OK, fine, it wasn’t 35.
I went on Spring Break with 58 high school seniors.
Freshly minted “adults” primed and ready for a Dominican adventure at an all-inclusive resort. Sound like a shit show? Maybe… I was certainly braced for the worst. Turns out there were some pleasant surprises along the way and a whole lot of nostalgia for days gone by.
They use suncreeen.
I unequivocally know that I did not use sunscreen — I used baby oil. And now I pay the price, quite literally, everytime I go for facials, exfoliations, botox, fillers…..sun damage is a bitch. So huge kudos to them -my jealousy runs a deep bronze.
One afternoon, on boat rocking more from the loud rap music than the actual ocean waves, a young man asked me to borrow sunscreen. Having taught him in the 5th grade, I guess he assumed I was the most “responsible” mom drinking warm beer. It was logical — odds were that the dad doing backflips off the top of the boat was not armed with a high SPF.
Old habits die hard…anything above a 15 SPF and I fear for my Vitamin D levels. Pulling out my Coppertone lotion, I notice the word TANNING on the side and make a mental note that I appreciate the nod to those of us who still covet that golden skin tone 4 months a year. Maybe I should have turned away, happy to lose that bottle to the crowd, but I didn’t.
The judgement didn’t come from the boy. He happily applied the lotion, confident that I had not done him wrong. The girls in the group, not so much. Suddenly the generation gap widened, my boat-cred plummeted, and I could see the perception of my IQ taking a nose dive. And then there was the judgement. Fleeting, yes. But the hushed whispers, the quick passing of the bottle & and the ultimate re-delivery back to me all spoke to the truth. I had let them down — at least the girls. My SPF choice was irresponsible.
They are really comfortable in their bodies.
So comfortable, in fact, that I actually want to feel comfortable, too. I don't, of course — the shame and insecurity runs way too deep and stretches back for decades. But I want it. I envy it. I applaud it.
Not being a big fan of censorship in general, and always championing girls of all ages to be fierce, I sat back in wonderment and awe. The suits are small. The dance moves large. Cover-ups are as antiquated as, well, me.
It made me want to cheer. I didn’t (thank GOD) but I wanted to. And guess what? The boys could handle it. I wanted to cheer about that, too. I didn’t (thank GOD) but I wanted to. It made me want to write a letter, send an email, do something old school telling all the people who want our girls to dress a certain way and to stop being a distraction to go suck it.
Their seemless use of technology is enviable.
The anxiety and hand-wringing over the role of technology in kids’ lives leads me to read a lot of articles and blog posts. No doubt that social media and technology is changing our world and has certainly given these digital natives a different experience than our own. The obsession and inability to survive without snapping a selfie, the text conversations that are constant and the overall distraction can’t be good. Right?
I still can’t get the right angle for a decent selfie. And I drop my phone, crack my screen & generally fumble around. I hate it. It makes me feel old and out of touch. And most days I feel just as obsessed with it all as they are…
I can’t help but wonder if our concerns, especially about the lack of interaction and personal connection, has a lot to do with our own angst over how we have changed. They haven’t changed — this is their life and always has been. Trust me, these kids are personally connected. I’ve seen it up close.
They can cause quite a scene.
Oh wait — maybe that was that the parents?
But can we talk about the music….
The Violent Femmes sent ripples through my childhood home. The taped song I rewound and played over and over was simply about herione abuse and teenage angst. There weren’t even any casual uses of offensive words! My parents were undone over it all — they would storm into my room and quite literally pull the plug from the wall to silence my boombox (dual cassette for high speed dubbing, of course). Kids and their damn rock n’ roll.
As we cruised to a spot to anchor for a bit during the 4-hour boat tour extravaganza, the music announced our arrival. We were a floating dance party, maybe more like a floating dance club from NYC, except in the bright Caribbean sunlight for all to see. Having immediately taken over the sound system with Spotify accounts at their fingertips, the music was a nonstop selection of pounding beats laced with profanity and questionable lyrical themes. Everyone was dancing.
As we anchored, and the parents caught their breath, I noticed a boat floating in front of us. I also noticed the distinct absence of music…and then I saw the faces. Of the families. Chatting and lounging (quite civilly I might add) on their boat. With their young kids.
I scrambled for my phone, hoping to capture the precious moment reflected in the faces as we settled in.
Shock and awe.
I saw some moms get up and move to the back of their boat. I saw some dads subtly nodding and bobbing their heads along with the tunes. And then I saw him. The boat captain, perched up top, just letting loose with serious dance moves honed over years and years. We were the best thing to hit that lagoon for him in a loooong time. As soon as our kids saw his enthusiasm, they rushed the front of a boat and a full fledged dance contest ensued. Over time other boats passed by, some stopped for a bit and others kept moving, but all seafarers that day marveled at the pure joy happening on our decks.
They make me profoundly happy….and proud.
I spend a lot “grind” time with teenagers. Whether it is helping them write authentic college essays or work through the challenges of time management during the middle and high school years that are absurdly more diffcult than my own, our time together is such a priviledge to me. My number one job as an educator (I would argue any educator’s number one job) is to to see and to hear them. It also happens to be one of the tenets I try hard to be true to as a parent. I sincerely want to know who they are, and I want them to have the confidence so they can do the same.
It is such a gift to see them experience what we know is a wonderful time of life. They are the embodiment of our wistful longings on Saturday nights when we all say we would give a lot to go back to those days. All the mistakes and misjudgments, all the stupid actions and regrettable decisions — it is all what brings us to that boat deck, watching our own dance with abandon, laugh too loud, and experience small moments of pure joy in life. And sometimes, when the mood is right, you join them on top of the table (in your modest swim cover-up) and soak it all up with them.