I happen to love teenagers. Both the ones I’ve worked with for years and, most of the time, my own. I know, I know. I thought I was supposed to loathe them too. It’s confusing. But, my dirty little secret is that I don’t. Dare I say, I kind of think they rule? This might have something to do with the fact that I will forever see myself as seventeen. Why? I don’t know. But, I relate to teenagers even though I was supposed to get older and lose touch with their struggles and awesomeness and find them lazy and entitled little shits like the cliché of middle-aged parents who lament how rotten kids are today.
Believe me, I have my moments where I think they are clueless and know nothing about the “real world.” But I quickly remember that, not only is the world of teenagers real, it’s terrifying as f**k. It’s so smug to diminish anyone’s reality, including your teenager’s reality. And teens know it and that’s why they roll their eyes at us a lot. Sometimes we deserve it.
In general, teenagers today are way better people than we were at their age. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, affectionately known as the John Hughes movie years. Without the advances of holding a computer in our hands at all time, our world was small, as small as our town, as small as the importance of your Sixteen Candles version of Jake Ryan liking you, or dealing with that d-bag popular kid Steff from Pretty in Pink. Sure we had problems, but nothing an all-day Breakfast Club detention couldn’t fix. And our biggest contribution to helping humanity was buying the single of “We are the World,” and, even then, most of us taped it off the radio.
Teenagers today? They are global citizens of the world. They volunteer in the community on the reg. They spend school vacations going on mission trips to third world nations we wouldn’t have been able to locate on a map. They show up on Saturdays to clean up the school grounds. What in the world? Where we had commercials begging us not to litter, they wash their garbage and recycle it. And they think about their futures and take their studies way more seriously than we ever did. Yup. Even your kid that you think is blowing off studying? Yeah, he studies more than we ever did. These kids eat healthy. I grew up thinking McDonald’s a treat for a special night out. My kids have refused to eat McyDs since they learned about nutrition in 4th grade. God, sometimes I’m like, stop studying, eat some crap food, daydream about Jake Ryan, and maybe not think about the plight of the world for like an hour! (But don’t litter. Litterers are the worst kind of people on the planet.)