In the 1960 Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie, Paul Lynde portrayed Mr. McAfee, a dad of a teen girl, utterly frustrated by his daughter and her friends and their antics. In the show, he had a funny song to sing, called Kids! Some of the lyrics are as follows: “Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today! Kids! Who can understand anything they say? Kids! They’re disobedient, disrespectful oafs! Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers! And while we’re on the subject, Kids! You can talk and talk ’til your face is blue! Kids! But they still do just what they want to do! Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way? What’s the matter with kids today?”
Having spent some time fixing snacks for the high school youth group at our church the other night, and having two sons in that youth group, I got to observe the goings on of these “kids”. Sure, teens can irritate me from time to time. But parents can also unwittingly exasperate their kids, especially when they are in that time of not being children anymore but also not having reached adulthood yet. I noticed that most of the teens the other night were clean, polite, telling me thank you and adding a please with their requests. The ones who knew me went out of their way to say hello, to give me a hug, or a wave from across the room. They had fun playing an energetic game that was a cross between volleyball and a tic-tac-toe pattern made of pvc pipes, that fitted together and were raised above the teens’ heads. Most of them had cell phones in their hands, if they weren’t busy with the game or talking with one another, and one teen had even brought along math homework for some tutoring from another teen. Teens love to eat, so the prepared snacks and desserts from an earlier chili lunch the church had hosted, were all eaten quickly. During my observations, I realized that the world of teenagers isn’t really that new, and that the older generation often forgets their own teen antics when comparing their own teen years to the current new crop of teens around them.
Through information shared by another blogger who enjoys classic movies, the Lux Radio Theatre is online. I have recently started listening to these radio shows while I am cleaning up the kitchen after supper. My kids have been a bit curious, asking, “Mom what are you listening to?” and it has been educational for them to listen in. I have explained that these radio shows were the main form of entertainment for a lot of Americans before television came along. The Lux commercials are very corny, though, and the other night one commercial spot featured the announcer learning how to talk “teenager” with a girl, probably a young voice actress. The slang she spoke, to let a friend know her slip was showing, was weird, to say the least. Yet it got me to thinking, that even in 1940, when that radio ad was aired, teenagers and their demographics were being used to sell a product, in this case Lux Soap Flakes, and that something peculiar to adults, teen slang, was employed to help sell soap! The teens at my house use a bit of slang too, and to tease them I try to use it and they just fix me with a disdainful stare and tell me never to do that again! So, having their own code, so to speak, from generations of teens from the past to the teens of today, still exists.
Sorting through my twin daughters multi-colored and multi-designed anklet socks made me think of their big sister and her stylish habit of wearing mis-matched socks in high school. Who would have ever thought that would be a fashionable thing to do? Or the saggy pants? Or the anti-winter coat trend that seems to have infected my teen sons? Even my youngest, age 9, who is in cub scouts, has a side pocket on his scout shirt to put one’s iphone in, and a tiny hole is in that pocket so one can thread the ear buds cord from the phone through that tiny hole and then into one’s ears in a more convenient fashion! His oldest brother, who is 21, didn’t even have that nifty pocket when he was scout!
Times change, tastes change, we all know technology changes, but some aspects of those teenage years don’t. Teens still need the assurance from their parents that they still love them, even when the teen makes a bad decision. They need a listening ear more than an I told you so. They need to be able to get advice and not to be afraid to ask for it. They need to know that they can discuss any topic with their parents. They need to know that mom and dad have “got their back” when tough days arise. They need to know that you, mom and dad, are so grateful that you were blessed with this child, who will not be a child much longer.
We can chuckle at Paul Lynde’s performance in a hit musical, playing a bewildered father. We can also know why he is feeling the way he is. But we can’t quit on our teens, shake our heads at them and try to ignore them. Just let them know you are there for them and that you love them. I am also secretly hoping that some day, the “Preppy Look” will re-emerge, which was the fashionable style when I was in high school, in the 1980s. Perhaps it will appear when my 12 year old twin daughters hit their teens. I can only hope!