Teens get a bad rap

18194629_1452845671433372_1908912375300107630_nWe’ve all seen the images of self-absorbed teens, taking selfies and laughing with an air of “We are way too cool to make eye contact with you.” Even before “selfies” were a thing, teens had a reputation for having an attitude, thriving on “drama” and being only slightly more self-obsessed than toddlers.

Well, I just got back from a whirlwind 2 day field trip with my 8th grader’s class to Baltimore, and I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised. As a child/teen psychologist, I like to think I know adolescents more intimately than the “average” parent. However, I found myself making the same jokes to colleagues and friends before the trip: “Oh gosh, I’ll be trapped on a bus with 50+ 8th grade girls for 6 hours, pray for me!” I admit to having some dread of high pitched squeals or drama-filled arguments echoing in my ears. But do you know what? Most of the girls I spent time with restored my faith in this generation.

I was in charge of a group of 8 girls (my daughter, five of her friends, and two other girls). Throughout our time, I found a warm glow growing in my heart as I observed so many wonderful things. Our small group had a student with special needs and physical disabilities. I’ll call her “Deana” for this blog. I witnessed the girls in my group opening ketchup packets for her, making her cocoa, waiting for her to finish eating so she could shop with them, and having her join in their linked arms of friends exploring a city. These girls were sweet and empathetic. They helped without my encouragement most of the time. These girls tolerated (allowed even) my company as we explored museums and historical sites. They chatted with me, making me laugh with their hilarious observations and insights. My daughter dared to grab my hand once as we walked (a few seconds, but those moments of connection are powerful) and hugged me as a thank you for coming on the trip in front of her friends. I had my “worriers” who diligently checked in with me about the schedule and when we should meet up. Frequent “pleases” and “thank you’s” were uttered, as well as “thank you for coming with us on this trip.” My group began a competitive game to become my favorite and started calling me Dr. Wynns (after my daughter warned them I didn’t love being called, “Mrs. Wynns.). When the girls disagreed about something, they worked it out with compromise, negotiation, or letting it go. There was no drama, no fighting, no social media bullying, and no gossip behind someone’s back. These girls were respectful, independent, and just delightful company. When I saw some of my girls building a ramp in a science museum, and “Deana” laughing delightedly, I admit that glow in my heart became a raging fire.

On the bus trip home, I received a text from one of the girls in my group. She wrote, “Dr. Wynns, thank you so much for offering your time to keep us in check and deal with our craziness. You were an amazing chaperone and this field trip wouldn’t have been the same without you.”

I wrote back to the group text, “You guys are seriously the best group of girls. You give me hope for your generation. Even though you are TEENAGERS you are sweet, thoughtful, hilarious, respectful and sociable. Loved my time with you! Kristy AKA Dr. Wynns AKA NOT Mrs. Wynns.”

Those texts say it all.

 

 

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