After I dropped Jackson off at school this morning I stopped by Starbucks to grab some coffee (gift card on a double point Monday, cheah! Sorry, Dunkin, I love you tho). Anyway, on the way back home I passed the high school. I ended up being stuck at a red light right in front of the high school, and it had all the quintessential high school things happening. Cars pulling in and out to drop kids off, teens driving their own cars (their parents old 2005 Toyota Corollas) into the parking deck. It had kids crossing the busy intersection with the help of a crossing guard, and I assume one of the principals, as he was a tall man in a smart, black suit. There was laughing, and tugging at clothes, and fiddling with lunch boxes and backpacks. There were mom’s talking with their hands in cars, and dads, red-faced, yelling at the cars in front of them. It was, in my opinion, the most sincere sorta morning there could be at a high school, at any school. And then it occurred to me, maybe for the first time since I became a parent, that high schoolers aren’t all that scary. High schoolers are just big kids. And now, well, I am changed.
Listen, don’t get me wrong, I recognize that there are many differences between a kindergartner and a senior in high school, but also, there are a lot of similarities. While kindergartners are adorable, with their toothless grins and their round, big eyes (evolutionary trait for us to love them), teenagers lack those adorable quantities. Teenagers are starting to look like adults, and adults suck. We all know this. So it’s difficult to remember that teenagers are still kids. Especially when they do dumb stuff. It’s been a running joke in our house to make fun of teenagers, as of late. No offense to my teenagers (you know who you are, and we love you!) but when Jackson, for example, first learned that teenagers were vaping, or say, eating Tide Pods, or challenging each other to eat spoonfuls of cinnamon, he just shook his head and said, “Mommy, teenagers are dumb.” And yes, he is right, teenagers are dumb (most of them) but that is how it is supposed to be. And we’ve all been there, and I think this is where a little compassion goes a long way.
What is your damn point here, Missy? I think my point is that as children (especially kids that are not our own, or not from our family) grow up, we start, in my opinion somewhere around middle school, to not trust them. To think they are dumb, or weird, or mean, or bad, or not worthy of a hug, or a smile from a stranger, or help when they might need it. Some people even see teenagers as “the devil” (case in point, Greta the Climate Girl, or the kids who are standing up against gun violence versus Republicans). The thing is teenagers, specifically high schoolers, are a lot more awesome than we give them credit for. They are smart, and resilient. They are living in a time when they are nervous about going to school EVERY SINGLE DAY, because they don’t know if today will be the day someone brings a gun to school. Or a fight breaks out. Or the cops have to bring the dogs in to terrify them. Then they get on social media, they see someone like Greta who is out there making a difference, and they get inspired. Then as fast as they are inspired, they are broken down because they see how Greta and the kids like her are treated by grown, actual, adults. What the hell are we doing, y’all?
Listen, I know I am not making a lot of sense today. I am only half done with my free Starbucks Cold Brew, but I think what I am saying is, if you give high schoolers a chance, the majority of them will surprise you. They are, after all, still kids. Whether or not you believe that. A 17-year-old’s brain is still forming, still learning. He still needs to be loved like a kindergartner, and while he might not need to be supervised like one, he still needs to know that people, his parents, his teachers, his friends, his community, have his back. And no, he may not return the love in handmade cards or macaroni necklaces, but if you have raised him right, he might return the love in acts of service to you, in thoughtful gifts, in gratidude! Ahh, every high-school parents’ dream, a “Thanks, Mom, for giving me an awesome life!” accompanied by a hug.
So all I’m asking today is that you take a moment to realize that kids are good. Kids are smart. Kids are resilient. But also, kids need guidance. Kids need to be trusted. They need to know that they have support, even from strangers. And by kids I’m specifically talking about the bigger of them, because we often overlook them.
Much love to my teenage friends! Y’all are awesome. And I love you.