Teenagers. I gotta admit, I’m not a fan of them. I didn’t always care for them when I was a teenager and now that I’m grown, I find the ones in my neighborhood annoying. They clog my Panera and Starbucks, fester in my mall, and let’s not forget the string of stupid comments they spew during the movies.
Sheesh, I’m getting old and cranky.
But I’ve got a niece and nephew who are very, very close to me. My niece is the one we visited as she’s a freshman at the University of Missouri (M-I-Z!!!) and my nephew is 16 going on 17. Sure they have the same teenage traits as the other teens I don’t like, but to me, in them, it’s endearing. Maybe it’s because I love them so fiercely.
Each year we try to plan a trip for them to visit us in Chicago, now that they’re older, they’ve started to come separately and last weekend was my nephew’s first trip solo to Chi-city. I admit I was anxious because I really wanted him to have a fun time and it was important to me that we connect and have honest conversations because I always want them to know that they can come to me for whatever and I’ll be there for them.
But how do you reach out to a teen? Get them to trust you? For me, I’ve just tried to be there, which is hard hundreds of miles away. I talk about my frustrations, my hopes, my fears, my mistakes, thinking that in sharing more of myself with them, they will in turn do the same with me. Is that the right thing? I don’t know, but it’s what I’ve tried to do. And it’s so much easier just being me than trying to show that I’m “perfect.”
Besides, I can only imagine what it’s like being a teenager these days, the hypersexuality of everything, the constant cliques, which can only be exacerbated by Facebook and texting, the normalizing of drug and alcohol use, not to mention just general pressures of life. No way would I want to be a teen now.
One of my mommyfriends loves teenagers, finds their still-evolving minds interesting and their viewpoints of the world refreshing. Before my nephew came, I decided to try to see the world through teen-colored goggles.
While he was here, we had a blast. He spent a half a day at Shedd Aquarium’s Trainer for A Day program, where he worked with dolphins, sea otters, penguins and beluga whales. The worst part? He said it was handling the dead squid for the mammal’s lunch. Best part? Petting the dolphins. He also spent the day with Hubby at Northwestern’s homecoming, where at the alumni tailgating party he said it was interesting to hear all the guys talk about life at their jobs. We also took him out to Indian food, where he thought the food tasted good but the music was weird. 🙂
And for me the best part of the whole visit was that he opened up. We did talk like I had hoped and I felt so lucky to be let in. I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip.