“This town really needs to get a grip on the teenagers who do whatever they want,” the post said.
Thank you, Next Door app, for ruining my day, yet again.
The truth is, I’ve never been prouder of my three teenagers. In fact, I am in awe of how teens are handling this pandemic.
Sure, they are surly most mornings, and sure, I’m pretty sure I’ll find cups and silverware scattered through my house until I sell it One of my daughters accidentally put dish soap in the washing machine the other day and another thought self-care was to watch the entire Twilight series in one sitting.
But honestly? These kids amaze me.
I’ve seen it, too. I’ve observed some kids congregating at a baseball field or walking together at a park or stopped on their bikes, but they are not the only ones running the gamut of these restrictions. I can tell you first-hand I’ve seen more adults pushing limits than kids.
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Most of the teens and tweens I know, however, have remained at home. Most are pitching in some way to help their parents, whether it’s watching younger siblings so parents can work or tackling the mess that is their room or walking the dog. I’ve seen the posts on social media of kids creating some sort of art, whether it’s decorating their rooms or baking cakes or using code to build a new gaming site. They try to muddle through online school, some doing every assignment, others doing just enough.
Most of the kids I know have accepted the fact that they are denied rites of passage that everyone else was able to experience, such as proms, graduations, getting driver’s licenses, birthday celebrations, school trips, etc., with a grace many of us adults do not possess. If it does not impact them directly, they display a level of empathy for their peers that brings me to tears.
Most of the teens I know—albeit begrudgingly—have come out of their rooms to spend time with family, a few even making dinners, doing laundry, and coercing their parents to do a TikTok video (guilty).
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Most of the adolescents I know worry about their friends whose parents have lost jobs. They are distraught about the kids whose families don’t have enough food, and they want to know how to help. They are FaceTiming or texting their grandparents, and they are occasionally watching the news because they need to understand what’s going on in the world. They are engaged and trying to cope without any information or guidance regarding what comes next. And it is these teenagers who often provide the hugs for their parents who do not know how to explain the ramifications of something they have never experienced.
They are painstakingly aware that this will have long-term impacts. They worry about the fall, their sports seasons, college applications, and their academic course load moving forward. They mourn the loss of internships and jobs and saving for first cars. They really, really, really miss their friends. And teachers. And coaches. And the parents on the sidelines or in auditoriums. But mainly their friends.
Like most adults, they are navigating the pandemic to the best of their ability.
And when I have bad days—which I do—I take my cue from GenZ. I sleep in a little later, text a friend, stream a little Netflix, and stay on my phone too much.
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The teenagers of today are not entitled, distracted, or apathetic. The truth about GenZ is much more hopeful than that.
If only we choose to believe the best in all of them, instead of the worst of a few.