A Dad. A Son. A Comparison.

Posted January 12, 2012 by jimhigley

My teenage son regularly asks me if my high school experience was as stressful as his.

The short answer to that question is, “Not even close.”

But there’s a bigger answer out there. It’s an answer I’ve been noodling on since I’ve been the dad of teenagers for the last ten years or so. The truth is the teenage life I had – back in the seventies in a small midwestern town – was pretty simple. Sure, my world – like that of kids today – revolved around friends, school and socializing. But we also just goofed around. A lot. We didn’t have the internet, cable television or cell phones. We also didn’t live in a world of affluence, for the most part. Some kids got into trouble with bad choices they made with drinking or weed. But it wasn’t a huge issue. As far as college? Well, assuming you aspired to attend college, you pretty much just signed up and registered. We didn’t go through a “search” and we certainly didn’t lose sleep over the admission process.

I can honestly say I loved being a teenager.

A teen’s world today?

It’s done flip-flops and cartwheels compared to the one I knew. Obviously much of that is due to technology. The internet, cell phones, and now – smart phones – have put the world at our children’s fingertips. Information is only a few clicks away. That’s a good thing in many ways. But it’s also a complicated thing. Because when we have access to information, most of us get a compelling feeling that we need to act.

My son checks online about a college out east he’s curious about. He picks up a few facts and data. And suddenly he’s panicking about his class schedule. We see natural disasters occur – many times live  on our televisions or computers – and we become overcome with a desire to help. Again, some of these things are extraordinarily good. But they illustrate the demands placed on our shoulders by having easy access to information.

Technology makes it nearly impossible for many kids to get a break. When I was a 16-year-old who had a bad day, I’d go home, put some headphones on and listen to my favorite album until my dad called me down for dinner. Today, that same 16-year-old might toss on headphones and listen to music on their iPhone. But they also are checking Facebook and texting at the same time. They still are getting sucked into the drama of their life and their friends.

Breaks are good. They’re a necessity.

Truth is, I marvel at teens today. They’re bright. They’re focused. They’re knowledgeable. They’re socially aware and conscious. A teenage me would be only a glimmer when compared to most kids today.

I think the real concern I have won’t be known for years. It will be when our kids look back and reflect on their own teen years.

I hope they, too, will be able to say they loved them.