So, my first born started high school this week. This. Is. Happening. We have been pretty optimistic about the whole thing, partly because school has been an overwhelmingly good experience thus far, and also because I had a positive high school experience myself. But being a teenager today is not what it was when I was a freshman. The world she is bravely facing is more complex, competitive, and far more sexualized, to name a few things that keep me awake at night.
There are many things I would like to say to her as she launches into this mini-society that seems to be capable of separating flesh from bone. Some of these things I have already said, others I am awaiting the right moment to say, and still others she is not yet ready to hear. But I have decided to practice on you! I feel you can handle it. We’ve known each other for some time now!
1. The “Social Triangle” phenomenon. It seems real. It feels real. For all intents and purposes, within the walls of your school community, it is real. Kinda. It’s only real if you buy into it. If you choose to believe that some kids are accessible and others are not. If you choose to believe that others hold more power or less power than you do or that some are more or less deserving of your time and attention. None of that is true. Regardless of clothing, or car type, or academic or athletic performance, you each have only one voice, capable of great blessing or terrible harm. You will have to choose each day whether you will buy into this social hierarchy fantasy game. Some days you will probably buy in, and others you won’t. Growing up is hard enough without allowing others to manipulate you into believing that popularity or celebrity status is anything of value. It’s not. It’s a made-up system to randomly, and without true merit, categorize people into groups that ultimately serve only to make some feel better about themselves and others feel worse about themselves.
2. Relationships are a giant distraction. Crushes are part of life right now. Enjoy the thrill of being lab partners with that cute junior boy. Swoon as necessary! Wonder what having a real boyfriend will be like. Look forward to being in love someday. But right now, you are not in the game of long-term relationships. The period between being asked out and being broken up with can be lightening fast. Truly, the whole thing can go down before your next chapter test. Then you find yourself nursing disappointment, confusion, and embarrassment while trying to keep up with homework, sports, church, chores, studying, and friends. You feel things deeply my sweet, and these kinda broken-hearted/unmet expectations/what is wrong with me? feelings are some of the deepest. It’s not worth the cost to your heart, and to your permanent academic record. Boys aren’t worth that right now. But one day, a MAN will be.
3. You won’t tell me everything. Oh, you say you will, and I appreciate it, but this weird thing is gonna happen where you start to think of your friends as your confidantes rather than your parents. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s a perfectly normal part of growing up. You will start to feel like they are the ones who really understand and accept you, and you will confide in them and trust them like never before. This is why it is so important that you choose your friends wisely, Sweets. Without realizing it, you will give them great power and influence in your life, and what they think will become incredibly important to you. It doesn’t mean that we won’t be close. You will always be free to tell us anything at all, and we will always be on your team.
4. You’re gonna screw up. I predict this with 100% accuracy! It will not shock me, so don’t worry about that. Here’s the thing though . . . it doesn’t have to be the long-term consequence, future-altering blowout that you see so often in movies. In fact, for most kids, even those nowhere near as smart and committed as you, there won’t be an arrest, a pregnancy, or a drug habit. There will, however, be curfews missed, tests cheated on, beers sipped, and parents lied to. These are errors in judgment that teenagers make, and while it generally comes back to bite them, it doesn’t cost them their health, their home, or their educational future. These are bumps in the road of growing up. So, while I assure you that you will make some mistakes, I fully expect them to be of the small, garden-variety type. You will either confess or be caught, and we will deal with it accordingly. Life will go on.
5. Some stuff you just have to get through. One of the hardest parts of being your age is that most everything feels permanent. It is a real challenge to see beyond the next bend in the road, and since you are fairly new to traveling this life, you don’t have much history to remind you that this, too, shall pass. Even when your emotions are screaming otherwise, that will pass, too. You will have a few teachers that you really don’t like, and that you are convinced hate you as well. You will have someone you thought was your friend stop speaking to you and seemingly disappear without explanation. At some point, you will be humiliated or rejected. This, too, shall pass. So just get through the class, get through finicky girl drama, get through that epic fall in front of the varsity football players. The feelings are real, but they don’t stay. Breathe.
I love you and am excited for your future!
(Photo property of Stephanie Brubaker)