If asked, I think the unfortunate analogy that my high school classmates would have used to describe me would have been Patty Simcox. You know her – the goody-goody, joiner-type in the movie Grease, who took her high school existence – down to the toilet paper décor at the prom – way too seriously. While it pains me to admit the accuracy of such a comparison, my memories of being a teenager are the stuff of a much more complex person. Maybe my sister and one or two friends would recall the person I remember: a kid who was much more aloof, devious and pissed at the world.
Now that my daughter is a teenager, I think it’s really important to keep in mind that – as much as I will always strive to know her on a deeper level – my image of her is most likely going to be very different from the way she sees herself. Acknowledging this gap, in my opinion, is one of the most important things I can do as a parent. It means I have to keep my ears open, it means I have to constantly engage in conversation beyond “how’s school.” It means that, as a parent, I always have something to learn about my kids.
Interview with Autumn – Age 15
1. What do you like about this age? What don't you like?
The fact that I don't have to pay taxes or pay for everything at this age is really nice. All I have to do is ask to hang out with my friends and I'm on my way. So sure, we have fewer responsibilities - I'm aware of that - but that's doesn't mean kids aren't responsible. I have chores to do around the house as well as homework, which I find to be a drag, as anyone else would.
The thing I don’t like is probably the judgments you get. I'm guessing it still goes on as your older, but when you're in school with kids, it occurs more. Like when you dress a certain way, you're automatically this type of person. Or because you hang out with someone, people automatically think you're this or that. And then there's the need to impress everyone. Even people you don't particularly like. You just want them to like you as individual. It's traumatic at times.
2. What do you think causes kids your age the most stress?
Well, I've stressed over homework a couple times. I will admit. But it’s different with every teen. You can stress over weight, you can stress over friends, you can stress over getting things done. Or things you want to get done. It's just like every other adult.
3. How big a problem is internet/cyber safety? How much is it discussed at school and/or among your peers?
I find talking about the Internet kind of big as teenager. “Oh did you see what so and so wrote on Facebook?" Or "Did you hear that those two are going out?" You almost don't have a private life as a teenager. Everyone is in everyone's business. It cools down a little in high school, but I remember in middle school it was like that. I have talked about cyber safety at school. Harassment on the internet or over text message, has consequences at my school, as well as “sexting,” which is legal at this age, I believe.
4. How much do you talk about the future with your friends?
Come to think of it, I talk a lot about the future with my friends. It's not a daily topic or anything, but it does come up here and there. Why wouldn’t it come up as a discussion, though? It's something everyone looks forward to. Living your dreams, so to say. Whether it's living in Rome with 20 cats or traveling around each month.
5. What is one thing that you feel adults just don't understand about kids your age? How could we as adults be more understanding?
With parents -- it's a different story. Teenagers are at that age where all they want is to leave home and they "care more" about their friends. So of course, whatever the parent does annoys them. But I will say that what adults don't know is the daily "How was school today?" question can get... bothersome. If I were to ask you "How was work today?" during dinner, while all you can think about is how aggravating one coworker is or how much work you haven't gotten done, it just brings up a bad part of your day which is... stressful.
Blog written by Staff Writer - Karen T. Harline