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Amanda Lamb: The secret life of teenagers

Posted June 23, 2013

I had the opportunity this past week to chaperone my rising eighth grade daughter and eleven other children on a chorus trip to Costa Rica.

Besides being an incredible chance for the kids to experience another country and another culture, it was a terrific experience for a parent trying to navigate the murky waters of the teenage years.

I shared a room with my daughter and two of her friends, which was an experience in itself. Teenagers, as you probably know, have a lot of energy — late to bed, late to rise, with a lot of giggling in between. They also aren’t the neatest creatures on earth; I spent a lot of time corralling lone sneakers, socks, wet towels, you name it. I also learned that when kids are away from home, they have lots of questions that seem like they would be no brainers to adults.

“What do I do with my wet towel?”

“They said it might rain, should I bring my raincoat?”

“Do you think $3 is too much for a Coke?”

But despite the closeness of the quarters, what I really loved about the experience was listening to them. At first, they were unsure of talking around me, but as the week went on, they became more open about their conversations, often asking my opinions on a variety of topics from the benign to the more serious issues facing young people today. I enjoyed listening to how they processed the world around them, how they worked through dilemmas, and how they were able to find joy in so many little things. I tried not to intervene unless I felt they were woefully off track or they solicited my opinion.

What I learned was that teenagers today are facing a much more complicated world with information coming at them at every direction at the speed of light. Thirteen-year-olds are caught in the limbo of wanting to be independent, but not quite knowing how to handle their complex world yet without lots of support and guidance from adults. Happily, I discovered that they can be very supportive of one another and encouraging . It gave me a sense of peace to hear girls, not yet women, caring about friendship in a meaningful way.

I truly felt honored to be allowed into their circle even for a short visit to help me better understand how I can be the best possible parent to my daughter as she grow into the wonderful young woman she is quickly becoming.

Now, if I could only get her to pick up her wet towel from the floor I’d have it made …

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.

7 Comments

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  • cczahnow Jun 25, 2013

    I'm jealous Amanda! I love hanging out with teens for all the reasons you mentioned! Unfortunately the only teens I get to be with now are grieving ones. I help kids and teens through their grief at The Shore Grief Center. We laugh and cry during our sessions and they always come out much more at peace at the conclusion. Thanks for sharing your wonderful tale!

  • chicnrdu Jun 25, 2013

    I think the reason Amanda chose to share this event is probably the same reason that I, after an overnight field trip with my son's 8th grade class,told everyone who would listen about it. In today's world, alot of kids are labeled by the way they dress, the way the act. I spent 48 hours with about 110 8th graders. When I went to tell my son good night, I was met with a big bear hug from him as well as a huge group hug from a bunch of boys that had spent the day with me. These tough teenage boys were hugging their, allbeit temporary, mama goodnight. After the experience and seeing these kids work together, laugh together and genuinely care about one another..my hope for this world was completely restored. I changed the way I viewed these kids...seeing them as they really are in a completely comfortable setting of their peers.. was one of the very best experiences of my life. One that no doubt left a mark on me and gave me a sense of renewed hope and respect for these teenagers.

  • blueskyglass Jun 24, 2013

    I think it is obvious that 123dnih and JKKC are the same poster. I am sorry you are such a bitter person. I hope you can find a happy place, preferably away from the Go Ask Mom articles. We enjoy Amanda, and can relate to her blogs. You do not, and have no real reason to comment, except to annoy the people that want to read something light and relateable. My beautiful sister, Marne died July 5th, 2012. I have found great comfort in our shared journey of grief. I look forward to Amanda's blog each and every week. Please leave the comment section to the people that are looking for joy in their lives. 123dnih/JKKC, I honestly hope for happiness to find your heart! Amanda, Thank you for the Peace you have given to me. Today, is the one year anniversary of the last time I hugged my sister, before her death. Thank you for all of your touching articles about your Mother, and your painful journey. My heart goes out to all who are recovering from the loss of your loved ones. PEACE!

  • DWH4sure Jun 24, 2013

    JKKC - it's a blog, not a news article. Not supposed to be filled with facts, figures and follow-ups. Just her experiences, of which I find highly entertaining and enlightening.

    Great piece, Amanda. I love listening to my pre-teen daughter and her friends talking; it's a great way to find out what's going on in her life.

  • lec02572 Jun 24, 2013

    Enjoy these years Amanda. Always, let your daughter and friends know they are welcome in your home. My wife and I always loved to have friends of our kids over. You will be amazed how many times your daughters friends will talk with you, ask your opinion,and just talk. Great way to know what is going on, plus sometimes kids don't communicate with their parents or don't feel at ease talking with them as they will with you. Continue the great articles. Love them all.

  • Obamacare for all Jun 24, 2013

    Shut up JKKC. Leave amanda alone.

  • pack_gurl Jun 24, 2013

    Gee JKKC - get a grip.

    Amanda - great article. I always look forward to your blog postings.