Love Your Teenagers. You Don’t Get them Very Long.

Do you remember being a teenager? Maybe you are one. If so you'd better remember it, or we're going to be taking you in to see what's in your blood pretty quickly here.

I am old. But oh, I remember teenage-hood. I remember being awkward and assuming everyone else wasn't. I remember thinking how self-assured everyone around me was, and I was the only one trembling on the inside on the first day of school. And the last day of school. Or finding myself completely unable to talk to boys in public. Totally could do it on the one or two dates I managed to go on. But around other, like, kids my age? Um, no.

What I wore? Good heavens. The angst that went into picking an outfit that I thought other people wouldn't scoff at or judge. Until one year I got sick of it and decided to just get in everyone's face with what I wore. Didn't care. Wore what I wanted. And I was FREE! While still having a part of me inside that wasn't totally sure it was okay.

Grades? Everyone was smarter than me. And they never studied. And got straight A's. Boys? Thought I was a dork. I was sure of it. Other girls? Same thing. I was nicknamed Jabberbox-Janiel at home because I talked so much and was so loud and spazzy. But no one at school would ever have guessed it. Barely said a word, except to the people sitting closest to me in class, and even then it was rare. I just smiled. Made polite jokes. And quietly spent each day dying of stress inside. I've since learned that no one knew it.

Why? Apart from me being polite and smiling nicely and being largely quiet, other people, it turned out, had their own little battles going on inside. EVERYONE was worried about something or other. They just had different ways of dealing with it: Some got loud, some got drop-dead hilarious, some reached out, others rebelled. But everyone had worries about what everyone else thought and everyone had stress in their lives. I'm sure there were a few unusual souls who were quietly confident and able to look outside of themselves. The rest of us? Angsty freaked-out teenagers.

Well guess what happened? I grew up and became an adult and I keenly remember all those years and all that stress and my shock when I spoke with friends and found that they went through the same things I did. It just manifested differently.

I love teenagers. I remember them, and I love them. I was warned about raising them–and while it isn't easy, I don't find it harder than raising younger children. Maybe even simpler in some respects. How do I love them? Let me count the ways:

-I love how free teenagers are. Yep. I know that contradicts everything I just said, but–and maybe it is BECAUSE of the awkwardness and worrying–these guys throw everything out there. You HEAR them. They are loud, they express themselves, they are silly and manic, and I love it. It is joy. You can get down there right with them and joke and laugh and they love it. I love it. Awesome.

-I love the hope and brightness of the future in their eyes. I love how all the possibilities in the world lie before them. I'd love to still feel that way. They make me feel that way. And it's real. It's all in how you look at it, isn't it?

-I love the raw ability spilling out of teenagers as they try to figure it all out. Before life has jaded them. Before they've gotten all of their hormones and impulses in control. The potential oozing out of their pores is fabulous.

-I love how, if you accept teenagers, teenagers accept you. They want to feel safe. Just like us adults, right? And they are far less judgmental if you help them feel safe. Kids in this world today need safety like vitamins and sunlight.

-They are spazzes. I am a spaz. Together we are free to completely and thoroughly spazz-out. That is like breathing to me. I LOVE that unfettered freedom.

-Wisdom beyond their years is all over the kids I've had the blessing to hang with since my kids started hitting teenage-hood. I am constantly blown away by what kids today understand, by their goals, by their long vision and insight, by the good they want to do. We need to let them do it.

My lovely dear readers, I could go on and on. I have loved working with kids throughout my life: in plays (both acting and directing), volunteering in school, working with youth groups, and hanging with my kids' friends. If I could bottle them all up and sell them as a life-booster shot, I'd be a bazillionaire, because it would be the best drug in the world.

To my own kids, all the kids I've had the pleasure of working with and getting to know over the years, and right now especially, the kids with me in the cast of "High School Musical," I love ya, peeps. You're the best. You'll stay with me forever.

With love,


About Janiel 433 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.

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