“‘Kids These Days.’
Have you heard this phrase? Have you looked at a group of young people, all holding their phones in one hand—vape in the other—and thought…kids these days? Chances are, you have. If you haven’t, perhaps you are still a kid yourself…
Or, you are someone who understands what has happened to our kids.
I’m going to do something a little different today. Without naming names and calling them out, I am going to tell you about 4 different kids I have had the pleasure of knowing, loving, or mentoring. Then, I’m going to tell you why I NEVER think or say ‘kids these days’ with a look of disgust or disdain on my face.
The first kid I want to highlight, yes that’s right, highlight, just turned 16 and is perhaps one of the strongest, sweetest, most inspiring—albeit goofiest kids I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She is tall, beautiful, and currently…bald. This kid was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 4. She has lived her life a bit differently because of that diagnosis. She is always checking and rechecking sugar levels, reading labels on food, and injecting insulin into her body. In her early teens, her family lost everything in a house fire. After this, shortly after in the grand scheme of things, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Yeah—you read that right. Cancer. At 15. Everything I have just said about this girl is startling, to say the least…but, knowing her, these things are not what sticks out to me. What sticks out to me is her humility. What stands out to me is she ALWAYS has questions upon questions. She is a bit of a frazzled mess at times, but she is a BEAUTIFUL mess, inside and out. This kid is gorgeous. She is curious and precious. She has boldly lived her life for her God. She is a testament as to what a true believer in the Word of God is. She is lovely! Is she perfect? If you ask her mom, I’m positive you would get an emphatic NO! She messes up. She is normal, which is funny because everything I have told you about her seems quite abnormal…no? And, maybe that is the most impressive thing about her.
The next ‘kid’ just started college, which makes her technically an adult, I suppose, but a kid to me, nonetheless. This young woman perhaps is the definition of the all-American teenage girl. She is often looking at her phone. She was a cheerleader in high school. She played sports, held a class office, planned proms, went on spring breaks, hung out with her friends every weekend, maintained an A average, and worked at an ice cream joint int he summers. Seriously, this kid defined high school in America! Did I mention she is adorable? She is. Here’s the thing, if you only look at her on the surface, these are all the things you would see. The things that many people think make her who she is. However, if you take the time to get to know her, you find out she is often having anxiety about something totally off the wall. You find out she is worried about her future, and she cares about every single person in her life to a fault…often putting others ahead of herself. You find out she loves deeply and forms bonds with people who she can trust to keep her safe. You find out she is one of the hardest workers in the world. Seriously, this kid will work until her fingers bleed. You find out she will stop at nothing to get where she wants to go in life, but she isn’t quite sure where that is yet. You find she questions her faith continually because she is forever trying to reconcile what she knows to be true with what the world tells her is the truth. Layers—this one has layers—and they are all awesome and unique.
Next, I want to tell you about a very angry kid…so it seemed. I met him as he slammed his books down on the desk in my classroom and basically yelled at me before knowing me. Call me crazy, but I immediately liked him. This kid was a challenge. He was a mess…an absolute mess. He was misbehaved, had a reputation as a bad kid (these are often the kids with the best personalities and most potential), and he didn’t exactly make the best first impression. However, this was a kid who had reasons for the anger. He had anxiety his teenage brain couldn’t quite make sense of or process. He feared being misunderstood and pushed people away to make sure it wouldn’t hurt when they judged him. But, he was just looking for a few people who understood him and knew what it was like to walk in his shoes—a few people to look at him for who he really was and not just what he presented to others. Of course, I asked him a million questions and presented him with a million more small tasks to complete, so he decipher a few things while I figured him out as best I could. Turns out, this kid has a wonderful personality. He is smart and kind. He is helpful and funny. Does he always give this image off from the jump? Nope. NOT. AT. ALL. If you want to see it, you must find it.
Finally, I’m going to tell you about a young lady I have known her whole life. She spent most of her teens super worried about what other people thought because she was bullied in grade school. She was terrified of messing up and worked her butt off to always do what was right in school…in life…in everything. She often put up walls to protect herself from being hurt, big walls. In high school, she found herself in some scary situations, including one where she was sexually assaulted at a party. She developed an eating disorder and lost 60 pounds in one year…leaving her at a scary low weight. She sought the approval of her peers by putting herself through hell to get it and she suffered with TERRIBLE anxiety caused by genetics and the frail world she was trying to create around her. A world of perfection so she couldn’t be judged or bullied, but she still was. It wasn’t until she was a senior that she decided she would no longer cater to the opinions of others. At this time, she started dating someone her parents did not approve of and found herself in more than one questionable situation. However, she started to find herself in that relationship, ended it with him, and started dating her husband at the age of 19—which was her family’s worst nightmare—for her to be engaged and married so young—but she knew it was right.
So…I have a confession, that last kid…was me. It’s funny because, if you read about the first 3 kids, the 4th embodies qualities from each. My point? Kids these days are no different than kids those days. In fact, from what I have experienced:
THEY ARE BETTER.
Kids these days don’t just have to worry about being bullied at school like I was in grade school. They must face being bullied at home through text or the internet.
Kids these days have a CONSTANT pressure to be perfect because, no matter where they are, they face the possibility of someone recording their actions and making it a meme. How horrible is that?!
So many kids these days are raising themselves because their parents are busy trying to stay afloat financially because everything has become so expensive.
Kids these days are not just offered drugs at parties on the weekends but in the halls and bathrooms of their school.
Kids these days are receiving A.L.I.C.E. training because people are being killed IN THEIR SCHOOLS—a place that used to be safe.
Kids these days aren’t eating in the evenings or on the weekends because their parents can’t afford to feed them.
Kids these days have the pressure of knowing college is 10 times more expensive than it used to be, and their parents likely can’t afford it because they are still paying on their own college debt.
Kids these days are losing their parents emotionally and even physically to addiction. What’s even scarier: they are losing themselves to the same.
Kids these days aren’t always being told the truth. They are having to find it for themselves.
Kids these days are held to totally unrealistic standards physically, looking 21 at 12 because that is what keeps them from being made fun of.
Kids these days are heartbroken and terrified because of the situations going on around them.
Kids these days…are awesome, but misunderstood. They are honest and real, yet called fake. They are stronger than you think, yet scared to death daily. They are helpful and kind, yet assumed to be spoiled.
They are fighting to get something back they never actually had because it was robbed from them, yet they keep fighting. Daily.
They are hiding behind the phones FOR A REASON.
The next time your brain wants to pop off a ‘Kids these days,’ I urge you to think twice. Instead, get to know one of those ‘kids.’ See if you, as an adult, can positively contribute to their lives by showing them there are still people out there who care. If you’re rejected at first, dig a little deeper.
How are they going to learn to be the adults and leaders of tomorrow if we don’t give them the time, attention, and chance today?”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jenny Dale Zirkle. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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