Teenage girls have it hard
I had forgotten how hard it really is for them.
After all, it has been some time since I was last their age.
Over the last 10 days, I was reminded of just how difficult those years really are.
Boys have it hard too.
I remember not liking the moments of bad attitude and rebelling.
It wasn’t fun.
For any of us.
35 years ago, “bullying” was a not of conversation.
Body image and self-esteem were almost unheard of terms.
Without definitions to explain them both.
Time have changed
Now, the teenagers communicate less through “notes” being passed during class.
Kids prefer to Snapchat or Tweet.
Most teenagers don’t use their smart phones to actually call anyone.
They are called “mobile devices” now.
The emoji’s they use are there to represent feelings.
Abbreviated ways to say things and acronyms stand for something.
The parents seem to be less insightful, even though we have Alexa or Echo to help.
Have our advances in technology failed to see the harmful ways that same technology is damaging our kids?
Photoshop, filters and other enhancements alter our perception of reality.
Therefore, we give our children false pretenses that will never be met.
Or have they?
Listening to these girls talk about what struggles they face in life brought back some powerful memories.
Without thinking much beforehand, when talking with these girls, I found myself in their shoes.
Watching life through their eyes.
They might have believed that I was always strong and confident.
That I had a ton of friends.
That I knew what I was doing and where I belonged.
But that wasn’t the truth.
Not even close to it.
On the last day of camp, I asked a group of girls if they were excited to go home and see their family — this one girl immediately replied, “No…my family hates me.”
Other girls were struggling to make friends and figure out who to sit with at lunch and during the activities.
Some were afraid to try new foods and if they did, they were afraid to admit it.
Tall girls, poor girls, blonde girls, freckled girls
At this camp (and the one before it), there was a variety of different girls.
Some girls had come as friends.
So many more left with even more friends.
Over the course of 3 days, these girls could share their lives with someone else.
Girls from many different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different family dynamics, .
Yet, even with all of the things we could visibly see as different, there were so many similarities too.
For example, it doesn’t matter why we have the fear, but our fear may be rooted by the same emotion.
Or maybe some were afraid they would be laughed at when it was time to jump into the swimming pool.
It can be hard to be away from home, especially if it is the first time.
Most of them followed the “pack” — meaning they chose to do what most everyone else was doing instead of listening to their OWN hearts.
Even so, I saw some pretty remarkable things.
Here is a short list of the things girls still struggle with:
One girl was very hesitant to go up the tower, walking very slowly. As I encouraged her to keep going, she almost seemed to pick up steam. It was like something switched and she told herself, “I got this!” and she looked radiant standing on the top of the tower looking across the horizon. I stood there — frozen. Speechless. Just a few seconds ago, this same girl was holding onto the railing with that look of “I am so afraid” and here she was beaming, at the top of a 10 story tower. That memory will never leave me…all because she conquered her own fear.
2. Do what’s right not what’s easy
3. It’s scary meeting new people and making friends
Girls that didn’t know each other (and those that did) grew closer and as silly as it may sound, a deck of cards and a game connected these girls not to just a moment, but to a memory they will take with them, wherever they go. Girls that were required be together because of the group they were in or not, they found a way to connect with one another. As we neared the end of our time together, these girls were sad to leave. Belonging to someone else as a friend is key in the teenage years. Some of the shiest girls at the beginning of camp found other girls who were either just as shy or someone they trusted enough to step out from behind that wall. More importantly, I found myself making a few new friends as well. And for that, I am most grateful.
4. Perfection and reputation matter
Over the days, we were at camp, I saw fun, silliness, and laughter. We wanted these girls to be themselves. And they were. They drew their names in sidewalk chalk outside our campground area. They splashed around in the pool and jumped off the diving board. I even did a cannonball or two — just to feel like a kid again. They stayed up late once we were all in our cabins and some did each other’s hair in the mornings. Plenty of silly faces were captured in selfies and snapchats that no doubt will be viewed many times. Watching them get excited about paddle boating and horse back riding too. One of the girls in my cabin practically fell asleep standing up — and we all will remember that! Someday, they will understand that who you know and where you live doesn’t impact who you are. Someday.
5. Trying new things means possible failure
Whether it be the food we offered or the activities we promoted, some of these girls (if not all) were exposed and tried new things. But no one wants to try something and look foolish doing it. Giving ourselves permission to try and try again is key to getting better. Although they only saw the negative aspects of putting forth the effort of trying something different, we told the girls that we won’t “fall in love” with everything. Not even right away. Sometimes, we have to work at things for a while. The failure isn’t what stopped them…it was in the refusal to get back up. We didn’t let them quit.
My own confession
I didn’t realize how close the topics I chose to speak on would affect me.
One topic in particular got me choked up each time I shared this talk.
Without warning, I reminded them that I didn’t have someone rooting for me like I was rooting for them.
I didn’t know where I belonged.
Just like Mick from the “Rocky” movies, I wanted them to know I was in their corner, reminding them not to quit.
Some of us might know the phrase, “I would go back to those years, but only if I could take what I have learned with me.”
And although my role was to educate them and inspire them, those 12-14 year old girls taught me something too.
That no matter how old we get, no matter where we go, no matter what we do with our lives, time cannot erase those memories.
Nor can time change just hard it is to be a teenage girl.
It is harder than it has ever been.
And maybe, just maybe, we made a little bit easier.
Just that thought makes me smile.
Because no matter how hard it is right now for them, I know they are better people because of this one camp.
I know I am.
Michelle A. Homme 2017 ©