Tag Archives: teenagers

Valentine Boxes

Bless me, Father, I still do valentines for my grown up kids.  I’m five years past the classroom Valentine’s Box hoopla of hunting down a shoe box and trying to decorate it about half an hour before bedtime the night before.  The grocery store Valentines that we argued over still had to be labeled for every kid in the class–(neatly, please! You can’t even tell whose name that is!)–with protests and whining about having to give one (yes, a NICE one) to all the girls.   Doing this with my daughter was easier.  A pink girly Valentine box with stickers and hearts was just fine, but is there such a thing as a masculine Valentine box?  Something about lizards and Darth Vader just doesn’t say Valentine’s Day.  But whatever.

Valentine boxes always caused issues.  There were always the one or two kids who got all the lame valentines, the over-achieving parents who had to ALSO include candy (no nuts, gluten free) with each one, and the surprise and gossip caused by finding an extra special note from “Guess Who?” or “Secret Admirer.”  Bless the teachers on Valentine’s Day, who try to judge the best box, organize 20+ hyper first graders to put the right valentines in the right boxes, and oversee the class party with spilled red juice and way too many pink cupcakes.  They are headed straight to heaven.

Bless the parents of multiple grade schoolers who have to oversee and coordinate 40, 60, or 80 plus handwritten valentine notes and go through untold closets to find battered and torn shoe boxes.  Bless those Mother Hubbard parents whose craft cabinets are bare of glitter, stickers and glue.  Who are cleaning up said glitter and piles of sticky spilled Fun Dip and pixie sticks this very morning.  And who will, by rights, pilfer their children’s valentine candy upon their arrival home from school.  Did they learn nothing from Halloween?  Thou shalt not trust parents with chocolate.  I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible somewhere.  I’m paraphrasing.

This morning my 17-year-old came down ready for school and tucked into breakfast with approximately zero idea that the calendar had flipped to February 14.  It’s actually kind of refreshing how un-phased he is by the date.  In late December, the aisles of Christmas decorations have barely disappeared when suddenly everything turns to red and pink.  Those chalky pastel candy hearts with the stamped messages show up:  hot stuff, QT pie, be mine.  He is happily oblivious and has been since middle school.

Not one valentine box has survived.  I can’t even track down any of the valentines either of my kids have received over the years from “yore good freind Taylor.”  Our shoe boxes inevitably got recycled into show & tell containers, book report dioramas, or a fancy house for the hapless frog that forgot to make itself scarce in the backyard.

So, although I do not miss the valentine box phase, I haven’t quite given up on the day altogether.  This morning I snuck a bag of cherry blow pops into my high school junior’s lunchbox because it is open season for trying to bribe a hug from a bristly adolescent who now towers over me.

#shameless

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At least it wasn’t a love-struck Darth Vader holding a pastel heart stamped with “hubba hubba”.  I do have standards.

Annoying

It’s the kiss of death:  the eye roll accompanied by a muttered “she’s so annoying.”   If you’re around teenagers at all, you probably hear it often.  Everything, it seems, is annoying.  Their hair, teachers, friends, homework, schedule, chores, siblings.  It’s an endless list, and if you happen to parent one of these pleasant creatures, I don’t have to tell you that you often make the list’s Top 10 as well.   Your rules, your music, the way you ask questions, whatever you choose to wear out in public.

Maybe it’s most obvious with that age group because they haven’t yet mastered self-restraint.  While the millenials (a.k.a. Generation Me) may seem to captain the helm of narcissism and snark, this constant state of annoyance doesn’t rest solely with them.  A brief scroll through social media reveals a smorgasbord of political, societal, and personal pet peeves. Everyone is annoyed by something!   Which may explain last fall’s hype generated by the possibility of an eye-roll emoji.  Because we needed more ways to convey sarcasm and superiority.

This trendy dismissive attitude even shows up in the way people (especially females) speak.  One of my favorite examples is this clip from Faith Salie on the vocal fry used by young women.  As she points out, each generation will always develop a way of speaking that is unique to them. It’s a way to set themselves apart from the other, presumably more annoying, generations.  This current trend of vocal fry communicates a kind of apathy or cynicism that is apparently a means to appear chic.  Ironically, it also sounds totally–well–annoying.  Much like the toss-off “What. Everrrrr.”

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it is about the “that’s so annoying” refrain that bothers me so much.  Sure, some things by definition ARE annoying:  mosquitoes, pop-up ads, and that 2011 “Friday” song by Rebecca Black.  But what is it that makes everything so annoying?  At its heart, annoyance is a symptom of preoccupation with self.  If it doesn’t suit me, my tastes, my needs, my desires, then it is beneath me and not worthy of my concern.  When it comes to a persistent house fly, yes.  When applied to another person, no.

Ask any middle schooler.  There’s no faster way to be ostracized than for someone to declare you “annoying.”  It seems more benign than “fat,” “ugly,” or “stupid,” but the label, usually delivered with a hair toss and eye roll, sets you in the category of the unseen, not even worth my notice.  As a tween girl, it doesn’t get  much worse than that.

Annoying is selfish.  Rooted in pride, it conveys superiority, and unchecked, it slides easily into contempt.  Contempt is a nasty beast.  In a court of law it can land you a hefty fine or jail time because judges, at least, recognize it for what it is:  disrespect.  Contempt is the last stop on the train to dehumanizing someone and making it okay to wound them.

Pride and contempt, says CS Lewis, have been “the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.”  Recent research has found that the eye roll may be the number one predictor of divorce.  Not that shocking given all it conveys to the person you’ve vowed to honor and cherish.

Annoying is a cowardly habit.  It requires less of us.  Annoying requires less compassion, less bravery, less personal change.  It’s much easier to be dismissively cynical than to engage another person, to know them and give them grace.  It requires nothing of me to dismiss with irritation any given political candidate and all his/her fans.  It’s nothing to me to drive by the homeless guy and grouse about his laziness.

How many consistently annoyed people do you know who are happy?  Are they fun to be around?  Do you enjoy their complaining?  The vicious cycle of everything and everyone being annoying is that eventually your annoyance becomes the very thing you despise–it makes you tiresome.   And then it’s just like your Mama used to warn you:  you keep making that face and it’ll freeze that way.

 

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