most of the adults i know are clench-your-purse-close-to-your-chest or weary-at-best of the teenage population. well, i love teenagers. like really really love them. i taught and counseled middle and high school kids for the last 10 years, and they taught me a thing or two about how to be with them. i spent a bit of time with my nieces' best loved babysitter the other day. she is a senior about to go off to college, quite the artist, and such a genuine person. being around her made me long for all of those i have called "my kids" over the years. how i miss them! i remember once referring to them as such one time, and someone asked innocently, "oh! how many do you have?" imagine their polite surprise when i answered, "close to 700."
apart from my close relationships with many individual adolescents, one of the reasons i love them as a collective is because they are knotted with self consciousness, emotion, confidence, curiosity, aloofness all rolled into one being. in short, they are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to become. i wonder if it's so hard for some adults to relate to teenagers because they want so badly to forget the tumult of teenagedom or if they never quite figured out who they are. i see a lot of adults trying to assume power and control over teenagers...they yell, they say they know best, they say "trust me" even when teens look at them with a raised eyebrow, who-do-you-think-you-are expression. i remember in vivid detail much of my adolescence, so maybe those snapshots remind me how i hated being yelled at or made to feel stupid by adults. i am not trying to suggest that i am perfect with teenagers - far from it. i just think i am far enough removed from feeling self conscious that i can drop my guard and find joy in their experience. i think they can also find joy in experiencing an adult who is simply real and generally respectful toward them. i've been accused more than once of being quite the dork by many teens, but i think they meant it in the most lovable way! perhaps they secretly can't wait to embrace their own dorkiness one day when cool doesn't matter so much. i hope i am as close to my own kids as i have been with other peoples' children over the years.
the only thing i DON'T understand about adolescents (and even some adults) is the phenomenon of sagging pants. it is a fad i seriously wish would move on. when i see kids waddling across the street in a stiff legged way, clutching their pants about mid-thigh, i just want to scream. i realize, though, that forming a relationship must come before addressing the pants issue. trust me, my husband has held me back at movie theaters and shopping malls. but alas, i am not here to discuss fashion faux pas.
i leave you with two thoughts borrowed from margaret atwood and my image for the day, which, incidentally, has nothing to do with teenagers.
"We thought we were running away from the grownups, and now we are the grownups." (remember this next time you proclaim in exasperation, "kids these days!")
“Next it was time for the graduates to receive their diplomas. Up they trooped, solemn and radiant, in many sizes, all beautiful as only the young can be beautiful. Even the ugly ones were beautiful, even the surly ones, the fat ones, even the spotty ones. None of them understand this — how beautiful they are.”
a digital collage made with some painting and images from my new webster's pictorial dictionary.