Teenagers are like olives…

1 07 2010

You either love them or you hate them. And some of them are Greek.

I run a group for teen girls. My supervisor thinks I’m insane. She hates teenagers. They frighten her. She thinks that they’re rude, disrespectful, judgmental, loud, and obnoxious. And they are.

They’re supposed to be. It’s their right and responsibility. Every parent, teacher, social worker, and blogger was once an obnoxious teenager. Now it’s time to pay it forward. We do that by guiding the next generation of miserable adolescents, helping them to get through the tough times, keeping them safe, and not murdering them when they sass us in public.

I’ve narrowly avoided getting hit by a chair when I got in the middle of a fight facilitated a discussion between a teen girl and her mother. I have had to apologize profusely to school staff when a student threw her books to the ground and stormed out of a meeting. And I’ve had to convince a self-proclaimed thug to stop crying when he called from Ryker’s.

But I love them, for some reason. They make me laugh. Little kids crack me up, but they don’t mean to be funny. Teenagers have a sense of humor. They have interests, and goals. Once in a while you can work with them, reason with them, and they can make changes. You’re not trying to trick them into telling you how they feel with puppets and clay. “I want to be a lawyer. I need to go to law school. I need to go to college. So I should go to class now, so I can graduate high school?” Yes! Yes, you should.

A lot of the teens I see have parents who expect way too much of them. The girls in particular are hardly allowed out of their apartments, because of (realistic) safety concerns and the idea that a 15 year old’s proper place is at home taking care of children she didn’t give birth to. They never got much of a chance to act like kids.

That’s why I love doing goofy kid things with them. It’s also because I’ve reached an age where pulling out a coloring book while on an airplane gets me some strange looks. People think that teenagers will roll their eyes and refuse if you suggest an art project. At first, they usually do. But as time goes on, something changes.

I have seen teenage tough guys, wearing strictly coordinated gang colors with their pants down below their butts, ask me if I could please go look for a baby blue crayon. I’ve seen angry teenage girls light up at the idea of making a mother’s day present. There is nothing quite like hearing a request for more glitter from a 15 year old Blood, who won’t put chapstick on without prefacing the action with a “No Homo.”

Kids want to be kids. Sometimes they ned someone to grab them by the hand and force them back into childhood. If only the NYPD gang unit was aware of the transformative power of sparklies.




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