Teenage Dream

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I’m going to say a word and I want you to think of the first word that comes to your mind.

Me: Teenager.

You: (I’ll wait while you go enter your word into the comments section below.  Go ahead.  Or maybe you don’t want to, you’re being obstinate.  Like a teenager.  That’s okay, it works here).

People who are currently living with teenagers probably had a very easy time coming up with their word. I do not have teens under my roof (except occasionally, when the husband regresses).  However, the word “moody” leapt quickly to my brain, taking a seat at the stereotypical table.

Moody, obnoxious, loud, sassy, rebellious.  These are all things we sometimes assume a teenager will be.  Certainly that is how many are portrayed in books, movies, or TV shows.

Now let me throw out a few other words:  classy, considerate, gracious, funny, loyal, smart, interesting, quiet.  What comes to mind?  Would you believe that to come up with that list, I pictured several different teenagers I have gotten to spend time with recently?

For example, I was serving ice cream to an enthusiastic group of young people during summer vacation, and one of the teenagers paused, looked me in the eye, and said, “Thank you for dessert.” A small moment, a big impact.

I was also delighted to spend time recently with teenagers from my extended family.  I got to listen to them discuss books, watch them be thoughtful and generous toward siblings, and in general just be very un-stereotypical teenagers.

I also got to know a few literary characters this summer who are giving adolescence a good name.

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In John Green’s AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES, child prodigy Colin Singleton sets out on a road trip with his best friend Hassan after being dumped by the 19th Katherine he has dated in a row.

Colin is a quirky guy with a love of math and a penchant for anagrams.  But it is his friend Hassan that I love, for being a loyal friend, a funny kid…an awesome teenager.  My favorite thing about Hassan is that he helps Colin negotiate the world that us non-prodigies live in by simply saying, “not interesting!” whenever Colin starts pontificating.  The boys don’t have a perfect friendship, but Hassan stands by Colin in a way that has me hoping my kids will have a friend like him to help pick them up when life deals heavy blows.

In E. Lockhart’s THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU BANKS, it is female characters who take the lead roles.

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Frankie is a girl who knows her own mind, and infiltrates the ‘old boys’ network at her boarding school to prove a point.  But again, it is her best friend, Trish, that I’d choose to hang out with.  She never wavers in her loyalty to Frankie, even when Frankie doesn’t deserve it.  Trish also stays true to her somewhat geeky, horse-loving self and I love her for that!

Teenagers.  Do not discount their intelligence, humor, charm, and loving spirits!  I know they have their moments.  But don’t we all?  Special thanks to the teens in my life who have shown me that my own kids’ teen years are not something to fear or fight against, but something to embrace and look forward to.

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Teens being gracious about having to eat spaghetti with spoons.

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Teen being kind to her younger sister, who could not ride unaccompanied.

TEENAGERS ARE SURPRISING AND AMAZING!

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