Confession #62: I Don’t Like Teenagers
I’ve recently discovered something: I don’t’ like teenagers. This is probably a bad thing, considering I work with them. So maybe I ought to explain myself a little further…
There are 5 reasons I don’t like teenagers. More particularly, there are 5 reasons why I don’t like working with teenagers.
1. I don’t like teenagers because they call you out when you are in the wrong. Working with 17 teenagers is like working with 17 mirrors that constantly talk. When you don’t follow through on something, they hold you accountable. When you don’t have a good attitude, they will be the first ones to tell you to shape up. And when you haven’t been the best friend, boy, will they ever let you have it! In other words, when you work with teenagers you have to be real…all the time. You have to be vulnerable and you have some thick skin in order to endure the some times daily constructive criticisms. It can be rough and can lead to many tears, but in the end, working with teenagers can honestly refine you and make you a better person. This is why I don’t like teenagers- because they are constantly reminding me of my flaws. Instead, I love teenagers, because although their constant reflections can sometimes be hard to hear, they are real, raw, and truthful, and they are daily shaping me into a better version of myself.
2. I don’t like teenagers because they dream too big. Let’s face it; teenagers often have HUGE dreams for their futures. Just take a look in the past at 16-year-old Jillian. I was convinced I was in route to becoming the next best interior designer to host a TV show on TLC or a lead singer for a successful all-girls Christian rock band. Either one would have sufficed, although neither one came true (I would have been awesome at both, I just want to let you know.) Point is, working with teenagers means you gotta spend your days listening to some BIG dreams. In a world where reality often trumps, I have lost a lot of my ability to dream BIG as I once did in my youth. So I don’t like working with teenagers because I have to listen to their BIG dreams all the time- dreams to become doctors, engineers, teachers, architects, flight attendants, business owners, and more. They have dreams to change Haiti and make this place a better country. They have dreams to travel and see the world. Dreams, dreams, and more dreams! And in a world where dreams don’t always come true, listening to their dreams can sometimes be hard on my heart, because I want all their dreams to come true… Despite how difficult the reality is (that some of their specific dreams may not come true) I love teenagers because they remind me how beautiful it is to dream, to have a hope for your future that betters you and others, and to think that there is no limit to what God can do for your life.
3. I don’t like teenagers because they challenge my theology too much. They question everything. They refute everything. They challenge everything. They want to know why, how, who, when, and all the what ifs. Unlike little kids, they don’t just take your word when you teach them something. No, they want proof that you are right. Teenagers are at a crucial stage in their faith. They are finally reaching a point where they need to claim their faith as their own and being one of their “spiritual mentors” through that process means you get challenged a lot! Challenged with Bible questions, marriage questions, dating questions, moral questions, challenged with questions you wouldn’t even imagine. I mean, just the other day I had one teenager ask me if I agreed with him that the reason why so many marriages end in divorce is because women are so weak! (Ladies, I did threaten to throw him off the roof of Emmaus House!) These teenagers, they challenge me everyday and I don’t like them for it. No, quite the opposite, I love them for it! I love teenagers because they challenge my mind, never letting my theology stay static, and they encourage me to think outside the box.
4. I don’t like teenagers because they aren’t cute and cuddly like little kids. When I first started working with kids in Haiti, I stayed clear of the teenagers. Quite honestly, they intimidated the crap out of me. If a kid was too big to curl up on my lap and let me hold them, I didn’t quite know what to do with them. So as you can imagine, the teenagers and I didn’t spend much time together. Slowly, however, God broke down those nervous walls I had built and the teenagers in Haiti became some of the coolest kids I knew. He gave me ears to hear their stories, hearts to break for their pains, hands to hold theirs, and eyes to see their potential. Now, I no longer care that my teenagers are too big to sit on my lap, or that many of them are taller than me for that matter. I love teenagers because they are so big and because their pursuit for adulthood and their future is beautiful and I love being a part of their journey.
5. I don’t like teenagers because they make me feel too much. Working with teenagers is like working on an emotional roller coaster. One day they like you, the next day they don’t. You really just never know. And when you are emotionally invested in a teenager you work with…whew…it can take a toll on your heart some days. Especially for a teenager who has attachment and trust issues, they can cause you to feel a lot. You feel their pain because you love them and sometimes that isn’t easy, sometimes it is just too much. And sometimes I don’t want to like them for it. But I can’t help myself. I love them. I love teenagers because of how much they make me feel for them and how much God is teaching me to sacrifice my heart for theirs.
So there you have it: 5 reasons why I don’t like teenagers.
They are too difficult,
They are too honest,
They require me to be too vulnerable,
They dream too big,
They think too much,
They question everything,
They are too big,
And they require too much of my emotional space…
But my goodness, how I LOVE them so!
I don’t like my teenagers at Emmaus House. Truth be told, I LOVE them.