeks a disappointment and a false guide.
But it is the only thing we have against the power of the maiden.
Many commenters on this article upbraided Ms. Cusk for not properly parenting her own 16- and 14-year old Pandoras.
But I will say nothing against anyone's parenting methods.
There is nothing more unsure than what to do about an adolescent. Hesiod knew that.
Although I am a big fan of structure for adolescents, I do not know that you are for sure going to ruin a child for life by letting her run free, stay up till dawn with her iPhone, and spoiling her rotten with candy and concert tickets.
(Big caveat: do what I just said at your own risk.)
For my own part, I thought the man may have been on the right track who put a bullet through his teenage daughter's laptop when she, according to him, showed herself to be rude and ungrateful to him on Facebook.
But there's no guarantee that kind of dramatic gesture works in the long term.
Against my better judgment, I've become an adolescent parenting agnostic. And I speak as a parent of adolescents and an educator of students from the ages of 12-18.
Beware the parent who had one perfect child or even three. It's a small sample size, people.
And as soon as you say to yourself, "I have the teen parenting formula," some clever child is going to come behind your back and prove you wrong.
So, Ms. Cusk, thank you for the article. It is very illuminating in its own way, and we need more of this type of thing.
May your own teenage heroes turn into conventional, responsible adults. I think it's more than likely, whatever you have happened to do for them.