The other day I decided to count how many times I heard the dreaded phrase, “kids today” in conversations. My day began at the supermarket where I heard it as two younger moms passed. It was uttered as I waited on line at the library and again when I was pumping gas. I decided to stop counting since it wasn't even noon. It’s not really my belief that kids today are any worse than the kids of yesterday. Do today's teens really have the lock on rudeness, cursing, and typical teenage experimentation?
Most kids I see today are genuinely good kids living in a tough world. The day after my 16th birthday I went to the Sunrise Mall and was hired at the first place I applied. Was it that I was so much better than the kids today or was it that the economy hadn't tanked and we weren't pouring billions of dollars into two wars?
When I was 13, I was babysitting. My daughter took a babysitting course at the local library. Does anyone really call up their 13 year old neighbor anymore when they need a night out? No way! Most babysitters now are nannies who come through an agency or a ridiculous amount of referrals or let's not forget the nearby grandparents. I am guilty myself of admitting the horror I felt when considering leaving my kids with anyone short of Mary Poppins. A 13-year-old girl?! Never!
My kids bring home friends and while there have been a few who rubbed me the wrong way, most have been courteous, respectful and polite. I rarely have a kid get out of my car without thanking me for the ride. Yes, they love the gangsta look and I don't relish seeing what color boxers they're wearing that day, but is it any worse than the feather earrings I wore with my big hair or fluorescent eye shadow with the Flash Dance style shirts with the sleeve falling off and holes? And while I teach my kids that prospective employers look at piercings and tattoos and may think twice, I also teach them that there is a whole big world out there and that sometimes it’s the nerds and freaks that find real success.
Kids today like to do the same things that I remember doing growing up in Massapequa. Without condoning underage drinking or drug use, I will be honest enough to say that it was a part of my teenage experience and I was one of the so-called good kids coming from a respectable family. When did we go from warning of the dangers we're aware of to labeling every child who is curious as a juvenile delinquent?
Recently I received a call from a dad apologizing to me for going out one night. Apparently he never considered that his teenage son would invite some friends over and raid the liquor cabinet. This man felt he owed me an explanation for leaving his home to enjoy a night out with his wife. My son was not there that night but would believing he would have chosen to abstain be wishful thinking or would it mean I was viewing my parenting skills in a superior way to those who had a teen there or those with a teen who has experimented? This father was so appreciative that I didn't think he was the worst father in the world for having an unlocked bottle of liquor in his home that it made me wonder what the reaction was from the other parents.
I don't forget the parties I had as a teen when my parents enjoyed a night out. Those parties started out with just a few friends and ended up with most of Berner High squeezed into my house. The major difference being that my parents didn't have to worry about being arrested or sued because I tried to sneak something past them. And yes, I was one of the good kids.
Finally, I would like to say that kids today, seem to me, to be more active when it comes to volunteering and belonging to clubs. Kids today seem to have more of a social conscience than I remember having as a kid. Kids today live in a world that has 24 hour news, 24 hour videos, and 24 hour messages of sex and violence. Those are messages coming from the adult world. So is it really the kids today or just the world we're showing them? After all, parents have been complaining about choices in music, hair, as well as drugs and alcohol for generations. Let’s not forget that there was a time that we were, “these kids today.”