I'm snuggled into a chair, wrapped up in a blanket that who knows how many people have used in this rental house because it is way too cold to go outside. At home, I might be thankful that it didn't freeze last night but when I'm on vacation, I want the weather I anticipated. Fifty degrees just isn't going to cut it, Mother Nature! So while I sit here trying not to be grossed out by what might be on the blanket, I have three pretty amazing guys (5 if you count my dad and my husband) right here hanging out with me. My son and two of his best friends are on this trip for their senior year in high school and I'm loving it.
When I mentioned that I was taking three 18 year old boys on vacation, several people called me brave, crazy, and insane and I have been nothing but excited from the get go. They're easy! They entertain themselves. They are respectful and funny. They eat... A lot! (I mean a ridiculous amount.) It never occurred to me that it would be anything but fun and if I had the money, I'd have taken more of them with me.
Okay, okay... I really do have a responsible bunch of kids with me, but I'm going to argue today that MOST teenagers deserve far more credit than they are given.
Yeah, I know. They think they know everything, they sometimes smell funky, and they definitely don't always think things through but I love them. I'm serious, I really do. Not because I totally get them all the time but because they get a really bad rap that I don't think they completely deserve.
Ready? Let's celebrate teenagers. Here's my TOP 10 REASONS that teenagers are awesome!
1. They think outside the box. - Teens don't think about things the way adults do and I like that. Sure it's easy to get frustrated with the arguing but what if we stopped thinking about it as arguing and started thinking about it as challenging the norm to create exactly what the world needs? It's refreshing! It's the kind of thinking that creates progress and change and I don't like stagnation so I'm perfectly great with different views when they're backed with some facts. Stretching our understanding and imagination creates super awesome ideas that lead to iPhones and cars that run without gas.
2. They aren't bogged down with life experiences - It drives me crazy when we shut down teens' ideas based on what we think they know. It's one thing to go into the office of the presidency with no idea how the office works but it's entirely another to take a blank canvas and allow unadulterated creative thinking on projects for change. To set the record straight:
We don't need diluted ideas in a world battling climate change, terrorism, hate, and hunger. Let them use those unpolluted brains to do amazing stuff!
3. They have intense emotions - Emotions produce change and action. If you want to see why we need change and action, please read the above sentence.
4. They are social - Their social doesn't look like typical adult social and I'm going to argue on the side of the teenager for a moment. Sure, social media has created some new problems for us to navigate as parents, but it has also created an awareness and a closeness that we negate because it doesn't look like OUR closeness. If you've never had a friend that you met online, you're missing out! One of my very best friends lives in another state and I've never met her face-to-face. Someday I will but in the meantime, she and I talk all the time and I don't know what I would do without her! Let's teach them how to be safe and let them have a good friend half way around the world.
Granted, there is no substitute for hanging out with your friends and a real conversation but teenagers know how to stay connected with old friends, make new friends, and stay in touch when we would often put those things on our "to-do" list through social media and easily flip over to a game of basketball, a day of shopping, or meeting for dinner on a whim. They don't put togetherness on the back burner.
5. They're not afraid to fall in love. - As a matter of fact, they sometimes fall in love over and over without developing a sense of distrust. They are passionate feelers without fear of having their hearts broken. Three cheers for not being jaded!
6. Teenagers face crushing scrutiny and awkwardness and navigate through. - These kids, when they have the support of their families, take on a level of judgement that would leave adults crying and shaking in a corner and they make it through. They are judged by adults on their clothes, their choice in music, their hobbies, their terrible hairstyles and they DO NOT FLINCH! They wear it and dare adults and their peers to make them change, and I am jealous of this kind of strength. If you want to try it out, go ahead and say exactly how you feel, wear what you like and don't be afraid to shave half your head because it's badass for the day... go to work... go see your parents... REFUSE TO APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT YOU LIKE. Repeat the next day with purple hair and a nose ring.
7. They start successful businesses - You can Google this topic and see just how real this is. If you're interested, start with businesses like Teal, Mo's Bows, and Nannies by Noa. These are some really big businesses started by kids with creative ideas and passion. There are hundreds of businesses that some super smart kids put into action. They have made a difference and made a killing for themselves.
8. They are awesome with technology - I can definitely hold my own with technology but when I really want something done, I call my kids into action. They just get it. I'm 43 and can tweet with the best of them but these kids know the ins and outs of coding, wires and cables, and where to go to be able to do some really amazing stuff that I can't hardly wrap my head around. They days of being able to hook your DVD player to the TV are long over and you're going to need a teenager to make all this new technology work. Once they get it up and running, your mind will be blown with what you can do with a remote control or a smart phone.
9. They are fiercely loyal - As a Scorpio, I get loyalty - its in my sign, if you buy into that stuff. Teenagers are Scorpios. That's pretty scary and pretty awesome. Don't worry, they'll drop some of the intensity later on - unless they are an October/November baby. ;-) For the record, I happen to think Scorps are awesome... obviously. Just watch the stingers.
10. They create positive acceptance. - When I think back to my school experience, it was, compared to today, a level playing field. We had quirky kids and kids who went to speech therapy or who needed extra help with reading, kids who didn't have as much as us or who had more, but for the most part, we were surrounded by sameness. Teenagers now have the amazing benefit of growing up with kids in their classes who are autistic, have Down's Syndrome, who are gay or trans or wheelchair bound or culturally and religiously different and, you know what.... they don't question the differences. (Okay, yes... I grew up in a super small midwest town so your experience of life in the 1980s might be much different than mine.) They may not understand it but they are learning how to treat those people as PEOPLE. My kids are SO much better at diversity that I was at their age and I love it! I love that they have a skills set to calm an autistic friend when adults might glare or shy away, that they know how to spend time with kids who have cerebral palsy or Down's and to make that friend feel wanted and a part of teenage normalcy (whatever that is). They question, wrestle with beliefs, and they treat people as humans - regardless of their personal beliefs. We should be so lucky to find adults that do the same at their level!
If you're reading this and are still at a loss as to what to do with your teenager, I have GREAT news. You have me! I've been a teacher and/or a swim coach for nearly 20 years - most of which were spent teaching high school at-risk students. I've already told you that I love teenagers and my background in teaching some of the toughest has offered me a whole lot of tools on how to help them grow, succeed, and thrive. Don't be shy about asking for help - that's where kids fall into trouble and don't you dare feel like you should be able to handle it alone if you need backup. It takes a village, remember? That's no joke!
I would be thrilled to talk with your son or daughter to see what challenges they need to work through and help them reach their goals. And before you ask, no, it doesn't have to be about health and sugar addiction - we can talk stress, peer pressure, self-esteem, organization and all the other issues teens face. You can schedule a Breakout Session for them here. It's FREE (as always), only 45 minutes to an hour and completely confidential.
So, teenagers who might be reading this, I think you're awesome! I don't envy you one bit for your stage in life, but I have nothing but applause for you making your way in this world. You're rocking it. You keep that stuff up.