Saturday, January 4, 2003

How to get along with teens

Published January 4, 2003
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Teenagers. I'll bet just reading that word brings up a host of negative emotions. To many, teenagers may seem idle, irresponsible, loud, immature, and disrespectful. To me, they are just plain fun!

I suppose I should explain my feelings a little. I have a 17 year old sister in law who, as the years have passed, has become much more sister than law. Amelia has, at one time or another, exhibited all of the above character flaws, but she is also dependable, strong, caring, unselfish, and incredibly fun to be with.

After spending a week observing her with her friends over the holidays, and spending New Year's Eve feeling honored to be included in their fun, I'm realizing that dealing with teens is a heck of a lot more simple than most people realize.

First of all, the way to a teenager's heart is still through the stomach. In other words, "If you cook it, they will come." I learned this watching Amelia's boyfriend, a massive male specimen who plays fullback for his high school football team, shovel three brisket burritos down the bottomless pit of his mouth in the space of about three seconds. If you want your kids around the house more, feed their friends. Of course, in the case of teenage girls, you'll need to have plenty of low fat, low calorie, low carb, low taste snacks on hand so as not to sabotage their efforts at a size 2 figure.

Next, don't take yourself too seriously. Once your children are teenagers, you have officially lost every ounce of your former coolness. I don't care if you were your high school's prom queen or if you once stormed the stage at a Grateful Dead concert. None of that matters when the kids "cross over." You are destined to embarrass yourself and your kids more than once. The best you can do is realize that, for the most part, they're laughing at you, not with you, and then laugh along anyway.

Finally, don't be surprised if they surprise you. For all their supposed lack of direction, these kids are surprisingly focused. The more I watch them, the more they seem so much smarter than we were at that age. I don't know if this means the youth of today are really getting smarter....or if a slow "dumbification" is a secret side effect of the aging process no one bothered to tell me about. Hmmmmm. Maybe, just maybe, I really did know everything back then!

While I know that many of the teens of today have a long way to go, for better or for worse, they are our future. You can hide in the closet for a decade, or you can make the decision to get to know the teenagers around you a little better. Who knows? You may even learn something!

Just keep those brisket burritos coming and you'll do fine.