Sunday, April 12, 2009

I miss my teens



I'm not talking about my teen years, but the years my kids were teens.

For 24 months, Mr. B and I had 3 teens under our roof. More if you count the friends who swept through, too, during those years. As a parent, the teen years truly were the most delightful. My children could feed, dress, and put themselves to sleep--and even wash their own clothes.

These years were not without gut-wrenching sorrow and heartaches, to be sure (the ones you often hear about involving sex, cars, booze, bad choices, and the like). And they most definitely tested the mettle of my parenting self-worth.

But they were not at all what I expected.

Had I been thinking rationally, I should have known better, the first clue being the unquestioned assumptions and generalizations people tolerate: teens are rude, teens are selfish, teens are druggies. Tell me, when have generalizations about anything been airtight?

They're such easy targets for criticism, teens. So few people sing their praises, except for the occasional story of one who has started a nonprofit to feed hungry children worldwide or triumphed during the national spelling bee or shown virtuoso artistic abilities while still wearing braces.

But what about the teen who bags groceries, or waits tables, or walks down the street with the hoodie pulled over his head out of shyness rather than sinister motives?

What I've come to understand is that people by and large accept the negative assumptions about the teens they don't know. Their nieces and nephews and grandkids apparently are of a different ilk, one that earns them bragging rights.

So, it wasn't dread exactly that I felt when my children advanced into the double-digits. But certainly nobody slapped me on the back and said "Congratulations!"

I wish they would have.

On the whole, watching each of my kids swirl through the teens years was magnificent and rewarding. They seemed like stem cells, full of potential, just ready to spin into something unforeseen and grand at any moment. They could be philosophers one day, wicked comedians the next.

They introduced me to music, fashions, vernacular I would not have found or understood on my own, ever. Their friends trusted me with information I thought reserved only for priests and lawyers. They filled our home with contagious laughter and energy that crackled and rivaled the force of Hoover Dam.

While helping chaperon a group of 120 teens to Manhattan one year, I was "mom" to 12 girls. Ten minutes before bed check, I called ahead to my 3 rooms and gave them a heads-up that I was coming. They herded themselves back to their quarters and were always present and accounted for when I showed up.

One room of talented warblers asked me to sing them a lullaby. Most intimidating, but I gave them my best, and when I tried to leave, they clung to my sleeves and begged me not to go. I had to run down the hallway to escape as they gave chase with me shouting hollow threats about calling their teachers and putting them on the next flight home. Five minutes later, just outside my door, I was serenaded with 4-part harmony of "Hush a-bye, don't you cry." Right. As if the lady who wants to be a professional recital attendee could possibly keep a dry eye.

OK. I should have stopped myself earlier; I can really get my rant on when I talk about teens, because I adore them. I admire the courage it takes for them to get out of bed each morning and face their insecurities and high or low expectations of their parents and ride their white-water emotions.

I love them for how different they are, even as they try so hard to fit in with each other. I even like them when they get snarky, surly, or standoffish. And that's because, by and large, I like most anyone, young or old, most of the time. Alright, there are a few exceptions, who shall remain nameless.

So why am I shouting from my soapbox now, given that all my kids are adults?

Because today I watched my beloved nieces and nephews hunt for plastic eggs, prance about in their Easter finery, and soak up the love and adoration of their family.

And I want the rest of the world to love them as much as I do, even when they're teens.

And I believe in the Easter Bunny still, too.


























Image by uh-bob
Painted rock image from a library opening
Image by teachandlearn
Image of Nina by Mr. B

8 comments:

Rudee said...

What a great post. I didn't like my daughter's early teen years, but once past 14, she was a delightful young woman. She has blossomed into one of my favorite humans.

My son, just 16 when his grandmother was dying of cancer, helped to take care of her, including some of her most personal needs. If he was the only one to put her on the potty chair, well he did it. Without question, his grief at her loss, broke my heart. The way he handled it though, made me proud to be his mother. His grades may have suffered the year she died, but the glimpse into the man my son was becoming, calmed all worries.

Erin Davis said...

I found myself nodding my heads in agreement so many times as I read this. Two of my three are teens, and they are pretty terrific. Everyone makes assumptions about what teenage boys are like, but they are so much more than that. I know I will miss it when my teens are gone.

Hope said...

Ditto that. Wish everyone knew the tons of good works done by our local high schoolers.
P.S. Googled "to be loved as to love" to find whole verse/lyrics and found on wikepedia an image of jonathan richman's album cover that I bet you'd love.

Pyzahn said...

I don't have children, so I probably fall into that category that wrongly lumps all teens into a troubled category. I'm very happy to hear a different perspective. How wonderful it must be to have young hearts and minds around you, especially when they are yours and you can be so proud of them.

Pyzahn said...

Boy...I think I really messed up. I clicked on the link below that says "Create a Link" and somehow your title ended up on my blog. Techno feeb! I can see it now showing up down below this comment box. sigh.

Can you get it off for me? So sorry.

Kathleen said...

Rudee--You sure carry the gene for carring hearts. How amazing, your son. Frankly, I think grades are overrated. It's too bad so much depends upon them.
Hope--I will indeed check that album cover out! I memorized St. Francis' peace prayer a year or two ago and say it every morning. I'd like to live my life by those amazing words.
Pyzahn--you don't strike me as someone who would "lump" anyone into categories. (I'm not seeing the technoproblem you described. You must have sorted it out!)
All--thanks for listening to my rant, and a long one at that!

Kathleen said...

Erin--I love it that you've enjoyed your teens, too. Wish everyone did!

Hope said...

Thanks for the reference to the St. Francis' peace prayer. Now that I've printed it, I've heard it before but wonder why I never memorized it. Also liked what a website said about it asking for strength to give of ourselves to meet the needs of others.

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