Right now my husband and I are on almost completely opposite schedules. He leaves the house at 6:00 every morning to commute into work, spends his day trying to help a bunch of eighth graders understand the Pythagorean Theorem – while deftly avoiding questions about why they need to know it and if they’ll ever use it in real life – and then comes home to hang with the family, help shuttle kidlets to sports and church stuff, and also fit in time to work at his online tutoring job.
Oh, and he’s working on getting his Master’s degree, too.
So by the time 10:00 PM rolls around, he’s exhausted. Exhausted to the point of falling asleep mid-sentence.
I, on the other hand, have a much different schedule.
I work 100% from home – meaning no early alarms and no commute. I homeschool our kids, take care of the house, and write. I do work hard – and he knows and appreciates this – but at the end of the day I do not have the sheer exhaustion that he has. So when 10:00 comes around, and he falls asleep, I do my own thing.
Sometimes I work and sometimes I read.
But lately I have been using that time in the most valuable way possible: watching teen dramas on Netflix or Hulu.
Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls – they all pop up on my list of recently watched items. The other night my husband heard the intro to 90210, woke up and said, “Yep, there it is.”
He promptly rolled over and went back to sleep.
There is something that I have noticed that all of these shows have in common (aside from the obvious). In every series there is a storyline that revolves around the girl catching the attention and heart of the “bad” boy. Whether it’s Kelly and Dylan, Joey and Pacey, or Rory and Jess, all of the relationships involve the boy that somehow learns to love. The girl has been able to reach his heart in a way that no one else ever really has.
There is something so captivating, so compelling, so delightful in her that he is willing to change his ways and open his heart.
And it leads to true love. Or a boat called True Love…
And it’s not just the dramas that do it. Even on Friends we saw Rachel capable of making Joey have feelings. Joey, who does not share food. Joey, who climbed into a cabinet. Joey, who had an endless parade of women coming in and out of his bedroom. That Joey fell in love.
And, actually, it isn’t even always romantic love that we see played out. Isn’t one of the most compelling things about the Blacklist the fact that a vile criminal, with seemingly no regard for human life, can do incredible and selfless things, all for the love of his daughter? (Or his not-daughter? It’s not exactly clear, but that’s beside the point.)
Whether we want to admit it or not, those story lines get right to the heart of what we desire: We want to be loved. We want to see love.
We want to be capable of inspiring others to love.
I have worked with teenagers for nearly 20 years now, and in that time I have seen a lot of things change, and I have also seen very little change.
The technology and methods of communicating with each other is obviously vastly different than it used to be, but the things that are being communicated have not changed.
Attraction, desire, insecurity.
Love, admiration, fear.
Those have not changed.
Sure, the terms have changed. Going steady, going out, dating, seeing each other, hooking up, in a relationship… the words are different but the scenarios are the same.
People looking for love. Affection.
People wanting to be wanted.
People wanting to know that they are accepted and that they belong.
I hear the arguments that teenagers are so much worse than they used to be and the moral compass of our nation is gone.
I don’t know.
But what I do know, though, is that teenagers want to know they are loved.
Just like adults do.
They want to know that they matter. They want to know that someone thinks that they are worth it.
Just like adults do.
So here is my challenge to you: find a way to let the teens in your world know that they matter. Find a way to let them know they are loved.
Find a way to let them know that they are worth it.
Because they are.
And they deserve to know it.
Just like adults do.
See you soon.