Every year, at least one news source releases a list of everything that the latest class of incoming college freshmen have never experienced. The articles are often written under the guise of reminding professors that they are teaching to a group of students whose life perspective is completely different from theirs.
That’s the “supposed” reason for the release of these articles.
I think they are really intended to remind people like me how old we are.
Generally, I can feel old without being told that River Phoenix died before this year’s college freshmen were born, that Ferris Bueller would be old enough to be their father or that they have always been able to download music from the internet.
I don’t need the news stories because I have teenagers who constantly remind me that, if I were a car, I’d be a categorized as a “classic.”
Despite my best efforts to be hip, my kids let me know that just using that word dates me. To them, hips are a part of a body and the word “cool” is to describe something that is getting cold. They deem things they like as “chill.”
And while “chill” has yet to make it into my vocabulary, I feel fortunate to even understanding what my kids are saying when they use that word. At least it is a word.
Much of what they communicate is in a code that grew out of their love of text messaging. I once thought I was keeping up with the times (I actually did Laugh Out Loud when my former boss, a retired Army Colonel, expressed confusion that a male colleague was responding to his emails with Lots Of Love), but those days are over.
Now, I find myself constantly googling random groups of letters that mean something to my kids and their friends.
But there are many things that I can’t Google – like the nuances of the high school culture in which my kids spend most of their waking hours.
When I was in high school, there were only two options for attending the homecoming dance. The first was that you went with your significant other, and that significant had to be a member of the opposite sex. Thankfully, that tradition has been kicked out the door and down the street. People can go as best friends, as same-sex couples or by themselves. That’s cool, or uh, make that “chill.”
Also back in my day, if you didn’t have a significant other, you hoped that someone (always a member of the opposite sex) would ask you to the dance. If not, you knew you were destined to sit at home on the night of the dance watching the latest episodes of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.
Now that no one has to have a date to the homecoming dance and students can attend with whomever they like, I thought the issue of the homecoming dance is a simple one. You either go or you don’t go.
I was wrong.
Asking someone to the homecoming dance now requires a creative and/or romantic proposal that is social media worthy. This is even more critical when you are already dating someone – the ask has to be huge.
If you don’t have teenagers in your life or you’re not keeping an eye on Instagram, you haven’t had to endure the onslaught of photos showing just how creative adolescents can be regarding the “big ask.” The whole trend makes me roll my eyes. On one hand, it’s cute. On the other hand, it’s completely ridiculous.
But then, most of our most treasured memories grow out of ridiculous moments.
I may be old (according to my kids) and I may have a great deal of life experience (according to the annual list about the experiences of college freshmen), but I am still young enough to appreciate the need to seek joy wherever we can find it.
So much of life doesn’t follow the script we attempt to write for ourselves. Life can be complicated and disappointing, and teenagers today understand this more than my generation ever did. They have to because the world is literally at their fingertips
But instead of simply accepting that life can be difficult, they are finding ways to enjoy it whenever and however possible.
If that means making a big deal out of asking someone to a dance, then I shouldn’t roll my eyes.
Instead, I should be using my eyes for something else – looking at the list of all things my kids have never experienced from a different angle.
I shouldn’t be seeing how old I am and how young they are. Instead, I should be looking at all of the possibilities my children still have in front of them. Even more importantly, I should be looking at all the opportunities they have to make their dance through this life as joyous and memorable as they want it to be.
But I have no doubt some of their worries were directly related to they way I decorated my room. I didn’t have a room indicative of teenage rebellion or angst. My room was decorated with balloons and items featuring balloons.
The obsession might have appeared to be a bit juvenile to those who didn’t know “the code.”
“The code” was born when friends and I were volunteering at a booth at a summer fair. We had the task of filling balloons with helium, tying them with strings and handing them to children.
Part of our motivation for volunteering was the opportunity to watch teenage boys. At some point during our volunteer work, we decided that our code word for a good-looking guy was “balloon” and that a good-looking guy with a girlfriend was a “balloon with a string.”
The code stuck, and for at least a year, we thought we were clever. And I thought I was even more clever for decorating my room with balloons.
In retrospect, I don’t think the concept was all that clever. But my memory of those balloons always makes me smile.
Day 104: Sharing a Secret Language
Day 101: When Siblings Agree Day 100: Being Optimistic Day 99: Trying Something New Day 98: The Sound of Children on a Playground Day 97: Good Advice Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy Day 95: The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94: Accepting Change Day 93: True Love Day 92: Camera Phones Day 91: Bicycle Brakes Day 90: Heroes Day 89: The Cricket in Times Square Day 88: The Grand Canyon Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human Day 84: Captain Underpants Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Day 80: The Outsiders Day 79: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day 77: People Who Touch Our Lives Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting Day 75: Improvements Day 74: Family Traditions Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 72: Live Music Day 71: Sleeping In Day 70: Grover Day 69: A Good Hair Day Day 68: A Sense of Community Day 67: Kindness Day 66: Living in a Place You Love Day 65: Gifts from the Heart Day 64: The Arrival of Fall Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green Lights Day 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s Victory Day 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His Masculinity Day 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of Hay Day 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still Remember Day 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessons Day 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street