Today’s Kids — I Love Them!

It’s that time of the year, when you hear of graduations, see the excitement of young faces and read of their stories in the media. A new chapter is beginning in their young lives and they’re being launched out in the world.

Some have plans and others will figure it out as they go. For my eldest daughter, it was to be a Registered Nurse and, for my youngest, it was to be an author and self-employed entrepreneur building keepsake trunks.

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Times have dramatically changed now growing up as a teenager, when for me it was the ’60’s and then much later for our daughters. I can still relate to the spontaneous fun and hanging out with friends. There’s no other time like it. 

teenagers

Teenagers Photo by Petra — Courtesy of PhotoDropper

Every generation is scrutinized and may get its share of bad rap when it comes to what they’ll contribute to society. The youth represent the hopes and dreams of the future. How will they protect us and where will they lead us as a country?

For my generation, we were labeled as rebellious and disrespectful; now, some may say the kids today are troubled and entitled. But, I would beg to differ in being quick to judge our youth when drawing on some of my own conclusions from the memories and experiences with our teenage daughters.

Below are a couple of examples on what the youth are about today. From this, I suspect not much has changed from what I learned many years ago from an earlier generation.

Kids are hard to fool — hungry for truth and that which is genuine. I’ve always wanted to write about teenagers and today’s youth. I was reminded of that, as thoughts were rekindled a couple of weeks ago, when I saw this piece on CBS’ Sunday Morning called “Author John Green and his awesome fans”.

They were interviewing John Green, who wrote a book they say today’s younger generation know about. Ask any young person, if they know him, and they’ll say they do. I never heard of him but I’ve seen the TV previews of a new movie based on a book he wrote called, “The Fault In Our Stars”. It exemplifies what’s important to our teens today.

Another piece that aired on the national news was about a teen showing love for his brother by walking 40 miles carrying him on his back. It was to help raise awareness on the needs of cerebral palsy.

These days, as a grandmother, I’m on the fringe and it’s our daughters and their husbands raising children. It is so easy to lose touch and make quick judgments when you’re not the ones on the front line involved in kids’ everyday lives and their world.

I get concerned when I hear about troubled teens, bullying and school shootings and wrote a story about it (“Calling All Angels“), when it hit close to home a couple of years ago on the Colorado theater shootings. Our grandson had a fellow classmate killed.

It’s different in the lives of today’s youth and what they experience as kids. It shouldn’t have to be that way for the youth of any generation but it is that way too often. They’re not being drafted, plucked out of their homes and flown across the world to fight in Vietnam. Instead, they’re fighting every day in their communities, schools and sometimes their homes.

When I hear of those that rise above it with courage and compassion, I want to pump my fist and shout, “Yes” — that’s what I’m talking about. I know what these kids can do.

Years ago, when our daughters were teenagers, I was privileged to enter and become a part of their world, as a chaperone, for what turned out to be several years at many 4-H retreats and camps. Like what seems too often, there was a shortage of chaperones for a new Youth Fest 4-H camp they were launching just for 11-to-13 year olds.

I volunteered and little did I know what I was about to experience. As a kid, I had only been on one, week-long, church camp and couldn’t wait to get home. In fact, if my parents had a phone I would have called and pleaded for them to come get me right away. I hated the experience, so I don’t know why I was choosing to camp again many years later as an adult. I’m glad I did and this time for only a weekend.

There we were — me and my daughters. This was to be my youngest daughter’s first camp, squeaking in at 11 — both were thrilled. There were boys! When we arrived Friday night, it was chaos. It turned out there were around 200+ kids with their pillows, backpacks and parents, attempting to register.

It was amazing how quickly things got sorted out and everyone settled in after having said their goodbye’s to their parents. Only this time, I wasn’t one of those leaving and I was happy to see a few other adult chaperones mingled among the giddy, giggling young people.

I remember there was one set of parents that were the last to leave. Their son was eleven and blind and it was his first time away from home without them. Understandably, Porter’s parents seemed a bit apprehensive in spite of the assurances of 4-H adult counselors. But, as the evening program progressed, they were more comfortable with how competent the teenage camp leaders were in taking charge and running things smoothly.

I was amazed, too, in seeing how well organized it was with over 200 kids and how responsive they were to these young leaders, especially Stacey, their 4-H President. At first glance, he surely wasn’t the typical teenager with his offbeat, personal preferences of hair and clothing. It was his magnetic personality and high-energy that was endearing along with his compassion with other kids.

He was the real deal and the kids loved him as well as his 4-H team — Derrick and Brenda. I had never seen another kid have that much influence on young people as well as the adults. My eyes were opened to the potential of youth when given the chance to learn by doing instead of the adults always running the show.

These kids were out of their element of school and friends and placed in a new arena of peers. It was interesting to watch it unfold over the weekend. Those that were once confident were now treading water, watching for what to do and how to act. Others that were more reclusive were feeling safe and coming out of their shells.

Everyone was on the same leveled playing field. All were accepted and treated the same and all had to follow the rules, no exceptions. When one of the leaders addressed a camper to correct them on a rule they broke, it was never challenged. I saw peer pressure in action at its highest positive form.

One example, I remember, was with my youngest daughter. She was never an early riser and I always had trouble in the mornings getting her up and going. The first morning of camp, there was a schedule to follow with breakfast and workshops to attend.

As usual, she was dragging and falling behind in time until Brenda came in and called her out on it and told her, in no uncertain terms, to get herself together and be downstairs. I never saw her move so fast and be glad to do it. After camp, she followed suit and I never had problems with her again.

Over the weekend, wherever Porter needed help in maneuvering his new surroundings there was always another kid ready to jump in right beside him. He never lacked in adding his contributions to the workshops and crafts.

In fact, I can still remember that Sunday, the last day of camp, and the feelings of how close we had become in such a short time — kids and adults. The parents were beginning to arrive and we were all assembled in the lodge hall. Some were sitting in chairs and the rest were standing by the wall around the room.

Stacey and his team were taking turns highlighting the events of the weekend and giving their praises for how well everyone had done. It was also a sharing time for the kids, as well. Hearts were touched in everyone on some level and tears started to fall.  You got a strong sense that no one wanted it to end.

Then, Porter’s parents announced that he had written a song and wanted to sing and perform it for them. So, Porter was guided to the piano and sang his song. There was not a dry eye in the building and it was a gift of sweet, pure love. I can’t remember too many times in my lifetime that I’ve ever experienced that type of collective love.

Our daughters went on to lead workshops and work closely with the 4-H teams over the years. I could see the challenges they went through at school fitting in and catching heat over challenging decisions they had to make. It was hard but these camps were life savers for them allowing them space to explore and be accepted for who they are.

When I’m with my grandchildren and see youth on TV, I can see the torch has been passed in some form. I can feel the return of love and warmth in my heart knowing that many of our youth have it together and will be there to help others along their way like they did for us so many years ago in 4-H camp.

Pat from the ol’ kitchen table

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24 thoughts on “Today’s Kids — I Love Them!

    • There certainly are, Joanne, and it’s always nice to be reminded of how great they are. Thank you for stopping by. I always love your visits. 🙂

    • Thank you, Patricia. I’m glad you enjoyed this read. It was important for me to share and I remember the experiences so well. They are beautiful kids. 🙂

  1. Pat this is a really powerful post. You’re so right in that every teenage generation is denigrated for something, no matter what the times and what the state of the world. And yet, again, you’re right, they are all unique and all have something to offer. And they’ll grow up to be the adults we are – all unique and all with something to offer. Thanks for sharing this Pat.

    • Thank you, Andrea. I’m glad it connected with you and was important for me to share. There is something special that happens when you become part of their world as an adult and trusted to interact and work together with them side-by-side. I loved it. 🙂

    • Ditto on pretty amazing, Bethany, I know you would relate to this in working with teenagers so closely. You’ve seen it all — the highs and lows. My setting was quite different but there were times when it gave me an opportunity to just listen and hug.

      I think they taught me more by their resilience and innocence and I can see why you love your job. I was honored to have had those opportunities and can still feel the love in my heart for these kids where ever they are today. 🙂

  2. this is a wonderful piece. It is so easy to say “ach, today’s youth have no ____” but it\s so untrue! I do karate and our Shihan (master) is always pointing this out (he’s my age-50) saying that today’s youth are worthy and smart and very capable.

    • Thank you, Dale, I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s true we may be quick to judge today’s youth by the things we see on TV but you soon find how distorted that information is when you work with them. Their ideas are fresh and they’re quite capable of leading the charge much better than we in many ways. We just have to trust in them and allow them to do it. 🙂

  3. I’m so with you Pat. We didn’t do 4H but I was a cub scout leader and saw both my boys all the way through to Boy Scouts, my eldest to Eagle Scout. I too saw firsthand how these young people helped one another and gained valuable life-skills. The pressures on young people today are horrendous, they can’t escape the bullying and the pressure like we could because of social media. I do think the young are unfairly maligned and judged way too quickly. You can be so proud of your two beautiful, successful daughters. You did a great job Pat and you are still carrying the beacon with your grandsons. Your influence, love and values are living in them and will continue to do so all their lives. I loved this post and reading about your adventures and the good that was out there and still is. Thank you so much my friend for sharing this very important message. <3

    • Oh Wow, Sherri, I didn’t know you were a cub scout leader. I can see where you could relate in many ways. My role was much different in that I was more on the sidelines and not acting as a leader. In fact, in these 4-H camps and retreats, the adults only counseled if the 4-H camp leaders ran into a snag and needed to draw on adult authority and direction. They created the programs and ran the show. It was beautiful to watch it unfold and how they worked through it all.

      I know it was a life saver for my girls when they were struggling with school and peer pressure. It gave them a safe place where they felt appreciated and accepted for who they are. I learned so much and was so thankful to be a part of it. 🙂

      • 4H is a wonderful activity. When we moved out to more rural California a lot of the kids were in it and it was great to go to the mid-state fair and see them all with their animals! So I really did love your post and how it helped your girls.
        I was a cub scout leader for a couple of years because my younger son’s troop was in danger of ending. I was crazy to take it on as I had no idea what I was doing but in the end I really enjoyed it and it kept my boy in cubs until he went on to Boy Scouts. At that point, I just let the others do it but I used to sit on the committee meetings as the secretary and type out the minutes!!! Ahh…those were the days, eh? 😉

        Have a lovely, blessed day my friend 😎 <3

        • I can relate, Sherri, volunteering to keep these good programs alive. They’re a lot of work but, oh, so worth it and truly satisfying to see what the kids get from it. I’ve done some of that stuff, too, sit in meetings and take minutes or serve as treasurer — ahh. Those were the days and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love learning, more and more, how much we have in common. Have a great Tuesday, my friend. 🙂

  4. I have seen in recently that our youth are becoming more involved in our communities. My friend’s son is involved in many community organizations that help special needs children at his school. He himself is special needs but really wants to make special needs more acceptable. 🙂

    • Thank you, Susan, I’m glad to hear that the youth are becoming more involved in the communities. It seems like a young person can have more influence on the young kids being close to how they feel and think, and Wow, your friend’s son helping with special needs children. How sweet is that?

      It’s like that video piece I included where the brother walked 40 miles carrying his brother. He was trying to raise awareness for cerebral palsy and their needs — maybe, some engineer would see it and design a better walker so the kids can get onto the playgrounds better. What a fantastic idea and the kids are doing it — I love it! 🙂

  5. Kids today are much more worldly than we were at their age. I love their honesty and their openness to new ideas. I have a lot of faith in the generations coming up, especially those born 2000 and on.

    • They are, Bev, more worldly and have easy access to so much information. It seems to bring the world closer. But, what comes with it is a lot of responsibility and pressure. I think that’s hard on some kids. I’m with you and have a lot of faith in these kids and future generations. They’re figuring it out and hopefully will continue to have the love and support they need to move forward. 🙂

  6. Great post Pat and I so much agree. Our youth of today is so much more involved not only locally but globally as well, whether it be community work or environmental projects and innovations. I have the outmost trust in future generations and hope they will get the support (of us) they need to accomplish whatever it is they were born for.

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