bronco driving friends

In light of recent events at our high school, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about friends. Facebook friends, lunch friends, cry on your shoulder friends, or, as one comedienne recently put it, Bronco driving friends. And the book I’m reading right now (Gen Buy: How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-Somethings are Revolutionizing Retail) is verifying what I’ve suspected. We can be “connected” to hundreds of people and feel completely alone.

According to the authors, “Only half of Americans today say that they have a friend, besides their spouse, to confide in and rely on for support. That’s a big drop from 1985, when nearly three-quarters of Americans felt they had such a friend. One-quarter of Americans say they don’t have anybody to confide in. . . . hundreds of Facebook friends and dozens of daily email exchanges don’t cut it when it comes to feeling the safety and support of close friends and confidents.”

The “recent event” is the tragic suicide of a young man who, reportedly, had over 1,000 Facebook friends. Some of them had to be good friends. But how many were friends “to confide in and rely on for support”? We can’t know. What we do know, increasingly, is that texting and IMing aren’t providing teens with the relationships they need. But I know, from watching the specimens in my own house, that that is pretty much all the species does to communicate.

What’s the answer? Any suggestions? I I’ve got a lot of teenagers on my Facebook list. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

not a good sign

The other day, I drove past a local junior high. I know, not an attention grabbing opener, there. But the sign outside the school got my attention. The motto on it? “Educating students to be exceptional producers.” Am I the only one who sees something wrong there?

Those of you who are parents, when is the last time you stood looking at your sleeping darling and thought, I sure hope she grows up to be an exceptional producer? OK, those of you with 26-year-old sons living in your basement playing Mortal Kombat 24/7 may be thinking that. But it’s not usually the first dream we have for our kids. And in fact, it really disturbs me that a school believes it should be.

Producers of what? Why? And if this is the most important goal, how far are we willing to teach them to go to reach it? How do they know when they are producing enough? Who are they and of what value are they if they aren’t keeping up?

These aren’t idle questions. They’re questions I’ve seen teens wrangle with over and over. Their self worth and motivation are in the toilet because they never feel like they can keep up with the superstar producers. The truly upsetting thing is, the memo that they’re worth less if they don’t is clearly coming from the adults in their lives–the ones who are supposed to be safe and supportive, letting them know that there are more important things in life than measuring yourself by constant output.

What goal would you like for your child? I think I would prefer to say in the end that my daughters were exceptional human beings. The great thing is, anyone can be that if they choose.