Tomorrow I turn 50. I was 14 the year my dad turned 50, and I remember teasing him about being half a century old! I don’t feel much older today than I did then.
But I’ve changed in at least one major way: 25 years ago I wanted nothing to do with junior highers. My husband and I were youth counselors at our church, and I would say, “Give me the high school kids, but keep those junior high kids away from me. Especially the boys!”
The boys in my 8th grade boys’ composition class would be shocked to hear that. “But you love us, Mrs. Acuna!” they would protest. And they would be right. Though sometimes they drive me crazy, I do love this age group – the boys and the girls. I find the workings of their minds fascinating, and their sense of humor an absolute joy (or absolutely disgusting, depending on the moment).
So what changed? Having kids of my own helped, but so did learning about the workings of the teen-aged brain and heart. Through listening to teens, observing their interactions and reactions, reading lots of literature, attending workshops, and lots of trial and error, I like to think I’ve gained a good understanding of who they are and why they do what they do. I’ve certainly gained a huge appreciation of the struggles they face as they plow on through the storms of adolescence.
It’s become my mission to share what I know with parents and anybody else who spends time with teens. I sometimes wonder if 50 isn’t too old to be teaching about teenagers (not to mention actually teaching teenagers!). But when I stop to think about it, I realize it’s only been through years of experience that I’ve learned what I have. So I’m going to keep pushing on, with a goal of improving adult/teen relationships through increased understanding.
I can’t promise, however, that I’ll still be doing this when I turn 70.