Teens are fascinating to watch. They’re so thoroughly involved in finding their identity and fitting in with a particular group that the various masses of teens change form reminiscent of an amoeba, as various members roll in or choose to – or are expelled – leave, thus altering the amoeba’s shape again. It would be a fascinating minuet to watch but that teens generally don’t participate in something so intricate; that particular skill comes later.
The best way to describe teens in the group setting is almost as a tribe. They cluster together and the more time that they’re spent unmonitored, the more opportunity that they have to blend their hormonal sauces into what can be a highly combustible stew. It’s bad enough when no adult is around to just keep tabs on things, but the pure absence of parental supervision can distill a 100-proof moonshine of sheer lunacy. The kids are gathered around with the metal or techno-pop roaring in the background, the bass reverberating against the walls and as conversation passes with time and merges with the beat of the rhythm, a recognizable pattern begins to emerge from the noise, a patois that seamlessly merges the steadily cadenced rhythm with the muttered conversations that finally emerges as a simple chant reverberating off of the walls…
Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wannaHey-ya-wannaHeyyawannaheyyawannaheyyawannaheyyawanna…
Hey, ya wanna jump off of the roof?
Hey, ya wanna climb the town water tower and hang upside down?
Hey, ya wanna smack each other with a stick?
Hey, ya wanna paint Steve’s toenails?
Hey, ya wanna get Ozzy’s face tattooed on your butt?
Hey, ya wanna ride to the 7-11 on the roof of my car?
The permutations are often novel, especially in this day of Youtube, but mind-numbingly similar in their sheer and utter lack of self-regard and common sense. Anyone with teens will recognize the egging on and it quietly terrifies me as I can see any number of ways that something can end badly. It’s this concern that causes us to provide a place for them to gather, a place that they can be exceedingly, frustratingly and wonderfully stupid, a place that we can at least have a sense of what’s happening. If ‘wonderfully’ seems to be an odd wordchoice, it’s one that I use because the rhythmic chant stirs up old, fond memories of when I also belonged to a tribe. One that I’ve outgrown but still holds a special place in my heart and soul.
So my wife and I will provide the facilities as they’re wanted, and we’ll do our best to keep tabs on the comings-and-goings. And I’ll continue to mutter the occasional silent prayer that our kids not kill themselves in those moments when we can’t keep tabs.