A Lesson In Adulthood . . . From Teenagers?

What makes a person a grown up?

The term “grown-up” or “adult” means different things to different people.  The definitions have changed and blurred over the years.  Especially in this age, where many young adults live at home longer, spend more time in college, and wait until they are older to get married.  Some people classify being an adult as reaching a certain age, like 18 or 21.  Some people classify it as a stage in life, like moving out on your own, getting your first full time job, getting married, or becoming a parent.  Some people consider it being financially independent.  And some people consider adulthood to be a frame of mind.

I would argue that being an adult is some combination of these things.  A 16 year old child actor can be financially independent and emancipated from their parents, but that doesn’t make them an adult.  On the other hand, a grad student may live at home while pursuing their advanced degree, or might receive financial help here and there from their parents, but they are still an adult.  So, the most logical definition of an adult would be some combination of the above mentioned factors.

But perhaps one of the most damning signs of adulthood is a lesson provided by the younger generation – a lesson in what the phrase “turn in to your parents” actually means.  A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of chaperoning a group of high school kids on an overnight athletic trip, and they delivered that lesson loud and clear.

* * *

Teenagers are incredibly noisy.  Did you know that?  The words, “Indoor voices please!” actually came out of my mouth.  When I heard myself say that, I cringed – the first time.  Because another thing about teenagers?  They have very short term memories.  So I uttered those words not once, not twice, but three times.  Oy.  By the third time, I was no longer cringing.  I really just wanted them to be quiet.

Teenagers are also not great listeners.  The building we stayed at was unfortunately a victim of the same useless, malfunctioning Kidde smoke alarms that are found in my house.  The group bathrooms didn’t have a door, and the steam from the showers set off the smoke detector in the hall.  Of course, the girls didn’t care for it beeping.  Nor did they listen to me when I said, “Leave it alone, it’s just the steam.  It will turn off on its own.”  Now, those seemed like pretty clear instructions to me.  But to a teenage mind, I actually said, “Yes, please take down the smoke detector and mess with it.  Who cares that removing smoke detectors is a federal offense, and we are guests at an army base?” 

Needless to say, I was not happy when I returned two minutes later to find them with the smoke detector in one hand and batteries in another.  I asked what they thought they were doing, and they replied that it wouldn’t stop beeping.  I told them to put it back up immediately.  Several confused faces looked at the ceiling and then at me.  “How are we supposed to get it up there?”

If I were a cartoon character, steam would have started coming out of my ears.  But this is real life.  So, I did the only logical thing I could do – told them off.  “How did you manage to get it down?  I told you not to take it down, and you did it anyway, so you get to figure out how to put it back up.  I don’t care how you do it, but I will be back in five minutes and it better be attached to the ceiling!”  And thankfully, it was.

The fun didn’t stop there.  Before we could leave the dorm that we were staying at, we had to clean the place spotless and get it signed off.  But the thing is, you can’t start cleaning until everyone packs up their stuff.  And as it turns out, teenagers move at approximately the speed of a turtle.  For the first time, I understood why my dad was always nagging my sisters and I about taking ridiculously long showers.  I mean seriously, how long does it take one person to take a shower?  And why does it take twenty minutes to brush your hair?  At one point, I finally sent one of the girls in to tell the other ones to get moving and get out of the shower, or else I would come tell them myself, and I certainly would not be nice about it.  And once I finally got them to get dressed, pack their stuff, and get it outside, I learned the hard way that teenagers do not voluntarily clean anything, and was forced to transform myself into The Evil Cleaning Drill Sergeant.

If there was any doubt that I am nothing but a cranky old adult, I hunted down the coaches of the other team that we shared a dorm with when their girls made a mess in the bathroom and then did not help to clean.  Seriously, they completely disappeared.  I had already made my girls clean the entire dorm, and I didn’t think it was fair that they have clean the entire bathroom too.  When I asked the girls from the other team about it, they said, “Well our coach said we didn’t have to because we are seniors.”  HA!  Well, I am apparently on my way to being a senior citizen, so that excuse was not going to fly.  So I went outside, found their coach, and said, “Excuse me, but the dorm and bathroom have to be signed off on for being cleaned before we leave.  My girls have cleaned the entire dorm out by themselves.  What are your girls cleaning?  I would suggest the bathroom.”  The coach looked at me like I was mental, but ten minutes later a bunch of grouchy teenage girls filed up the stairs to clean a bathroom against their will.  SUCCESS!!!  The Evil Cleaning Drill Sergeant strikes again!!!!

* * *

I disliked the word “grown-up” for a long time, because I associate it with the world “old”.  And we all know how I feel about being old.  But the trip a few weeks ago made me realize that in comparison to teenagers, I AM old.  (And also, I am apparently turning into my Mom and Dad.  So, congratulations to me.)  But you know what?  I like being an adult.  I like indoor voices, going to bed at a reasonable time, and taking naps after dinner.  And besides that, my mom and dad are pretty cool, and always right about everything (including the fact that no one needs to spend 45 minutes taking a shower, no matter how much you love hot water).  And I do like being right.  So if being an adult means turning into them, I guess it can’t be all bad.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to bed.  This old lady needs her beauty rest so that she can take on Seattle this weekend.  Go Patriots!!!!

No comments: