A fifteen-year-old female customer pranced into the store this afternoon and grabbed a cart. She was a woman on a mission – she knew exactly what she wanted to buy. She went straight to the hair section and picked out the four brightly colored hair additions. She steered the cart around to the next aisle and threw six Hawaiian leis on top of the hair additions. Last but certainly not least, she meandered over to the nail section and picked out two boxes of fake, decorated nails. She came up to the cash and asked me, “Do you have anything that looks like toe nails?”
I had absolutely no context to frame this request so I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I must have looked as confused as I felt so the young lady continued.
“I’m watching my neighbour’s daughter all summer and I want to do a really good job. I want to surprise her with a cake on Monday that has stuff that looks like toe nails in the batter so that she has to find them in the cake.”
Although I really didn’t understand the significance of the toe nail cake, I didn’t want to sound like an old fuddy-duddy so, as I put her purchases in a bag, I said, “You seem like a really motivated babysitter. I bet this little girl has a lot of fun with you.”
She looked at me with a big smile on her face and replied, “I’m different. I know that. I don’t really care what other people think of me. Actually, it’s my opinion that everyone thinks about you far less than you think they do. But anyways, I want to do my best at everything I choose to do and having fun with this little girl is my #1 goal for the summer. I’m getting paid to babysit and I take this responsibility very seriously.”
I was pretty impressed.
I think teens of this generation often get a bad reputation for being “lazy, irresponsible, aimless and selfish individuals who look at the laptops and cell phones more than they do at actual people.” *
Yup…in some ways, teens are different than how I remembered our generation was but I have been blessed to work with teens for the past fifteen years and I can honestly say that I have met many remarkable, creative, insightful young men and women who have great passion to change this world for the better.
They might look and express themselves differently but that doesn’t bother me at all. I want to take the time to get to know them, encourage them to be all that they are intended to be, step into their messiness, listen to and engage them in conversations, provide some perspective and wisdom and help prepare them to live victoriously in this broken world. I’m going to do everything that I can to bridge the so-called, “generation gap.”
Bill Cosby humorously said, “raising teenagers is like nailing jello to the wall.”
It’s true – it’s no easy task to raise a teenager…but it’s no easy task to be one either.
I’m not going to be an exasperated older woman who has nothing positive to say about teenagers. I don’t want to be part of the communication problem between the young and the old – I want to be part of the communication solution.
* recently, a frustrated parent friend of mine described teenagers with these exact words.