Just before the summer holidays began, I received an email from my eldest daughter’s school. A Good Samaritan had found Helen’s wallet and the school was passing on this individual’s phone number so I could arrange to collect it. It was a couple of days until I was able to do so, but the experience got me thinking about how similar I was to Helen at that age.
Okay, there is a very obvious difference between us: She’s a girl and I was a boy. Even so, there are some striking similarities (I’ll write something about my youngest daughter and I another time. That would be a very different blog post!).
This was the first time Helen’s wallet had gone missing. Sure, bank card and travel card have both disappeared in the past, but losing the lot in one go, this was a new experience. While concerned about the wallet being lost, I couldn’t say a great deal as I lost my wallet when I was Helen’s age while on the beach in Spain. Luckily for me, my stepdad found it underneath the beach towel I’d been lying on. Losing wallets: Check, this experience is definitely a similarity we share, if a random one!
Wallets aside, Helen had to adjust to a new school system last year when she started Year 7. Moving to secondary school comes with a lot of responsibility: Getting yourself to and from school, handling money or payment cards and so on. Mum and dad can’t be with you all the time and mistakes are going to be made.
In fact, this represents a sizeable difference between us. At that age I was still taken too and from school. For me, such responsibilities didn’t come until a year or two later.
A further big difference, is that Helen’s generation is under greater pressure to grow up. It’s the pernicious influence of mobile phones and social media. They introduce kids to concepts they are too young to understand. Noticing we had a bit of an issue on this front, we clamped down on phone use a few months ago.
It wasn’t so much Helen accessing inappropriate material online, but friends doing so and then Helen getting a massive case of FOMO. I recall feeling peer pressure at her age, but for her age group it’s off the scale and I really worry about the possible long-term impact. It’s a struggle for us parents too. We are the first generation of parents having to navigate our children through the online world and it’s very difficult.
On top of this, there’s been the pandemic. No one has responded well to the lockdowns and school children have tolerated the messiest and dreadfully disrupted couple of academic years. Youngsters have had to show the most enormous resilience during this time, the worst I had to experience was when a major snowstorm closing schools for a week and that was basically a week-long, snowy party!
If there are two differences, it’s that society has changed and individuals of Helen’s age are greater under pressure to grow up. The other difference is the self reliance and resilience that teenagers have demonstrated since 2019. I’m not sure how I would have coped at that age. I’m not going to say it’s always been easy, but youngsters have done enormously well.
It’s complicated being a teenager. It’s funny as I think about it though. My daughter and I have as many similarities and differences. That said, society and the world have changed since I was her age. Many of the challenges I faced as a child remain and she’s dealing with them now. Her generation, however, are dealing with a whole more.