Spending Time with Teens

Juan and Crystel

Juan and Crystel

I’ll tell you right up front that this is a feel-good blog about teens. Stop reading right now if you think that all teens are sneaky, up to no good, and downright horrible. That’s not been my experience.

A teenager dog-sat and house-sat for us this past President’s weekend. The same teen we handed our house keys over to last year when we left for a ten day stay in Guatemala. It was the summer before his senior year in high school. We came home to a note on the counter and the house as clean as we left it. Our dogs were walked and run. Our cats fed.

Jody and I spent President’s weekend with 4 teens. We promised our daughter a cross country skiing weekend for her birthday. Juan, Crystel and two of her friends came. I thought this might be a long weekend, one that you just try to get through. It was a long weekend and I genuinely enjoyed being with them. Lights were out at 11 pm and the teens were up at 8 am to start the day. Of course, we used some of the same techniques that Jody and I used when Juan and Crystel were little. Such as, “We’ll see you at breakfast.” Knowing that if the teens wanted to eat, that we would see them at breakfast and that if they didn’t want to eat we wouldn’t. Juan missed one morning.

Photo taken by Jody

photo by Jody

The skiing conditions in Tofte, MN were satisfactory. As soon as the teens had their skis on they disappeared so quickly that I wasn’t sure which direction they went. Jody and I didn’t meet up with them until we had finished skiing several hours later.

We spent a lot of time in the car. A trip on Saturday and Sunday to Tofte to ski. An extended trip to Grand Marais. A stop at Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls. Being trapped in the car with teens could have been a nightmare but wasn’t. We took turns sitting in the cramped third seat of the van. Crystel and I had a competition to see who could have a straw stuck to their lip longest. I lost. I pretended that I was at the movies with her and tried sneaking my arm around her shoulders, to no avail. When Juan wasn’t sleeping he was beating me at electronic pool.

The most memorable and fun time with the teens was at restaurants. The rule at the table was no phones.

photo taken by Crystel

photo by Crystel

There was no bickering. No poking fun at each other. Which isn’t really ever fun if you think about it. There were times I laughed until my stomach hurt.

Of course, it wasn’t all rosy. It wouldn’t be real, then. After Juan mentioned for the third time that he wanted to go home, I told him that he needed to stop. That I had heard him but that we weren’t going home until Monday. He slept a lot. The same thing I did as a teen.

The following week was a middle school dance. Neither, Juan and Crystel wanted to go. Instead, they asked to have friends over. Jody and I would be working the dance as Police Reserve Officers while they would be at home. At one point when Juan, Crystel, and their five friends were gathered together, I said that if any of them smoked marijuana they were not to do it in or outside of our house. They all looked at me like I had lost my mind.

photo by Crystel

photo by Crystel

They were gathered in the front yard when Jody and I got into our car to leave. We were in our police uniforms and would be going right to the middle school. One of them asked me why I had said that. I looked at the seven of them and told them that I was fourteen once. Juan mentioned my book, House of Fire. He knew why I knew.

I pointed two fingers at my eyes and then I waved it in a circle at all of them.

“I’m watching you,” I said. “I’m watching all of you.”

Jody and I then left to watch someone else’s kids at the middle school dance.

It occurred to me as we drove away that I was making good at my spoken and unspoken promise to my children – That growing up, they would have a different life than mine. Both of them are 14. Their life is so very very different. I’m proud of that.

No Merit Badge For This

davannis“After Penn Fest, Ryan wants me to come over and hang out and then we’ll go to the Mall of  America”, Juan said.

Juan would be finishing up his shift at Davanni’s. His second job. He was a line judge for soccer over the summer. A fellow cross-country runner told him that Davanni’s hired 14-year-old’s. His cross-country coach introduced him to the hiring manager.

I gave him a sideways look. “Who else are you going with? Who are you going to meet up with? I’ll need more information.”

“Just us,” he said.

I gave Juan the usual response. “I’ll have to check with his parents.”

We were driving home from Boy Scouts. Juan had hoped to have his final three merit badges checked off. (I was, too. If he’s in scouts, I’m in scouts.) He’s aiming to get his Eagle Scout by the end of this year.

Turning on Penn Avenue from 50th Street, I asked him. “What would you do if there was a fight in the food court?”

Eagle Project, Antiqua Guatemala

Eagle Project, Antiqua Guatemala

He dodged, displaying a typical defensive teenage move. “Ryan and I won’t be in the food court.”

I persisted. “Still, what if you were and a fight broke out?”

Juan described some superhero ninja moves he’d make leaping over railings, running faster than the speed of light. Then he paused, “Ryan isn’t as fast as me, though.”

I didn’t tell him that Ryan was white and didn’t need to be as fast as him.

Instead, I said, “You’re Hispanic. If you’re running from a fight, police could think you were a part of it. If the police ever stop you, you stop. You don’t argue, you lay down, and when you can, you call your moms.”

I went on to tell him that there were at least 10 teens arrested at the Mall of America the day before. All were juveniles, ranging in age from 12 to 15.

Juan is 14.

He doesn’t have any fear of the police. He shouldn’t. I’m a volunteer Police Reserve Officer, Jody is currently going through orientation to be a Police Reserve, and he’s never been in trouble.

He’s known to the Richfield police because he’s helped me with police patrol, vehicle maintenance on police cars, and wrapping gifts with the police at holiday time for Heroes and Helpers.

After his eight grade school year, he’s planning on becoming a police explorer.

Juan has no thought of being concerned. He’s an A/B student and active in three sports. All of his interactions with police have been positive.

Still, when there’s a melee involving 200 juveniles, he’s just another Hispanic. I thought of him getting thrown to the ground, kneed in the back, his arm twisted behind him.

I repeated, “If you’re ever told to stop, you stop, you don’t argue, you lay down, and when you can, you call your moms.”

I left him with these words, “What the police see is a Hispanic running away.”

 

A CHRISTMAS DILEMMA

brown treeJody and I have a dilemma. Our kids have Christmas all year long. They don’t want for anything.

Well, of course, they have a Christmas list. But … Antonio won’t get a hoverboard. He won’t get an upgrade to his iPhone 6. And, Crystel will have to wait to meet Ellen DeGeneres.

Jody and I created our own problem. We don’t wait for holidays or birthdays to gift them.

Antonio needed cross country boots and skis for Nordic skiing. We went to Sports Authority, our default store. We learned that they do not carry cross country boots or skis. While there, I encouraged Antonio to pick out five pairs of sweat pants and tops, his default clothing of choice. I had noticed his pant legs were creeping up. In my day, they called those “high water pants.”

Then we went to Dick’s, and they also didn’t have what we were looking for but they had socks for Antonio.

Finally, at REI we purchased the cross country boots, which we would end up returning because they were the wrong style. Still, while we were there I encouraged Antonio to pick out some dehydrated meals to try at home – anticipating his Boy Scout trip to Alaska in August of 2016.

The original purpose of our trip would prove fruitless yet bountiful for Antonio.

I mentioned the ‘Christmas all year long’ concept to Antonio and Crystel.

Though they didn’t disagree, they were not wild about my conclusion. I suppose they imagined a bare tree. Not hard to do when there isn’t even snow on the ground in Minnesota.

Still there has to be something under the tree for them. Something they don’t yet want.

Then there it was – snow boots. They need snow boots. Antonio will be taking a couple of winter camping trips with the Scouts. And Crystel’s no longer fit her. 

This may be the biggest surprise of all on Christmas Eve, since its December 21, 2015 and there is no snow on the ground in Minnesota.

 

A Wonderful Dilemma for a Middle School Girl

Crystel and Natty

Apple Jack Invitational. Crystel and Natty after their first cross country meet – A one mile race.

“Go, go, go, dig, dig, dig.”

I hear my voice replaying on the video and cringe. I sound like a crazy woman.

It’s just my child running a 5th grade field day race for gosh sakes. In the scheme of things it doesn’t even count. The distance is approximately 50 (or is it 100 yards?) and none of the kids are called back for jumping the gun. Still, there I am, my voice reaching a high pitch squeal.

Here she comes, my girl crossing the finish line … first.

I wipe away tears, choke back a sob.

I’m sure it’s her strong body and competitiveness and has nothing to do with my out of control fervor.

My daughter is in for some rough years unless I get banned from her sporting events. I don’t think they can do that to moms. But if they do, maybe I can wear my police reserve uniform and sneak in. And, if that doesn’t work, I’ll go as McGruff.

Not that I screeched any less at her brother when he was running. “Go, Antonio, go. Dig, dig, dig.” He’s in for the same mortification.

When another mom, texted a photo of 12-year old Crystel and her daughter, following their first cross country race as 6th graders, it hit me that Crystel’s experience in sports will be very different than mine.

This year marks the 42nd anniversary of Title IX.

10th place for Crystel and 20th place for Natty at the Apple Valley Cross Country meet

10th place for Crystel and 20th place for Natty in the 2-mile race at the Apple Valley cross country meet

In 1970 when I was 12, Title IX had not yet passed. Although I could beat my older brothers at most anything and was the only one who dived off the cliff in Spring Valley, Wisconsin into the Eau Galle Dam, I couldn’t compete in sports.

Regulations on how to implement Title IX, signed into law, June 23, 1972, did not go into effect until 1975.

This past summer, Crystel was mulling over which activities and sports she was going to become involved in during middle school. “This is what you call a dilemma, Crystel,” I told her. “You have so many options that you will have to choose.”

Three weeks into middle school, she’s done what she can to cram in her interests: piano, dance, cross country, and Kor Am Tae Kwon Do. If she could she’d figure out how to add soccer and a number of other after school activities.

When Title IX was enacted, 1 in 27 girls participated in athletics. One in three girls participates in athletics today.

In the photo, Crystel and her friend are self-assured, confident, and have just run their first one mile race. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, women who are active in sports have more self-confidence and are more outgoing than women who do not participate.

Most people think Title IX only applies to sports, but athletics is only one of ten key areas addressed by the law. Other areas include: access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing, and technology.

Before Title IX

• In 1972, women earned just 7% of all law degrees and 9% of all medical degrees.

• In 1970, women earned only 13.3% of doctoral degrees.

• Women weren’t awarded athletic scholarships.

After Title IX

• For the graduating class of 2013, the Department of Education estimated that women earned 61.6% of all associate’s degrees, 56.7% of all bachelor’s degrees, 59.9% of all master’s degrees, and 51.6% of all doctor’s degrees.

• Last year, 140 women graduated with a college degree at some level for every 100 men.

• By 2003, there was more than $1 million in scholarships for women at Division I schools.

1045198_1472771266320064_3137456199553566764_n1My WordSister, sister in writing, Ellen Shriner has completed a book-length memoir called BRAVADO AND A SKETCHY VISION LED ME HERE, a coming-of-age story that takes place in 1979 and 1980 during her first year of college teaching.

Her memoir portrays the challenges of women faced as they sought graduate degrees and entered the workforce.

On July 5, 2012, Ellen also wrote a blog piece about Title IX.

Thanks to Title IX, Crystel has the wonderful dilemma of choosing which sport she will compete in. Eventually when she joins the workforce, she will have more choices to her liking than women of previous generations had.

And, because of Title IX, Crystel and Antonio will have to put up with a mom that alternately shrieks and sobs at the finish line.