A few days ago I was reading my favorite blogs, including this particular post on Mad Organica's blog, about recent family photos she had done. I followed the link to the photographer's site to see the entire album of photos she had taken, along with the photographer's portfolio/gallery pages and two things happened. One, I was blown away by the photographer's style and I was inspired to spend much of the afternoon running around my yard and home trying out new techniques and ideas. Secondly, I got all melty and teary-eyed by the emotions that shone through the photos. In particular, the pictures of MO sitting on a beach with her older daughter wrapped in her arms.
I spent most of yesterday, between bouts of feeling miserable (some sort of 24 hour bug), trying to write a poem about my feelings. I tried several times but couldn't get anything to work. I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn't know how to say it. I even tried reducing it to "haiku" and ended up forgetting the form, writing several lame "reverse haiku" in 7-5-7 meter instead of the standard 5-7-5. How embarrassing. Although my writer's group got quite a laugh out of it.
Size thirteen shoes but his step
hesitates, he could
get lost, no map for this world
I'm not sure why I couldn't "find" the poem. I suspect it will show up on the tip of my pen one of these days. I've decided to blame the germs. In the meantime, I decided to just write about how I feel and move on.
It's that whole "cusp of adolescence" thing. It chokes me up every time. Teenagers in general, to be honest. It's sort of strange. Most people, when they talk about teenagers, or think of them at all, I suspect, would describe them in many ways.
Teenagers are noisy.
The clothes they wear! When I was their age..... (yeah, and I bet you showed just as much skin but you've forgotten. The bottom line, if you were honest with yourself - if you looked as good in as little as the average teen, you'd probably dress that way now!)
Teenagers have no respect.
Teenagers think they know everything!
Teens party all the time.
They sleep all the time.
And so on. All true to a certain degree, depending on the teenager, depending on the specific age. But most of those comments describe a teenager's surface, what I think of as their armor, their shell, to protect them from the fact that on a deeper level they don't have a clue, and the world is big and they feel so very, very small.
Teenagers act so cool and "Whatever!" and roll-their-eyes. They're obsessed with their peers. They tend to find ways to barricade themselves or hang out in the protection of their own groups and a lot of adults think that means they don't want them in their lives anymore and they back off and stay away, physically and emotionally. The truth is teenagers need you present and available more then perhaps at any other stage of their lives.
Adolescence is a limbo state between the security and responsibility. It's like getting thrown in the deep end of the pool before you're confident about your ability to swim. Or dropped off the bus in some foreign country where you don't speak the language or know the customs. It's like your first week on the job or the first month in a new town, but for four, five, seven years!
Hormones have kicked teens out of childhood, ready or not. They can't go backwards and yet they haven't had anywhere near enough experience to handle the kind of things the average adult deals with on a daily basis. And if that's not enough, at the same time the teen years are a culture and experience in and of themselves, a tumultous and frightening time filled with both no rules and too many rules. There are extreme expectations put on teenagers by adults and by their peers, expectations that the average adult would only put up with for a very short time before throwing up their hands and yelling "Fuck this!" AND those expectations quite frequently clash, adults want you to act one way, your friends expect you to act another. Although my teen years were fairly "successful" and I was "happy" by outside appearances, quite frankly, you couldn't pay me enough to make me repeat them!
So, when I see teenagers, my heart often does that same "ahhhh" thing that most people save for babies, toddlers, and well behaved preschoolers. I see them as young people, worried and unsure of themselves often before they've even left the house each morning, and yet still going out the door and doing brave things each and every day. I see them often doing the right thing and rarely getting the recognition or acknowledgement for the small important acomplishments they manage to figure out even, some of them, without a fraction of the help and support they need. I see a "child" taking their second set of "first steps", this time, not across the livingroom rug, but across the threshold into maturity.
I wish more of them got the same enthusiastic round of applause from adults as they received the first time.