As adults, we like to focus on how different things are these days compared to when we grew up. Kids today have computers, the Internet, cell phones, iPods and social media. We had a television with four channels, a boom box and a shared house phone. But as much as things have changed, teenagers are still teenagers.
I went to the mall with my 13-year-old and her friends on Friday. When we were growing up, our parents dropped us off at the mall and then picked us up several hours later. The world being what it is today, I prefer to go with them, and just stay in the background, on the fringes of their outing. I give them just enough space so that they feel independent, but stay within shouting distance for the most part.
We spent most of our time in a store that gave me serious flashbacks to my closet in the eighties. I half expected to see Madonna walking around in stirrup pants and a neon ripped T-shirt with colorful rubber bracelets lining her arms.
While the store was actually probably more Kardashian than retro, it reminded me of going to the mall with my friends at that age. The girls studied every rack carefully, giggling as they made their way through the store. They held up shirts, dresses, and $3 necklaces on each other in front of the mirrors.
Then, they spent an enormous amount of time in the dressing room trying on armfuls of clothes. In the end, their stashes of babysitting money bought them each a few trinkets — a necklace, some earrings, a headband, because you see it wasn’t really about the getting, it was about the getting together.
We repeated this exercise in a makeup store where they meticulously pored over products, trying samples on each other, and debating what they could get for $5 or less. But again, at the end of the day, they came home with small bags and big smiles.
Even with all of the technology, toys and gadgets that kids have today, there is nothing more important than face-to-face social interaction. Nothing can take the place of shared experiences among friends.
So, while we lament “the good old days” when things were simpler, the simple things still matter. Sleepovers, birthday parties, shopping trips, movie and roller skating outings will never go out of style.
And teenagers will always be teenagers …
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.