When I was a teenager, I made it my mission to be horrible. I was as contrary as possible, I challenged authority at every opportunity, I excelled in getting mediocre grades every year, ditched school when I had the chance, and I hung out past my curfew with inappropriate people – drinking liquor I did not like, trying drugs that made me feel weird, and having sex with my first boyfriend…and my second boyfriend…and my boyfriend’s best friend…and another guy that I went out with once. Basically, if I wasn’t causing my parents some sort of grief and contributing to the growth of their new gray hairs, I felt I was doing something wrong.
I now have four adult children who used to be teenagers some years ago – practically perfect teenagers. I kept waiting for one of them to start rebelling – but no one really did.
My oldest daughter once called me from Canada when she was nineteen years old to let me know she was having her first alcoholic drink. It wasn’t even a drunken, “I’m in a bar, drinking like a fish, picking up strange men in a foreign country to get back at you for being a crappy mom” type of call. She was there with a group from college for a mock trial thing – and since she was of legal drinking age in Canada, she thought it would be a hoot to try her first drink – and she called me, giggling, to let me know about this risqué behavior.
I kept offering to take my teenage daughters to the doctor to get on birth control – but no one ever took me up on it, because they all opted to say virgins in high school. I couldn’t understand it! I was pretty promiscuous when I was a teenager (well, by Mormon country standards) – and I figured that was pretty much normal teenage behavior. Who wouldn’t want to test drive a few cars before making a final purchase – if you know what I mean? When I started my job at the OB/GYN clinic, I had unlimited access to the brightly colored condoms they would hand out to patients– and I would take home by the handful and give to my teenage son…just in case. They are all still at my house, unused and in their wrappers. I may use them as decorations next time I have a party. I’ve found some great balloon crafts on Pinterest – I’m sure I can substitute condoms instead.
My kids didn’t do drugs, attend wild parties, stay out past curfew, or get into school fights. They all had great grade point averages and were adored by their teachers. My son, the baby of the family, did once try to set his pants on fire – while he was still wearing his pants – which resulted in a short school suspension. He also really preferred to play his X-box instead of doing his homework, but he still managed to get a scholarship to a great college and is now working in a field he loves and is highly respected by his peers.
Where did I screw up? My teenagers never even snuck out of the house at night. Really – what was wrong with these kids??
When I was a teenager, I rarely snuck out of my house, but that was because the dream house was about a million miles away from anywhere. If I had snuck out at night, it would have practically been daybreak before I could have hiked my way to a friend’s house. I could have frolicked naked in the alfalfa fields behind the house – but there were spiders and shit in that stuff! Literally, there was shit in that stuff — cows hung out in the field from time time. However, whenever I spent the night at a friend’s house, we always snuck out after the parental types had gone to bed. My best friends were twins. Shari was the good girl – she would have never considered sneaking out of the house on her own. Shona was a rebel like me – sneaking out after dark was just second nature to that one. Shari would protest when we pushed a chair over to the basement window and started to climb out of the house, but she always came along in the end. Probably just to make sure we didn’t kill ourselves or do anything more stupid than normal.
For several months, our destination of choice was a house a few blocks away. Some college boys lived there and they always welcomed us for drinks, weed and make-out sessions. I’m appalled at their behavior with underage girls now that I’m an adult – but at the time, I thought it was extremely cool to hang out with older men. Shari would usually sit awkwardly in the living room, disapproval radiating from every pore, but still trying to seem sophisticated and worldly as to impress the college boys.
One night, shortly after we arrived and sat down in the living room, Shari spied a new and interesting object on the coffee table. It was a tall, sparkling, and translucent – a slender tube of lavender glass with violet and indigo accents, curving gracefully down to the bulbous base. She picked it up in wonder and turned to the rest of us, asking, “What is this?” as she lifted the end of the tube to her eye to see what was inside.
I’m sure you can see what is coming – but Shari didn’t. Bong water gushed out of the tube, hitting her in the face and drenching her shirt and pants. She even got a mouthful of the stuff. Have you ever tasted bong water? It’s worse than the smell. And the smell! My God, it’s hideous. Shari froze in horror with the bong still clutched in her upraised hand. The rest of us stared in stunned amazement…for about five seconds…then we laughed and laughed. It probably didn’t help that we were a little drunk already.
Shari was mortified by the whole incident and it took a few months for her to forgive Shona and me. We also didn’t do much sneaking out after that as the college boys declined to invite us back once they realized their couch had been ruined. We resorted to mournfully watching them as they drove past in the mornings while we waited on the corner for the school bus.
Despite my rebellion, I managed to grow up and become a fairly responsible adult. My teenagers did too, despite being practically perfect. So, maybe it doesn’t matter so much in the end if teenagers are “good” or “bad”.
What do you think? Were you a good kid or a rebel? Do you think the way you acted in your teens impacted the adult you became? If you had to live your teens over again — would you do it differently?