Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Along for the ride

I've been hanging out with high school students lately. There are three HS kids in the chorus of the opera I'm doing. When I discovered that they were having one parent drive the 40 or so miles to drop them off, and then another parent come to pick them up, I offered to be their chauffeur, and now find myself driving them 45 minutes each way to and from rehearsal. They help out with gas money (hooray!) and provide some interesting entertainment (and sometimes conversation, but often I am just a listener). And yesterday they talked me in to stopping at Krispy Kreme on the way home. Yum.

Anyhow, it has been interesting, to say the least. They are good kids. This chance to be in the chorus of an opera with professionals is a real opportunity for them. In typical high school fashion they don't quite get how lucky they are. Someday they will hopefully look back on this and think "wow, that was amazing! And how lucky I was that my parents allowed me to do that." But maybe not. These kids come from privelege that is hard for me to imagine. They talk about their friends getting a new Mercedes for their 16th birthday. I was 28 before I had a car I could call my own. They debate whether to go to NYC or Cabo for their spring break. They talk about the hundreds of dollars they are spending for their homecoming.

They make fun of kids at their schools. They make fun of people in the opera. They discuss who is cute and who is not. They talk about their parents and their teachers and their homework and about who shows up drunk at the football games. Mostly I just listen, and try not to judge. I know it is a rare chance to get this glimpse into their lives. I know that they are aware that there is an adult in the car and surely edit themselves at some points, but I probably hear more than their parents do. I don't want to break that trust by judging who they are. And really, was I any different when I was in high school? How many things did I take for granted? How many people did I make fun of, not thinking of how unkind it was? How often did I say something I didn't really mean for the benefit of "entertaining" a friend? How often did I assume my parents didn't get me, or didn't care?

As I said, they are good kids. They essentially work hard and are trying to play things pretty straight. But they are teenagers. They are trying to figure out life and love and friendships and who they are. I know that to step in too much, to interrupt the process, won't help. Unless they really cross a line, these minor things... the dissing of the parents, the laughing at the clothes, the focus on the superficial... will likely work themselves out. I know they did for me. But oh how I wish I could save them some of the work. That I could impart on them what wisdom I think I have, the things I have learned since I was 15.

But they have to ride that ride themselves. I am just a temporary chauffeur.

and on a totally different subject:
A dear, dear IRL friend of mine has just started her very own blog (she has succumbed to our evil brainwashing...bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha). She is remarkably well read, well spoken, and the best writer of letters on real actual paper that I have ever met. And she used to watch The May Queen for me all the time when she was an infant. She and her new baby now live on the other side of an ocean (boo-hoo) so I can't return the favor, but I can tell you all to go visit her at her new blog On Dragonfly Wings. Leave her a nice welcoming note for me, will you? And I'm sure you'll want to keep going back. She's the next new hot blogger, I know it. And you can say you knew her when.

25 comments:

slouching mom said...

I think you're in a fabulous position to gain some real insight here! Tell us more when and if you know it!

Rimarama said...

Doesn't it make you so glad you're not in high school anymore?

nomotherearth said...

I still don't have a car of my own, much less a Mercedes.

I would use it as an opportunity to study character. Although, I seriously doubt I would be cast as a high school student the way I look. (Unless it was 90210. Andrea looked way too old for HS)

WorksForMom said...

What a good perspective you get to tap into. Oh how I don't miss high school.

I senese this will make for some great blog stories!

susiej said...

Wow. I can sense the stillness, of you driving, keeping quiet, while they are relaxed in the back seat, into a place where they can open up. And you just keep driving, they keep talking, and you listen. I don't know what to add that you haven't said about that experience already, but can you come around here and drive my kids in a few years? I might need your ears then.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh wow, yes, that is some trip...insight into them and memories of your own time. I'd be somewhere between avid listener trying to be a fly on the wall and feeling a sense of duty. I'm not sure I'd remain constantly quiet. I know it would be right...as you said. Good kids, typical, and needing a space. I bet they know they can talk to you if they feel so safe talking in front of you. That's awesome.

Emily said...

What an odd sensation to teeter between the world of knowing the unknowable teen, of having been there not so long ago, and have coming so far since then. Don't blink. The May Queen will be there soon.

On my way to Dragonfly Wings.

Family Adventure said...

You'll be prepared when your own child gets to that age, now. What a bonus!

I'll go check out your friend's new blog. Thanks for the tip.

- Heidi

Victoria said...

You had me at Krispy Kreme. =)

I bet you hear some amazing things - I wonder what you'll learn from them.

Sober Briquette said...

You're far more insightful than I. I'd be forcing them to listen to my thirty year old rock-n-roll until they were brainwashed.

the Dragonfly said...

painted maypole, you are truly the best. i have a long list of comments on my very first post!!

by the way, i just posted the literary meme you tagged me with....

Jen M. said...

I would love to be a fly on the "wall" of your car. What great insight that must provide.

I'll check out your friend's website!

AND I am almost 36 years old and we have never had a brand new car (always used) much less a BMW. Sigh. Kids.

creative-type dad said...

I teach a class once a week with HS kids and it's amazing how many just want to tell me stuff about their lives without asking.

It's like the WANT to be told "are you sure" or "that's not a good idea", or my personal favorite "the choices you make now affect your entire life" that usually hits them.

I wonder how many parents have just given up talking to their kids because they are teenagers? They're essential still kids who kind of act like they're older because TV and media tell them they're just like adults but just living at home.

Alley Cat said...

You couldn't pay me to be a teenager again. You are also smart to not say anything. Everyone has to go through teenage crap, and it can't be helped.

Beck said...

The casual brutality of teenagers is sort of awe-inspiring. I wonder what age we are when we stop being so mean?

Jennifer said...

I'd so love to be sitting in that car, privy to those conversations. The insight! (Um, that is, the insight I could gain on the teenaged mind...maybe not so much their insight? Though I'm probably underestimating, which isn't fair, I know...)

niobe said...

It always amazes me how quickly kids seem to forget that there's someone in the front seat listening to their conversation. What interesting stories you'll have.

Susan said...

I think it is great you are really investing in these guys. You never know how much impact you have on their lives.

Lela said...

I had the pleasure of sitting in with some of the teenagers at our dance studio last night. They were discussing (and by that I mean in the giggle about) how hard it is to add an extra "R" to ever word. Interesting is the only adjective I can use to describe that interaction, lol. By the way, I love the ad for Pole Dancing in your side bar...

Aliki2006 said...

I'll head over there and send my greetings...

I love to eavesdrop on conversations that younger people have...!

soccer mom in denial said...

I do love it when children, young and teen, welcome us into their lives. It is an honor.

Chaotic Joy said...

Whenever I spend time with teenagers, which I am forced to occasionally since I have one, I end up feeling really old. In my mind I am not far removed from that, but in reality I have become quite the fuddy duddy.

I think these car rides would be quite entertaining, and maybe a bit irritating. At least for me.

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

I know I am going to sound just as judgmental as the teens themselves, but teenagers bug the crud out of me!!! LOL! ;)

But I totally hear what you are saying... and I think about that with Dex as a teen sometimes - when will we step in, when will we let him be a stupid superficial idiot, knowing it's (hopefully) temporary... it's a hard line to walk!

And I stopped by your friends blog!

Mary Alice said...

I have three teens myself and am currently in the unenviable position of being back in college myself - so my days are filled with 13-20 year olds. It is fascinating to listen to their perspectives as we sit in classrooms or on the benches in the quad....it has lead me to the conclusion that the process of growing-up isn't really complete until we have come full circle and raised a new generation ourselves. There are so many things in life you will never "get" until you have experienced it from a new perspective. I am still in the process of "growing up" myself....I expect round about 70 I may have some real wisdom...right now it still evolving. I see things in a new light everyday still -- raising my children is allowing me to grow and experience new ways of viewing the same things

ewe are here said...

Mercedes, Cabo, Colorado...
Sounds like the kids I went to high school with... not quite living in the real world.

Hopefully, they'll continue growing over the next few years. ;-)