There is no Plan B for young love.
Through this pandemic, we are all living some version of Plan B, but my heart aches for our teenagers, for whom Plan B doesn’t work so well. They have been locked down and shut out by the Coronavirus, and they have far fewer coping mechanisms than adults.
Some parents are struggling with teens who are sleeping all day or refusing to pitch in with chores. Being a teenager in the best of times is hugely inconvenient, and acting out is normal. I think any human who just survives the years between 13 and 19 reasonably intact is doing a splendid job.
I actually remember what it was like to be 13. Everyone has his or her own hell. Mine was being tiny. I was so small that my mother couldn’t find “teenage” clothes in my size, so, of course, I hated my mother. I threw my Mary Janes at her one day because she thought I would put them on my feet and actually be seen in public, when everyone knew that you don’t wear Mary Janes when you’re 13. I was generally miserable from ages 13 to 16, when I discovered boys and the pimples subsided and I fell in love.
How might that have played out if we had gone through a global pandemic between 1958 and 1964, when I was “becoming”? I would have been holed up in my house with my mother and father and younger sister. We weren’t the let’s-bring-out-the-Monopoly-board kind of family. Our parents didn’t play with us. They loved us and fed us and told us what to do. Sequestering without 600 channels of TV, no Internet and no phones would have been a claustrophobic experience.
Today, kids do have many more opportunities to launch Plan B. They just don’t want to. No school? Well, heavens, in the virtual world, kids with access to the internet can tour museums, wander the galaxy, practice new recipes and star in musicals.
Every day, I send my grandkids links to magic shows and master classes for kids and invitations to Facetime and books that tell the stories of teenagers who lived through adversity and came out stronger and bolder and happier. In other words, I send them stuff they ignore. And I understand the lassitude. I’m just doing the grandma thing, trying to engage, but part of me knows the kids are surviving as best they can. They’re suffering from the isolation, and they have no place to vent their anger and their fear because the cultural message is to push through and do your work and don’t complain when others have it worse.
One of my grandkids is about to enter his senior year in high school, and I also remember what it was like to be 17, when passion ruled. Do you remember your first kiss? Take a moment. Remember. You were probably a teenager and I hope it was thrilling, and sweet. Now, teens are being told to social distance, a suggestion that is antithetical to their very existence.
No kissing or fooling around for months, or a year? Being told that if you hang out with a friend or find love, you might be endangering your family or killing your grandma?
I have four grandkids in various stages of moving up in school. One is leaving elementary school for middle school. One is going from seventh to eighth grade, one is leaving middle school for high school and one is the rising senior. They have been “attending” school at home and passing the time as best they can, while parents weave in and out of their days and multiple screens shine an everlasting light on them. They are isolated from the only other human beings who know how they feel — other teenagers.
I see them on Facetime and, really, they look slightly unfamiliar, a bit stunned, after days of little interaction with other people. I wish they would keep a diary or a photo journal. The gift they already possess is a great story to tell, but I understand the inertia of this moment.
So, for now, kids, it’s enough just to get through, and you will
Then, because you’re young and strong and smart, you will move on and make up for lost time. In the meantime, take notes. You are caught up in the drama of a lifetime.
Copyright 2020 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.