It seems that I am the odd one. When my oldest first entered the teen years, I became a Girl Scout leader. Everyone (and I am not exaggerating here) asked me what I was thinking. I mean, why would anyone want to do that? Why would someone willingly spend hours with teenage girls? Oh, the hormones!
Pfft. Teenage girls didn’t scare me. I said it would be fine. I was actually stepping up because no one else would, but my experiences with this age up to that point had been mostly positive.
My house was always full of kids. I was pretty sure I knew what I was getting into. Besides, it had to be better than a bunch of kindergartners (seriously, there is a special place in heaven for kindergarten teachers). What is there to not like about teenagers? I love the conversation. I love sharing activities and watching them grow into adults. I love that they have their own thoughts and opinions. I especially love that they can take care of their own basic needs.
And this was one case where I was able to say, “I told you so.” Not only was I okay with this age group, I loved it. These girls were fun. Yes, they were sometimes moody, often boy-crazy, sarcastic, flighty, and experts at the eye-roll, but they were (most of the time) also a lot of fun to be around.
This was true despite the fact that for the most part, these girls were not friends. They were different ages, from different schools and social groups. We had our moments of cattiness, but it was soon established that such behavior would not be tolerated and we moved on.
I spent more than 15 years working with teenagers, in this and other settings. As a result, I have a few more grey hairs and many more laugh lines in my face. I have been challenged as a parent and as a person. They made me a better me.
Not wanting to inspire fear and apprehension in them, I agreed to try things that scare me and have learned from them. Not much has been off the table.
If they suggested something, we looked into it to see if it was feasible. Zip lining, white water rafting, and rock climbing were all attempted within months of each other. Check, check, check, off my bucket list. I learned and grew alongside them. Though I knew they were still children, for the most part I treated them as peers.
Maybe this is why my teens welcomed me to chaperone trips.
Several years ago, I was asked to chaperone a school trip to an amusement park. My daughter shares my love of rides, especially roller coasters, and was looking forward to the trip, as were her friends.
Days before the trip, one member of the group told her that she would have to choose, that a mom was not welcome. I was of course disappointed but was not going to push the issue and make her feel guilty or embarrass her. To my surprise, she chose me to spend the day with.
One of her friends was willing to be seen in public with a parent, so the three of us spent much of the day together, going on rides (most parents sat at the waterpark, sunning and reading). We came across her other friends in the afternoon; by this time they had an odd number. Perhaps out of desperation, they asked us to join them on a ride so that no one would have to sit alone. When I didn’t raise an eyebrow at the typical teen conversations (and even laughed a couple times), I was deemed cool enough to hang out with for the rest of the day.
As these kids grew up, new teens moved into their places, in my Girl Scout troop and into my family, as my younger kids also became teens. I volunteered with other youth organizations and spent time with teens in different settings.
Through it all, my beliefs were affirmed: Teenagers are fun. They have a lot on their minds and much to say, if you care to listen to them. Our future is in good hands.