I spent the weekend surrounded by teenagers. I spent hours doing nothing with them and they in return poured their hearts out to me and I came away feeling like a millionaire.
It is a privilege to see these teens in their element. I see them excited and laughing and raw and crying. There is very little holding back in the experiences we have and it is an honor to be with them.
I love to observe them and gain insight into their varied and complex emotions in a way that their parents cannot. I watch the innocent flirting unfold, the risky friendships take root and the painful heartaches spill over. I am privy to inside jokes and elaborate tall tales and all the while I feel somewhat like a mole. An underworld spy sent out to gain insight and information on these teens who are dearly loved by their parents, but who are also a bit of a mystery to them.
The emotions they share are real, raw and unreserved. They haven't learned the skill of hiding their emotions that most adults have perfected. When teens feel an emotion they pour it out and I am honored when I can be their splash guard. The safety net solidly in place to catch the messy emotions and tears or the high fives and hugs when the feelings come spilling out.
Their experiences are all so varied, from artists to academics, athletes to techies they all share the desire we all have to be loved and valued. They struggle to keep good grades and strong morals while walking the tightrope of meeting their parents expectations and their personal pursuits.
The greatest gift these teens give me is the chance to be a better mom to my kids. They offer me a glimpse into the future of what awaits me as my 11, 9 and 6 year old get older by the day.
I am a volunteer youth leader, but these amazing youth are leading me.