Dear Teenagers, We Owe You an Apology

Aug 27 2015

Dear Teenagers,

We owe you an apology. We grown-ups, I mean. We owe you an apology, and I’m not sure I can do it justice but it turns out my heart insists I try, so here it is.

Despite the fact that adults have wailed and gnashed their teeth for generations upon generations of raising teens — all WOE IS ME and THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US and ACK, TEENAGERS —  we who are adults right now, in this time in history, owe you an apology.

We owe you an apology for the articles that fill your online feeds with titles like Teenagers Feel More Entitled Than Ever, and Narcissistic Youth, and America’s Spoiled Adolescents. Because OH MY WORD, those things are everywhere.

Everywhere, right? They’re shared and shared, and they spread like wildfire.

We owe you an apology for buying into the rhetoric that sends you the message that you’re awful.

We owe you an apology for decrying your immaturity before we’ve allowed you time to mature.

We owe you an apology for maligning you in public and in private.

And we especially owe you an apology for the myriad slights and constant belittling and rather epic immature behavior on our own part as we point fingers and drive wedges and break down communication.

We owe you an apology because we’re wrong.

Even those of us who don’t share those articles, who hold teenagers as some of our favorite friends and best role models, who seek to encourage and uplift, owe you an apology for every time we fail to defend you.

Instead of lifting you up, which is our responsibility and should be our privilege, we have let you down with our silence, our pessimism, our fears, and our selective memories about what it was like to try to navigate the world as a newly minted adult.

Here’s the truth: you screw things up, friends. Sometimes ENORMOUSLY. Certainly daily.

And here’s another truth: so do we. Absolutely. HUGELY. And just as often.

Turns out, we are, all of us, a mess, and also magical and magnificent. Incredibly magnificent.

You can be utterly selfish and stunningly selfless. Me, too. We are kind and unkind. Steady and unstable. Courageous and afraid. We are, after all, adults and teens alike, made of the stuff of humans, at once precious and also fallible. Good and bad. Perfect and imperfect. And deeply worthy of love.

Oh, teenage friends, hear this: you are, you are, you are deeply worthy of love. And entitled to it, too. You are ENTITLED to be loved exactly as you are right now.

ENTITLED.

Now there’s a charged word.

How many times have you heard it? Because I’ve heard it A LOT. “Teens these days are so entitled.”

I want you to know you ARE entitled, and here’s how:

You are entitled to the respect due every human, because you are as human and as divine as the rest of us.
You are entitled to be heard when you voice your opinion, your desires, and your needs.
You are entitled to be cherished exactly as you are.
You are entitled to community and camaraderie and friendship.
You are entitled to make mistakes.
You are entitled to be imperfect.
You are entitled to be treasured despite and even because of your imperfections.
You are entitled to be right.
You are entitled to be wrong.
You are entitled to learn and to grow and to change, and you are entitled to rest when those things become too hard.

You are entitled, teenagers, and you are becoming. Both definitions of “becoming” — 1. absolutely lovely as you already are, and 2. in the process of transformation. You are SO becoming, friends. Both/And. Both already beautiful and also in process. 

So here’s what I want you to do the next time you see one of those shaming articles or hear the comments:

Know that you are not alone.

Know that there are those of us who just don’t buy the disgruntled rhetoric.

Know that you are wonderful and weird and wild, exactly like you’re supposed to be.

Know that you are part of us — the Grand Us; the people who choose to believe in each other. We’re out here. I swear it. We’re out here and we need you.

Look for the encouragers. Look for the ones who have your back.

We are here, we are legion, and we are working at speaking louder so you can hear us over the din.

With love,

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