When the world came to a pause in March, it didn’t seem like a big deal. At first. As the news started to unfold, I realized that our new normal, being stuck at home, would entail lots of time together… With two quaranteens, my daughter and son, ages 14 and 16. I also understood that I would need to find a way to get along better with my quaranteens in these times of COVID-19.
It took a while for me to understand how COVID-19 could help improve my relationship with my teens. And I know I’m not alone. All moms are united in learning COVID-19 lessons.
As we pondered and questioned our work, our relationships, and even our ethics, we also woke up to the reality of a new daily life. Together. All of us. All the time. And (perhaps most surprising of all) quarantine gave me unexpected insight: the chance to learn more about my teens. We laughed, we cried, and from those moments we grew – together.
The new information I gleaned during quarantine has been helpful in strengthening my relationship with my kids. I have come to understand certain facts about my teens that could come in handy for other parents of teens.
Everything – of mine – is up for grabs.
What’s yours is mine in the world of quaranteens, especially when faced with potentially scarce resources. Why shouldn’t I share my breakfast, my salon shampoo, my ergonomic desk chair, and my yoga mat all in one morning? No reason, apparently. I’ve learned to hide what I really want and let go of the rest.
They eat. A lot.
Of course, I already knew that. But they usually have at least one daily meal away from home. Not anymore! With a faster pace and greater volume of food going through our kitchen, we keep a grocery list that everyone contributes to, with the understanding that we all cook and clean up, too. And if it’s not on the list… I don’t buy it.
Even when they are here, they may not be there.
Body and mind are two different things and can be quite separate. For your first clue, look for the little white earbuds plugged into their brains. And be careful – often they’ll walk around with just one ear, plugged. Sly! They may even break into conversation – and it won’t be with you. When it’s time to grab their attention, dramatic hand gestures are completely acceptable, especially when it’s not convenient to inspect both ears very carefully before speaking.
They live in dual (and sometimes, dueling) universes.
We went into this pandemic networked, and we will emerge from this, networked. A current of social media flows under everything my quaranteens do. If an otherwise perfectly calm teen startles you by striking a pose in the passenger seat, have no fear. She’s keeping her SnapChat streaks. If you spot a virtual shopping cart packed with Lululemon, relax – she’s just sorting the leggings she wishes she had. She’ll delete the app tomorrow. And again: relax.
They are networked.
Conversations with a fellow camper from summer 2015, a very real girlfriend who has never physically manifested, and friends of friends of friends who have inexplicably become close friends – they’re all a click of a button away. This is the virtual version of the entourage. Who knows what drama is going down in their pockets? Networks make life easier, and also harder… I acknowledge that and hold space for them without judgment – especially when I can’t find any other reasons for their bad days!
They have some really good info.
The wiring in kids is different from the 80s when I was programmed. Quaranteens know the pulse of the world, and they have opinions on anything from KPop to racism. (They may be getting a lot of their info from memes – but they know they need to check for legitimacy, too, through their CRAAP Score, in which they are taught to evaluate for Currency, Reliability, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose). They can contribute to conversations and offer compelling points at pace with any adult.
Everyone loves the dog. Until it’s time for a walk.
Taking the dog out is special when a quaranteen does it. When I do it, it’s my job. You must barter for this one, folks, ideally with something you would do anyway: I’ll cook you dinner if you walk the dog…
I still don’t understand TikTok but I think it must be fun.
Chances are that if you hear laughter explode from the couch or they break into a dance in the middle of the living room with eyes glued to the screen, they’re watching TikTok. This short-form video sharing social app is a perfect match for the quaranteen. You may be lost in teens’ social media morass, and you may need to watch a video a few times to figure out why it’s funny. The titles move fast. Um, just hang on a sec and let me find my glasses… I’m sure I won’t regret it!
They have hidden talents.
I discovered that my daughter is an amazing cook and loves to do Nike HIIT workouts on YouTube. And my son can wipe the fingerprints off a stainless-steel fridge faster than Mr. Clean. If they feel like trying embroidery, sailing knots, kitchen sink science projects, or upcycling clothes, they’ll be done before you even know they were interested. They learned it on YouTube and now I am less of a teacher and more of a coach (and secret admirer).
They’re resilient as heck.
I’ll admit it. I cried when we watched the press conference where Governor Scott closed schools. And issued the Stay Home, Stay Safe order. And when the Governor shut down most of our businesses. I mourned the loss of our way of life, and I feared the future. But my quaranteens watched, understood, and went about their business. They’ve got grit and they know how to use it. After a decade-plus of being strong for them, I’m going to let them be strong for me.
Things are a little more open now as we move into our COVID autumn, but it looks like life may always be just a little different. Family time can be challenging, but we’ve managed to take some of our extra time together and turn it into extra understanding. Before this is over, I swear I’ll get along better with my teens.