I am a respectful fan of Robert Fulghum who penned the best-seller, All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarden. I composed a similar list of essential things I learned from teenagers with whom I’ve spent time, either in therapy, at family dinners, or in line at the mall.

  1. Life changes at a moment’s notice – Teens spend hours on the phone or computer, texting, instant messaging, or otherwise keeping up with moment-to-moment life-altering changes. As we get older, the changes may not be as numerous, but they can be just as extreme, in as little time. Nothing is permanent.
  2. Brand new clothes transform you – Teens demand the newest, hottest clothes and the brand has to be correct or the whole outfit is worthless. In middle age, although I don’t need the name-brand items anymore, a whole new outfit sure does put me in a different state of mind.
  3. Boys are stupid – Teenage girls lament the lack of intelligence of their male peers, all the while vying for their attention and favor. As men age, it seems their intelligence level doesn’t increase, and yet, women continue to spend a great deal of time trying to attract them. Yep, boys are definitely stupid.
  4. Girls create drama – Both teenage boys and teenage girls agree that girls cause drama. It takes an extraordinary amount of drama to get and maintain the attention of boys, it seems, so that must be why girls do it. That, or they’re just emotional and emotions fuel drama. Either way, in my middle-aged life, if there’s some drama to be had in my house, you can bet it was caused by a woman.
  5. The government is evil – At some strategic point in their development, teens decide that the government is evil and must be overthrown. It doesn’t matter which political party is in control, every generation of teenagers conspires to overthrow the ruling party. The only shame is that none of them ever have. Turns out, the same types of people are in charge year after year. The only folks interested in holding the highest-ranking public offices are the ones who are the least well suited to hold them.
  6. School is a waste of time – Any high school junior will tell you that they already know everything they need to know to function in the world. I would have to agree. As Mr. Fulghum astutely stated, we learn just about everything we need in kindergarden. From then on out, it’s just accumulating facts. That could be done in a variety of ways. It just so happens to be convenient to teach lots of things to lots of people at the same time, but not necessarily efficient.
  7. Thirty is OLD! – Ask a teen to imagine being 21 and they can, but when we talk about 30, they simply cannot imagine it. It’s just too old. Those of us past 30 may take offense, but think of what we accomplish by 30. From scratch, we learn to walk, talk, ride a bike, read, write, make friends, set goals, drive, date, work, have sex, get married, and have kids. That’s A LOT!
  8. Old people smell funny – I don’t know why teens always comment on this, but they do. Well, they’re right. Old people do smell funny. It’s interesting to me that when teens use the word “old” here, they do not mean over 30, but rather, over 80. It is disconcerting to notice that as we age, we lose track of things that were once effortless, like impeccable hygiene. The fact is, that does happen and even teenagers notice.
  9. Your music defines you – To find out who a teenager is, ask what sort of music they listen to. Most are happy to tell you. In our middle-age what music do we play? Do we hang on to the tunes of our youth? Have we advanced a decade or two in our tastes? Have we allowed ourselves to sample all sorts of music? Or have we ceased to play music altogether? The music in our lives still says a lot about us, even if we don’t have an ipod surgically implanted like our teen counterparts.
  10. Technology is essential – Teenagers use the latest technology with ease while their parents use last generations’ technology. Meanwhile, grandparents nurse dinosaur electronics and great-grandparents may quit trying to keep up at all. However, those very great-grandparents’ lives are being enhanced on a daily basis with high-tech innovations created by those willing to embrace technology to the fullest. Resist if you want, but technology is an essential part of our culture and our lifestyle.

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