Life with teenagers is a blast. It’s basically the gift that keeps on giving.
This summer, Brian and I decided we were going to help the big kids (16 and 14) learn some life lessons. Skills, if you will, that they will need as they face college and adulthood in the next few years. I found a few lists to use as inspiration, but as usual, we ended up flying by the seat of our pants. They did learn a few things, though.
Groceries Are Expensive.
We told the kids they were in charge of cooking dinner for us one night a week. They were to plan a menu, research the recipes, make the grocery list, and then prepare the meal. Secretly, they planned our first meal. Ribs, sweet potato casserole, banana pudding, and more! Fabulous!
A list the length of a CVS receipt was presented to me. You know, because we were paying for the grocery trip.
Salt? Really? We have that. Flour? It’s always in the pantry. It was lesson time. How to check the pantry before heading to the store. Shocking to them, we had 99% of the staples they needed.
My mom took them to the grocery store because she and my dad were staying with us for the weekend. I had sent Brianna money to use for the groceries, but knew they would need to supplement some and I would pay them back. Imagine our (is there a sarcasm font yet?) surprise when they said the groceries were $180! Yes, kids. Groceries cost money. Lots of money.
The next week, they cooked chicken and two vegetables and dessert. It cost less than $50 and was much easier to clean up.
A Locked Door Means DO NOT ENTER
When a hotel or cruise room door is locked – dead bolted from the inside – your parents most likely do not want you to continue trying to enter the room. Everybody needs private time.
Give them five (ten?) minutes and they’ll text you that it’s ok to come back in the room.
But if you must sulk about being locked out, waiting on the stairs by the elevator, eating your ice cream cones and pizza, telling everybody your parents locked you out, is the best way to do it.
Navigating Travel Is Harder Than It Looks
On our trip to Seattle to catch our Alaskan cruise, we let the kids lead us through the airport. We walk through the airports all the time, taking for granted how easy it is to simply read signs and follow the directions to get to your gate or baggage claim or ground transportation. But let two kids with no sense of direction lead you sometime… I mean, only if you have extra time.
If you speak teen you know the following statements to be true: Left means right. Up means down. Do not enter means THIS IS THE WAY, I KNOW IT IS!
Part of navigating through airports is knowing where you are in relation to others.
Can you walk 4 people across? No.
Do you swerve from side to side because you’re not paying attention? How about just stopping in the middle of the corridor with people walking quickly behind you? No, no and no.
Should you yield to people with wheelchairs or strollers? Yes.
Can you even joke about things like guns, bombs, stabbings while anywhere near an airport or boat? NO. NO NO NO DON’T DO IT.
Are weather delays a personal affront to you? Is there anything you can do about them? Is being an asshole to the gate attendant/flight attendant going to get you anywhere? No. Be kind and patient. It really is that simple.
Laundry and Dishes Multiply Exponentially if Not Done Often
They get dirty. And multiply. And magically have to get cleaned and THEN put away.
The big kids were in charge of their own laundry. They were also in charge of doing dishes after dinner, as well as unloading the dishwasher in the mornings. Their ability to correctly (my way) load the washer increased as the summer went on.
Letting go of these daily actions was freeing and so very hard for me. Not having it done MY way the first time, or having things put in the right place or folded the correct way or hung facing the left… it took a lot of deep sighs, but we got through it!
The Other Little Things
Tip well. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be dining out.
Use your napkin. Put it in your lap as soon as you get to the table. And keep your elbows off the table.
Your strengths aren’t the same as everybody else’s. Everybody is different. That’s what makes life interesting.
You don’t have to be entertained 24/7. Enjoy the downtime. Take a nap. Watch that movie.
You’re in charge of yourself when it comes to future sexual relations. Don’t plan on the other person having proper protection. Don’t have any? Don’t do it.
Don’t feed the bears — or surprise them. But if you do see one, talk to it in a normal voice.
Travel often. It’s way better than “things.”
If Jana has to tell you something too many times, she WILL take your shit and put it in a box and not give it back. Don’t mess with her.
Never put anything online, in a text, in a Snap or IG or whatever the newfangled thing may be, that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. (Possibly related: My grandmother loved watching The Bachelor and rehashing the trashiness, so our bar may be kinda low.)
Be a kid. Don’t try to grow up too fast. Enjoy the ride. High school, college… this is when you learn LIFE (and the book stuff) and you don’t get to do it over. If you want to apply to the University of Alaska, by God, do it!
Be fun. Be honest. Be helpful.
And find magic everywhere you go.