As of July, I have five teenagers in the house. This won’t last long before Kid #1 turns twenty, but still it’s got me thinking about parenting teens. I think the most culturally typical reaction would be to say something like, “You can’t scare me. I have five teenagers!” It also reminded me of what one of the kids said when turning 13. We asked how Kid felt about this milestone, becoming a teenager! Kid looked faintly crushed and said, “I’m sad because no one likes them.”
What a great reminder to be careful how we talk about teens. Our kids tend to become the roles we assign to them. Even if they don’t, they have to fight against those roles and that takes a lot of energy. I personally love teens. Here are just a few of the things I love about them.
They can help our family and community. They are able-bodied, smart, capable and creative. I can’t even believe how fast household tasks go with five teens working vs. five preschoolers freeloading. I see teens helping all over the neighborhood. They’re mowing the lawn, troubleshooting the Wi-Fi, starting dinner before their parents get home from work. They’re helping the old lady at the Home Depot heave bags of mulch into her van. (Thank you so much, polite and helpful teen from the car behind me yesterday.) They actually think up and carry out projects that make our lives better, like networking the printers or planning a fun Halloween dinner. You don’t have to have a farm to know that having five capable teens is a huge asset to a family or community. I see teens all over the place being productive, hardworking, capable and kind.
They have incredible emotional depth. When I used to teach junior high school, I was blown away by the poetry kids would write. Teens haven’t been ground down by The Man like us adults. They feel deeply: great feelings like love, loyalty, hope, and beauty. My teens see things and have insights that I’ve gone numb to. They’re like an anti-cynicism prescription.
They have great energy. Teens work hard and play hard. Seeing a crowd of teens dance, do a service project, play sports or just have a chicken fight at the lake is a thing of beauty. I love to see their zest for life. Even if I’m busy writing a grant, I can hear my five in the background laughing about something and it lightens my spirits.
All these benefits make me grateful that I stuck it out when they my kids were young. My T-shirt should say, “Congratulate me, I have five teens.” Whether you have your own or not, start seeing teens. They’re really pretty awesome and they’re all around.