Teens and Pre-teens

caution teenagersI have a special place in my heart for teens and pre-teens. I know a lot of adults don’t. But I think that’s just because we’ve forgotten what it is like to be that age. Whether it’s like the pain of childbirth, where new mothers forget as soon as they look into their children’s faces, or if it is a self-preservation tactic, I don’t know. We walk through the world, just as generations before us, bemoaning the antics of “those teenagers today,” and declaring that that was not how things were in our day, and we’d never have behaved that way.

Every generation does it to the next, and one after. There is some universal rule about this. Adults who were children in the fifties talk about how today’s kids are out of control and running wild. But how many songs play on the oldies station about teenagers disobeying parents and dating Johnny, that biker lad, or, heaven forbid, getting the T-Bird taken away? If you want more assurance of this habit, read opinion columns from 1920s newspapers, where adults brought up at the end of the Victorian era despair over flappers and the underground drinking clubs that prohibition had encouraged. Those byproducts of a more reserved time seemed to forget that everything vaguely associated with vice was available in red light districts or in back parlor rooms, just out of sight, and therefore away from scrutiny.

Shakespeare himself had a teenage shotgun wedding after impregnating his (older) girlfriend, Anne Hathaway (yes, that’s really her name). In fact, during that period of English history, one third of marriages were  due to pregnancy. So much for a more civilized time.

And if you want to preserve your sensibilities, please don’t go looking for texts from the medieval period in European history. The vibrant inks of illuminated texts have provided stylized views of religion and the learned individuals of the time. They pop up in calendars and artbooks until this day. They are true works of art. Just don’t look in the margins of those books where you will see vulgar images involving fat men and dragons, women plucking penises like pears from a tree, and scribblings ranging from cheeky to disturbing. Somewhere, fifteen hundred years ago, a young scribe was cuffed around the ears for drawing a monk with a giant phallus in a book about herbal remedies. Somehow, I don’t think that teenagers had a better work ethic at any point in history than they do today, either.

In a quote attributed to Cicero, who lived in the century before Christ, he is said to bemoan how children don’t listen to parents and how everyone is now writing a book. There is nothing new under the sun.

Teens running around the library and making noise aren’t new. We just hush them less. I remember being terrified of the librarians (and even the library aids) at the large marble palace of knowledge that was The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It kept me from asking them questions, or having anything resembling a relationship with them that would let me bother them about stuff I was just curious about. If I couldn’t find it, I obviously didn’t need it, because man, those librarians were terrifying. And I remember myself being a fairly good teenager. Which may or may not have been true. We all look at ourselves and our pasts through rose colored glasses.

And when these young adults come back in fifteen or twenty years with their own children, they will marvel at how the books have gotten more ‘adult’ in subject matter, how I let them get away with everything just shy of running, shouting, and actual murder. Their grandparents will shake their heads and and tell their own adult children that they were much better behaved than the children of today. They would have never been allowed to get away with it, you see.

I’ll nod, then. I’ll pretend like I don’t know the secret no one talks about: we were all rowdy and emotionally confused. That when we were that age, our amygdalas, that control our primal impulses, were more more matured than our frontal lobes, the place where sound judgement resides. We were all physiologically predisposed to making poor decisions. I’ll tell the truth, though: the kids of today have their acts together far better than I did. I couldn’t remember a pencil for class from seventh through twelfth grade (and well into college) and if I had one, I couldn’t hold onto it from one class to the next. I had a dozen other “issues” that made me less than the ideal child and at home. If a kid is asking me for a pencil to finish their homework, they are far ahead of me, when I was their age. And I think I have turned into a moderately respectable adult.

Just don’t come into my office  and see the enormous toy collection I’m hoarding there; your opinion of me will quickly change.

And a friendly reminder: summer reading runs through July 3rd, including activities for young adults, like our Fandom Free-For-All next Saturday, and our big RP/board/video gaming day. Walk fast, don’t run.