Teenagers are awesome.
I was a teenager for seven years... (approximately the same amount of time that everyone spends as a teenager). I had my awkward hair days, poorly dressed grunge days, and challenge-my-mom days. There were days when I felt unworthy, times when I felt unnoticed, moments when I was lonely. Sometimes I was moody, other times defiant. Most of the time I was happy, even amidst a crazy extracurricular schedule that was demanding on my time. I had great friends who supported me, loved me and helped me grow. I'd like to think that I was a "normal" teen.
Once people get past the initial "Oh, wow you have twins!" excitement, the focus often turns to "Oh, just wait. You will have TWO teenagers!" For some reason, this doesn't scare me. I spent nearly all of my twenties working with teenagers. I started working at a youth group in San Diego, where I first fell in love with working with teens. When I returned to Sacramento I coached my first season as a high school swim coach. Then I accepted a job at an all-girls high school where I taught and coached swimming for four years. And after the school was closed, I spent another two summers coaching a recreation swim team.
The bottom line? I love teenagers.
They are all angsty and defiant and want to rebel. They talk back, use foul language and pretend like they don't care. Teenagers think we adults are unreasonable, irrational and that we just don't understand. But I know that they talk bigger than they feel, that they act cooler than they feel, and that deep down they are trying to find who they are and be accepted as that person. Teenage friendships are difficult as these young men and women make choices about drugs, alcohol and sex. In a time of life when desire for independence and rebellion grows, our teens are asked to be the best students they can be, to focus on academics and extracurriculars with college riding on their every action. On top of it all--girls are mean and teens are hormonal. Being a teenager sucks. They are sometimes a real pain in the ass, too.
But I adore them. They are honest and they are trusting. They seek adults who believe in them. They want role models who challenge them. They are funny and smart. Teenagers are sponges for information. They want to make a difference in the world. They are creative and innovative. Everyday I worked with teenagers has been a blessing. Each of those days was a joy. Now that I don't interact with them on a daily basis, I miss them.
I know that having teenage children will not be the same as having students or athletes. I don't believe in the friendship model of parenting (that is a post for its own day) so you will never see me being buddies with my teenage kids. I know it will be challenging to have teenagers. They will test my patience and my faith. They will have me up worrying over who they are with, what they are doing and if they are safe. We will fight over rules, boundaries, dating and clothes. There will be crying and yelling. My children will get in trouble. We will all make mistakes.
I was a rollercoaster of emotions in my teenage years; there was a lot of crying around age 16. My mom and I argued a lot. But I had good parents and I never doubted that they loved me. I hope my girls know that I love them as my parents loved me. I hope they will know that I admire and adore them even more than I did for all of my students and swimmers. I hope they know that even when they are misbehaving and challenging my every word, that they make me laugh and they make me proud.
Those seven teenage years are special, if not difficult. But I choose to look forward to them as part of the path of my children's lives, knowing that those years will be formative and influential for the people they are to become. I just hope they ditch the flannel and army boots of my early teenage years.
(My Loretto girls... I miss you!)