I was terrified to raise teenagers.
The knowledge that my kids would grow up to be teens someday scared the crap out of me and it’s a thought I stressed about. A lot. What I remember from being a teenager was that it was So incredibly frustrating. All. Of. The. Time. I did not make it easy on my parents. I was surly. I was sneaky. I was angry. I was aloof. I listened to inappropriate music and used foul language and kicked holes in motel room doors when I didn’t get my way. So I guess not much has changed. Just kidding! I’m not aloof anymore, Just kidding! I’ve calmed down in all of the areas of my life, thank goodness.
As a teenager you are just a few short years from being a “responsible” adult, out on your own, making life decisions, paying for things, having to feed and clothe and house your own self. And yet, as you come into your own and are finding yourself, a minor in your parents house with an immature mind and a fully mature body, you feel like everything in life; school, parents, rules, curfews, and laws even; is unendingly stacked against you. And it is. In May you can’t be trusted to be out at night or decide when and how to wash a dish, and by July you are living on your own, doing everything when and if and how you want and it’s up to you to be responsible for having insurance and hitching a ride with a stranger to the doctor when you’ve had a possible allergic reaction (true story). It’s a tough lot and with all of their immaturity and short-sightedness (sorry guys, but you know it’s true), teenagers still have their own set of experiences and come up with their own wise and insightful theories on life.
Tonight I was “researching” for a blog post I’m working on. I couldn’t remember a few details about what had happened so I thought I’d check in my old journal to see what I’d written about it. I am so grateful that I kept a journal throughout those formative years. I was never consistent at it (and now I never really write in it at all) but tonight I spent a couple of hours poring over the words I wrote a full TWO DECADES ago! It’s a fascinating and embarrassing concoction of ignorance, wisdom, frivolity, giddiness, depression, anger, worry, meanness, kindness, spirituality, vulgarity, planning, depth, and thoughtlessness. And lists of the names of bands I liked. So many lists. Updated every few months. Why? Seriously. Why? But I was struck by how profound one entry was.
I relayed the details of how a few of us, instigated by me, were being ridiculously silly (and actually pretty rude now that I think about it) sitting in a big circle in the middle of the school hallway right when kids were getting to school and trying to get to class. I found it hilarious, and I prided myself in “making people think I was stupid” because, again, hilarious! But apparently this ill-advised venture brought me to some serious reflection on life (though not, unfortunately, to conclude that it was a terrible idea). Here’s what I wrote, typed out exactly as it’s written, spelling and punctuation included. I’m actually impressed by my correct spelling of “acquaintance” (which I am somehow no longer able to accomplish without spell-check):
“10-3-96 page 91
You know what I’ve learned these past 2 yrs. in high school. To be cool, and have people like you, you have to not care about what ANYONE thinks. And that’s impossible if you’re trying to get in with a certain select group of cool or well dressed people. Because if you can’t be you just regular, stupid, weird, airhead you, you can’t be cool anyway ’cause it just doesn’t happen. I’m serious! have you noticed that cool people have personalities all their own? but their cool within “their” group. Take the most popular person you know & some people do not like them. It’s true. Be cool in your own group that you develope. That’s the
key (my paper is getting hard to write on) ———–>
O.K. That’s the key to “popularity” & happiness (Social happiness) Because if you do impress the “cool people” that’s awesome. But if it’s because you’re fake, you’ll eventually find that they suck anyways! It’s true. No matter what you think now, you’ll someday find that “Be yourself means more than you think.
This is how I made friends when I was new here. I just was friendly to everyone & eventually I saw who accepted me as a friend, acquaintance, or not at all. And then just be yourself & everything will work out. I promise.
The reason I don’t care what anyone thinks of me is that I hate some people & I know some people hate me. O-L. Life’s like that. So if they think I’m stupid does it matter to me? Hell no! Know why? ‘Cause my friends think I’m cool.
I DON’T LIKE SPAM!!!
on the bus does get you friends.”
That last part is also a true story. What incredible (if not incredibly eloquent) advice! What unique perspective! I wish I had remembered it, but thank goodness I wrote it down.
I now have two teenagers, a just-turned-14-year-old and an almost-16-year-old, and they are amazing. They’re funny, enjoyable, kind, obedient, responsible, witty, and yes, even wise on occasion. They are also kind of clueless and annoying and obstinate and whiny and rude. I’m still the mom and I teach them and have rules for them. But I try to be more patient with them and remember that they are unique almost-adults who have wisdom to impart, even if it results from an exercise in annoying other people in the hallway.