A crisis definitely has a way of bringing out the best and worst in people. Fortunately, we’ve been seeing a tidal wave of support, accolades and appreciation for those doing their part to get us through this pandemic. Postal workers. Delivery drivers. Doctors and nurses. Grocery store clerks. Food industry workers. Folks are who are following the stay-at-home guidelines and keeping their butts at home. Teachers. The list goes on and on.
But there is one group in particular that I’d like to give a shout out to – kids. Specifically, teens and older tweens.
Teens and older tweens are in that tricky age group. They understand what is happening. They were gaining independence from their parents. They rely heavily on social interactions with their friends and peers.
When schools were canceled and stay-at-home orders were put in place in mid-March, I’ll admit, I was most worried about my teenager and other teens. They are at an age when they have more autonomy and independence. They don’t just want, but need, friendships and peer interactions for their development. They should be getting out from under their parents’ watchful eyes instead of being with them 24/7.
But in the past couple months, I have been continually impressed with teens – not just my own, but most of them.
Sure, we’ve all seen the posts complaining about teens who are gathering at the park or taking bike rides together. We might see teens playing basketball together while we walk the dog, or we might have to field pleas from our own kids to hang out with their friends if they “promise to stay six feet apart” (to which the answer is obviously no).
All of this is frustrating and dangerous, and teens are easy scapegoats for questionable behavior (always have been, probably always will be). It is easy to see a post about the “teens down the street” who aren’t following the social distancing rules and jump on the bandwagon of complaints. But these posts and stories are not representative of the vast majority of teens. In fact, most of the people I see not following the social distancing measures are adults, not teens (group of six moms I saw walking together with your iced coffees the other morning, I’m looking at you – with some serious side-eye, I might add).
Most of the teens I know — and I would guess the ones you know too — are following the social distancing rules. They are educating themselves about coronavirus and its risks. They are keeping their butts at home, only leaving for the occasional walk with their parents or to play catch with their brother in the backyard. They are reluctantly logging on to Schoology and Powerschool and whatever-the-hell-other computer platform they are using to homeschool themselves. They are handling enormous losses – no graduations or proms, cancelled sports seasons, no in-person hangouts with friends, no goodbyes to their favorite teacher, no end-of-school parties, no college campus tours, no visits with their grandparents or cousins, no after-school job – with grace, understanding, and resilience.
Sure, they might be a mopey Debbie Downer some days and a total smart-ass other days (or all days). They might be half-assing school work and “forgetting” about household chores. They are leaving cups all over the house, not showering enough, and wearing the same clothes way too long And they are definitely playing too many video games and staying up way too late.
But you know what else they are doing? They are staying in touch with their friends and laughing their heads off together. They are logging into Zoom to meet with their homeroom teacher. They are attending their math teacher’s virtual office hours to get extra help. They are taking a virtual piano lesson. They are checking in friends when they go quiet. They are making new friends (thanks to the virtual connections) and FaceTiming with their grandparents. They are making funny TikToks and doing DIY craft projects and baking brownies for a neighbor.
Some of them are doing truly heroic things like drops off groceries to elderly neighbors or delivering PPE across the country. Others are simply dealing with this historic crisis by making the best of it and not being a total jerk to the people they live with — which under the circumstances could probably be considered heroic some days. They are dealing with the losses and carving out a new path for themselves.
So here’s to the kids. The teens and older tweens. You’re doing a kick-ass, amazing job during this unprecedented crisis. Hearing your laughter as you video-chat with your friends is a life raft as we watch the depressing-as-hell news. Your grace and resilience is an inspiration.
The kids aren’t just all right — they are pretty damn amazing.