It might be because our baby is now well into her teen years or maybe because she is our only girl, but I am starting to compare parenting in the summer of 1986 vs parenting in 2019. Trying to think back to my 15th summer (or I should clarify, the summer between grade 9 and heading to high school) what did I need and want from my mom? What kinds of things is she dealing with that were not a factor when I was that age?
In an attempt to be what she needs but also maintain my integrity as a parent I’m spending a lot of time thinking about how much “rope” to give, figuring out trust issues, and how she is establishing her values. The struggle is real. So let’s look at five differences (and similarities) between the summer of ’86 and the summer of ’19.
Freedom and sneaking out (1986 vs 2019)
I still recall a sleepover the summer of 1986 that involved sleeping in my BFF’s playhouse in the backyard. We stayed up all night and when the sun came up we ran through the neighbourhood in our pjs and bare feet in the wet grass. It was a sense of freedom and exhilaration I will never forget, because we were pushing boundaries. We didn’t do anything “bad” – but this was the start of the first few foray’s into asserting our independence.
Summer 2019 I found evidence of a “break out, predawn escape” during a sleepover. Of course, I didn’t love it, but smiled when I thought of my own adventures at her age. I decided not to pursue this one. I did let her know that I knew – but I didn’t make a big deal of it. I think because of that, she came clean with what their adventures entailed. All as harmless as it was in 1986, this also helped me to remember what it was like to be 15. As much as I was freaking out on the inside – I kept quiet and carried on.
Anxiety / Peer Pressure 1986 versus 2019)
To be frank, when I was 15 I don’t think I had ever heard the word Anxiety – and certainly not in relation to myself, or any of my friends. We had the world by the tail – we had freedom. Still too young to get a job, but old enough to do at least a few things on our own, we were living the life.
You know the old adage, “Sometimes not knowing everything is the key to happiness?” This was us at 15 in 1986, right? In 1986 we didn’t have to worry what every teenager in North America was doing. We only needed to worry about our own friend group. And yes, sometimes that was stressful but in a context we were prepared for and that coincided with our development. Girls got “in a fight” and then made up. We didn’t have to worry that our heated 15 year old words would get recorded or that when we made mistakes, they were suddenly big – big enough for the world (literally) to see.
We also didn’t have to compare ourselves, (as we went through puberty) to every other girl out there – our clothes, our smiles, our friends. This causes so much anxiety in our kids. Our kids seek validation from people they don’t know and will never meet. They live in a constant state of comparison. If that is not anxiety producing, especially as you learn to become an adult, I don’t know what is.
Summer? Comparing sun soaked teens all apparently living a more glamorous, fun filled life than you could ever imagine? These perfect, bikini clad, pimple free teens all look like they are having the best summer ever – and their captions shout of their amazing adventures. BTW – apps to remove zits, whiten teeth and smooth skin create a lot of this perfection – image has become everything.
The most anxiety I felt in 1986 was nervously contemplating the prospect of my first kiss. A kiss that would not be broadcast on social media (but might be the subject of a late night phone call – of course with a phone that was attached to the wall 🙂 )
REAL is the four letter word these days. It seems to mean “less than perfect.” As adults, we fall into the trap too. But, our teens need us. They need us to remind them that they are learning. They are navigating the world they were born into and they are going to make mistakes. Thanks to social media some of those mistakes will be misconstrued and they will be judged. Our job as parents is to try and ease that anxiousness as much as possible. And hope that technology (because it is not going away) will adapt and change for the better. Just a small example of this is Instagram getting rid of “likes.” It’s a small step – but a step in the right direction for sure.
I am trying to talk to my teen about being real – and accepting who she is. In the end, I really want her to like who she is, have real, authentic relationships and be proud of that. All the rest is just smoke and mirrors…
Tracking 1986 vs. Tracking 2019
In 1986 my parents version of “tracking” me was (at the most extreme) calling when I got somewhere. Eye rolling was involved when asked to do this because it was actually a huge pain the ass if I was going somewhere other than a friends house. Finding a payphone and making sure I had 10 cents was a real bitch. Other than that phone call, which really could have been made from anywhere, my parents had no idea where I really was, when I left or which route I took to get there.
Tracking in 2019 takes on a whole new meaning. You can track virtually every movement your child takes through a variety of different ways. I recently heard of an app called Life 360 where you can literally see how fast your child is driving and your kids also can track where YOU are at all times.
While I am all about safety, this kind of freaks me out. As much as my “mom brain” really wants to know everything and anything that is going on with my teens – sometimes it is just better not to know.
Just last week my daughter texted me that she was going to Jamba Juice with her friends. I asked where the Jamba Juice was and she said about 10 minutes away from where they were. Well, she went to Jamba Juice, and returned back safe and sound. It was only 3 days later that she mentioned she drove there with several friends in a borrowed Tesla… !!!! Now, I wanted to freak out – because this is info I probably should have known, but it was over, she was safe and I trusted the people she was out with. Did it make me nervous? Did I tell her that from now on she needs to tell me HOW she is getting places? Yes. But in the end, they will have to be responsible for themselves in just a few short years and this is a step in that direction. I let it go – kinda.
PLAY 1986 vs PLAY 2019
Lets be real. Teenagers in 1986 got bored and so do teens in 2019. Some things never change. I know we like to blame everything on technology (at least I do) but think about it. If you were a teen in 1986 – what were you doing? I was painstakingly attempting to make the best summer mixed tapes ever! I was also ripping out photos of the latest teen heart throb from my “Tiger Beat.” And what are our teens doing? Creating playlists, and YouTube videos, and searching up the Instagram profiles of their current fav star. While we would sit at home on a rainy day and watch “soaps” our teens are just an enamoured with watching Netflix, or YouTube.
Of course, the difference is that when the soaps were over for the day – they were over. Then we had to figure out what else to do with our time – there was no such thing as binge watching in 1986. AND Tiger Beat only had so much information – then you had to wait – yes, WAIT until the next one came out.
So while our parents knew our daily TV viewing would come to its natural conclusion and magazines would get old, as parents of teens in 2019, we need to sell “play” like never before. I find myself wracking my brain trying to think of ways to get my kids outside, moving and active when they are not busy with their sport of choice. Teens now need to understand that MOVING is important. This was something we just did in the 80’s.
So while we can’t force our kids to get out and play – we do our best to incorporate it into our lives so they have no choice. Family walks or runs, bike rides or spin classes are the norm. Our summer mantra is “you must move your body, every day!”
Parties 1986 vs Parties 2019
So I was kinda on the conservative side for a 15 year old. I went to parties (a very few) in the dark basements of kids I knew. I heard about “stuff happening” but I saw very little. Other than kids getting drunk from their two Bacardi coolers and getting picked up by their parents this was the most excitement to be had in my world. However, whenever something exciting did happen, only the kids who were there could really corroborate the story. It didn’t really go any farther than that.
Parties in 2019 are broadcast for the world to see via snap chat, insta stories or VSCO. Not only do you know when your friend has blown you off to go to a “cooler” party, you also know everything that’s happening, who is there and what the kids are doing. These pictures and videos also lead to assumptions that might not be accurate or at the very least just misleading. Put a 15 year old in that quagmire and they are dealing with more adult feelings and emotions than most 50 years olds can cope with.
I don’t know how to handle this one. I can only say that I am trying to explain to my child that the feelings she has are the same as every other teen her age. So the Golden Rule applies. Of course, she is 15 and realistically only hears about half of what I say. These kids are learning. They are not perfect and I’m sure she and every other teen in 2019 will learn a few lessons along the way.
But I’m trying not to worry too much. She’s 15 and it’s time for her 15th summer.
Fifteen in 2019 might not be what it was in 1986, but it’s still only 15. She’s got years to get it all right – its my job to just love her through it.
Well count to 10 take it in, this is life before you know who you are gonna be…