I’ve never been good at small talk.
I’ve never been good at small talk.
So. Apparently I have issues with walking now. Crossing the street at a red light today I twisted my ankle and nearly fell out right there in the middle of the intersection. Now albeit, we’re talking small town…Mayberry small…so it’s not like I was in any danger of being run over or causing a massive traffic jam or anything like that. There are exactly two traffic lights in my entire town, this being one of them. So, yeah. We’re Small Town, USA. But still. Not exactly something you want to have happen, falling out in the middle of an intersection, even if it is a one-horse-town.
I made it across the street okay – I mean, if I hadn’t, we’d be having a completely different conversation as I’d be dead from embarrassment and it’s sort of hard to carry on a conversation with dead people. Unless I was a zombie. But even then, all I’d be able to do is grunt and groan and maybe, if you follow the newer movies, screech. I guess we’d have to resort to charades. And I suck at charades. So all in all, while my ankle and foot hurt like hell, the situation ended well. Ha! Made a rhyme AND I’m not a zombie. All is good with the world.
Anyway, as soon as it happened, my mind immediately went into overdrive because the last thing I wanted to do was to be stuck there, in the middle of this freakin’ intersection with a sprained ankle, or just as bad, my back going out because of the sudden jolt of panic and weird ballet contortion maneuver I did to keep from falling, which essentially would cement me to the spot, and all because my feet decided they didn’t want to walk right today.
I would love to blame a rock, a pebble, a lift in the asphalt, anything to save my pride. But there was nothing. It was all flat ground, with nary a minute obstacle in sight. My feet just decided to play with me. “Oh hey, she’s having a pretty good day today, she’s getting cocky with that happy attitude of hers, can’t let that happen. Let’s see what we can do to torment this socially awkward introvert. I know! We’ll wait until she’s in the middle of an intersection, in front of loads of people, and then just twist for no reason whatsoever and watch her fall on her face.”
For me, the embarrassment is worse than pain, so I immediately kept walking, which probably wasn’t a good thing, and I ended up having to lean against the building right across the road to catch my breath and say a few choice curse words…the ones my mother hates to hear.
And I tell you all this story to tell you this story: My faith in humanity is restored at least for today. Tomorrow some schmuck will come along and screw it up. But for today I was thinking that not all people are bad. For as I lay there against the building muttering my colorful epithets, this lovely individual — a compassionate and kind lady, who no doubt had better things to do and more interesting places to be, stopped to ask me if I was okay. She saw me misstep and wanted to see if I was hurt and needed help.
Now this may not seem like much to some people, but then you think about the fact that she had a choice; she could have just as easily driven on, like everyone else did safe in the knowledge of their own self-centered tunnel vision that at least that crazy woman didn’t fall down in the road, so she must be fine and after all, they have to be somewhere that’s not here wondering about someone who apparently can’t even walk a straight, flat line. She could’ve slowed down and looked to assure herself that all was well, as perhaps others did (I don’t know, I was distracted by coming up with new sentence combinations that would’ve impressed a well-traveled Sailor). But no. Nothing would do but for her to actually pull over and stop…to reach out to another person, to be compassionate and empathetic, to offer her help and more importantly, her time.
So despite my foot trying to kill me through its sheer lack of competence or desire to be bothered with its job (you had one job!), my day got right back on track due to this nice lady I didn’t even know from Adam. You just don’t see this type of everyday humanity much anymore. At least not around here. She must be from out-of-town.
It’s not easy being green…or a kid.
Lots of adults – too many adults – think that childhood is an easy time. They think that kids are carefree and have nothing to worry about. Well, childhood should be an easy time, with no cares or worries, and in a perfect world it would be, but we do not live in a perfect world.
Kids face stressors of all kinds and always have. They have to go to school – and if they are not good students that’s one type of stress, and if they are good students, that’s another kind of stress, and if they have to deal with bullies that’s another type of stress, and if they are shy and have difficulty making friends – even if they aren’t subjected to bullying – that’s another type of stress, or if they’re popular and have to maintain a certain circle of friends even if they don’t want to because “it’s expected,” that’s another type of stress. Well, you get the picture. Stress.
Nowadays there’s more than ever for kids to be worried about. Take for instance, the chat my daughter’s teacher had with her class last school year about possible shooters in the school and how they’re basically all screwed anyway. And then there’s the fact that my daughter went to a college conference in Baltimore recently – one of her concerns included whether or not the convention center would be shot up…given Baltimore’s latest activities in that regard. Many kids face this fear in this day and age and truly, that’s just a sad testament to our society as a whole.
Then there’s home life, which can be more complicated now than ever before, considering the proliferation of different family units – single parents, same-sex parents, step-parents and step-siblings, and so on. Which can be just fine and dandy inside the home or it can be incredibly complicated depending on how the family meshes – but the external stressors that kids in these situations sometime face can be overwhelming.
And then there’s the parents. Regardless of the type of family unit, most parents are loving and treat their kids well…but there are always the exceptions. And while the percentage of “bad parents” may be low, that still means there are hundreds of thousands of parents who have no idea how to treat kids, and shouldn’t be parents in the first place, frankly.
And all that brings me to the real subject of this blog entry, which is how frustrating it is for teenagers to be lumped into a single mass.
“All teenagers are sullen.”
“All teenagers are moody and antagonistic.”
“All teenagers have teenage angst.”
I disagree with all of these statements but none more than the existence of “teenage angst.” Not all teenagers have teenage angst! And what the hell is teenage angst anyway? There’s no “adult angst” and believe me, I’ve seen plenty of adults that ought to have it.
Oh, and just because a teenager doesn’t want to be social or outgoing, even among family, does not mean they are sullen or moody or antagonistic. Perhaps they’re introverted. Perhaps they’re shy. Perhaps they have a lot going on in their mind and life and they’re distracted. Perhaps they just don’t like you. They should be allowed to do their own thing so long as they’re not being outwardly disrespectful. Speaking of which, I’m a firm believer of “respect is a two-way street.” There is no minimum age for deserving respect. All too often adults think that kids, simply by virtue of being kids, do not deserve even a modicum of respect, thereby completely invalidating their feelings, and this is just wrong.
But how should we treat teenagers who do have angst? (Note the intentional lack of “teenage” preceding the word angst.)
Are they to blame for giving into their feelings – when adults certainly never hesitate to give in to theirs?
Kids have a lot to be anxious about. For some, it’s worse than the norm.
“Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hating socializing. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzing numb.”
That’s a quote to think about, and to remember.
All of the stresses that affect kids are magnified a hundred fold if they do suffer from anxiety and/or depression. First off, anxiety and depression are medical conditions. That’s what a lot of adults don’t seem to understand. Oh, they might “get it” regarding themselves or other adults. They just don’t seem to understand that kids can suffer from these same conditions. I mean, why would they? They’re kids, in the prime of their carefree days for goodness sake.
Second, a lot of this angst is caused by external forces.
Take girls, for example. It’s well documented that boys and girls do equally well in school until they get into their teens, when the scores for girls (speaking overall here – there are always exceptions) go way down in certain subjects. Like math and science. Why? Because even today – even today! – girls are not expected to be good at math or science! And they are treated accordingly. No wonder their scores go down.
Then there’s the fact that once girls become teenagers, they “blossom” as the saying goes, and all of a sudden they’ve got to deal with the “opposite sex” coming onto them (or not). Not to mention ridiculous dress codes that make it abundantly clear that their education is much less important than a boy’s and instead they should focus on not distracting the male students from their studies.
Of course boys have a similar and equal kind of stress when they hit puberty, as there’s a blinding rush to turn them into adults and no innocence seems left to any kids anywhere!
Bad parents also cause their kids a lot of stress and anxiety. Some parents emotionally abuse kids, even if they don’t physically abuse them, threatening to withdraw their love if the kid fails a test, for example…or irrationally and insistently pushing the kid into sports when he or she would rather be on the stage let’s say, just so they can relive their old high school quarterback days.
Something else to think about: When parents have a bad day, who are the first ones they take it out on? Their spouse, sure, but who’s next? The kids. Right. (I’m not talking abuse here – that’s a whole other issue – I’m talking about being in a bad mood, snapping at the family, being curt or short in your tone, and having no patience for anyone.) When kids have a bad day? Who can they take it out on? No-one. Why? Because they get punished. For belligerence. For having a bad attitude. If they go to their room and try to stay to themselves because they’ve had a bad day? They get punished. Why? For being sullen. For being anti-social with the family. For ignoring their parents. For bringing the mood of the family down. Kids are expected to be on perfect behavior at all times or face the consequences. Who can live sanely under those kinds of expectations!? Yet many adults expect them to do it.
My point in all this rambling? Simple. Let’s cut our kids some slack, shall we? Kids have feelings and personalities all their own just as adults do. They shouldn’t be dismissed just because they’re kids.