Remember what it was like being a teenager? I do, and it’s weird that I have two of them living under my roof. One of the challenges of parenting teenagers is sorting through your past experiences while they are living theirs. As an adult, you have memories of how that time shaped who you are now. I often wonder about this with my kids. What experiences are having the most impact on them? How aware am I of what is happening in their lives and what they are thinking?
I decided to go straight to the source for some answers. Below are a set of questions I gave my 15-year-old son Harry and his answers, and vice-versa.
Meghann’s Questions for Harry:
I went to a very small high school, which is different from your experience. Talk about what it’s like to go to a big high school. What do you like about it? What don’t you like?
Going to a big school like West has its ups and downs. I love all of the opportunities such as working on the newspaper, the GSA (COLORS), the theatre department, and the large and diverse range of people here. However, this strength can also be a weakness. The large amount of people obviously means there are going to be some mean people as well as nice, and it also means that the school can be overcrowded. This is especially evident during passing times. The hallways are a madhouse as everyone fights to get to his/her next class on time. You will have giant mobs of students crowded around one stairwell. You eventually learn that some routes are to be avoided due to the sheer number of people crammed there. This overcrowding can lead to stress; it certainly did for me at the very start of the year. It hasn’t gotten any better, but I’ve gotten used to it.
People talk a lot about “teenage angst.” Is there anything that makes you feel particularly “angst-y?” If so, what?
The convenience of technology nowadays can be a great thing, and can make teaching more efficient. However, I think some teachers need to do more about kids being on their phones constantly during class. It’s hard, because some teachers try to do something about it, but I think they need to be more strict and make it more of a punishment than just “put it in your backpack,” because nobody will simply do that. A great method used by a teacher I had was that the entire class got an extra credit point taken away every time somebody got their phone out, and the class only had 14 extra credit points. That got people to stop using them.
Share a favorite memory of a time we spent together.
I always love when we have “music education.” I have a few great memories from just this spring. One was the first time we were listening to The Doors during supper. The second time was on a long drive to our grandparents, and we listened to some Motown and 60’s folk music. These are great times because I like old music a lot in general, but it’s also fun to hear the personal stories behind these songs like when they were first listened to, how they were listened to (i.e CD, Walkman, Record, Radio), and how they reflected what the listener was feeling at the time. It always makes good conversation and memories.
Harry’s Questions for Meghann:
What is something your parents did when you were growing up that you hoped to change with your own kids?
Your dad and I wanted to make sure we created a culture in our family that didn’t shy away from respectful conflict. Conflict and conflict resolution were things both of our families of origin struggled with in different ways. We never wanted you guys to be afraid of confronting us or your siblings if you were angry/hurt. We also wanted to make sure that issues were handled honestly, respectfully, and transparently. Even though we’re far from perfect on this front, your Dad and I believe we have done a good job of teaching you guys how to handle conflict with us and with each other in a constructive way.
It seems like parents are a lot more involved in their kids’ lives these days. Do you think that’s true? How has your participation in our activities changed over the years? If it did, why?
This is such a great question! I definitely think there has been a shift in what it means to be an “involved” parent. Looking back, I would absolutely say my parents were involved. They drove me to my dance lessons and play rehearsals. They never missed a performance. But by today’s standards, they would only qualify as being minimally involved. I think there’s more pressure on parents these days to be active participants in every single aspect of their child’s life, from school to extracurriculars and everything in between. We try to strike a balance between being supportive without being overbearing.
To your second point, I would say a big shift that’s occurred is that kids are involved in activities at a much earlier age. Over the years though, your Dad and I have learned that this isn’t really necessary. We’ve found it’s better to wait and let you guys decide what you want to be involved in. That way, instead of being spread thin with too many activities, we can focus on the ones that are most important. This helps us be involved in a more meaningful way and it helps you guys not be stressed from too many activities.
Share a favorite memory of a time we spent together.
Some of my favorite memories are when we visited the Iowa State Capital with your COLORS Club. Advocacy and politics are things I’ve been interested in my whole life, and it was so great to share in your experience as you advocated for a cause you’re passionate about. Plus we had so much fun choosing and listening to podcasts on the way there and back. (Even though I made you listen to David Axlerod’s podcast!)
Big thanks to my special contributor, Harry Westergaard! Harry is a freshman at West High School in Iowa City. He enjoys writing for the West High newspaper website and has worked on the set and props crew for Theatre West. He is also a member of West High’s Gay-Straight Alliance. In his free time he enjoys drawing, listening to music, watching old movies, and reading comic books. He writes movie and television reviews on his personal blog.