Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Kids Are Alright

I got a chance to teach the teenage girls at church today and between that experience and being with the five year olds a few months ago, I'm pretty convinced that the key to getting young folks on your side is sparkly jewelry.

Earlier this week a woman from my congregation called to see if I would fill in for her with the 16-17 year old girls she teaches. I was thrilled. I really miss teaching at church-it's a calling I used to get a lot when I was in singles wards and it's always been something that helped keep important stuff rattling around in my brain for longer than just three hours on Sunday. And I like teenagers.

I should clarify-I like the idea of teenagers. Outside of my nephews and the odd outing with a married friend, my life rarely brings me in contact with anyone younger than about 23. So in theory I feel like I would get along with teens but then last night at about 11:30 as I was finishing up my lesson I was suddenly terrified. What if they just sit there and stare at me with the "I'm too cool for this" expressions that half the girls I grew going to church with were super good at? What if they played with their phones while I was trying to say something meaningful (which I am so guilty of doing in our big meetings)? But most terrifying to me-what if a single 34 year old woman is the personification of everything a nice teenage mormon girl is afraid of? Are they going to write me off as a sad spinster? I so rarely get stressed out these days about what other people will think of my life but suddenly the thought of standing up in front of a bunch of high school kids made me feel exactly like an insecure freshman.

So I did what any rational adult would do and I ran over to the grocery store and bought chocolate. And then this morning I made sure to wear something extra sassy and a pair of red high heels for good measure.

It turns out I only had three girls in my class and two of then were visitors. It also turns out that it's not just a theory, I really do like teenagers. The three of them were so darling and paid attention and were willing to participate. We had a nice lesson and then visited a little bit afterwards about their lives and they asked me questions about my job and very adorably mentioned their aunts and uncles who were older and not married and were really cool. It was such a sweet thing for them to pick up on. And they LOVED my earrings. Just like those little five year olds couldn't get enough of my ring a few months ago.

All afternoon I have been thinking about those girls and how being a parent of teenagers much be so challenging. I don't think any of the girls in my class were probably in line for Homecoming Queen. They were fairly shy and quiet and just a touch awkward. And I can imagine that you want to say all the thing to your daughter who doesn't get asked to the dance that adults said to me about college being better and teenage boys being sort of dumb and that it's better to be a good adult than a popular teenager. All of those things turned out to be 100% true and all of those things sounded 100% stupid and unhelpful when I was 16. But I'm awfully glad that there were plenty of people in my life at the time who said it anyway. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility today to use my forty-five minutes to be one of those voices for these girls.

I'll be stocking up on candy and jewelry for my next substitute experience.


H. Brown said...

i know for a fact that they were completely in awe of you and THRILLED that you were their sub. take it from a girl who spent six years standing in front of 30 teenagers at once, five times a day. isn't it a rush? i love them. we love them. it's not just a theory. you are awesome! keep saying the things that need to be said.

Katie said...

I've found that the young women I teach every week LOVE to get personal attention from an adult who isn't their parent.

They eat it up like hungry little birds.

Kelly said...

Katie, as a YW President, I would snap you up in an instant to teach our girls! I used to adore your RS lessons, and I know you would be an amazing influence on the girls. Plus, you're super fun, and sometimes I feel like maybe as a YW presidency we're a bit on the serious side.

Hmm... Any chance you could telecomute from Providence?

I so love what you wrote. Our girls struggle with So. Many. Challenges. I love the times when they feel comfortable enough to talk with us about what is going on in their lives and to ask us the hard questions.

tara said...

I'm glad that it went well! I get nervous teaching the mothers, so I can only imagine how scary it would be to teach their offspring. P.S. I hope I'm not one of the awkward married friends :)

k8 said...

ha! tara, i re-read that paragraph and i realize it makes it sound like encounters with married friends are odd...i really meant that it's not often i do stuff with people who have kids. heh heh.