We were lucky enough to have three different teenage girls stay with us over the summer. For eight weeks, we hosted a 15-year-old French girl, and then my 15-year old niece from California and her best friend stayed with us for four weeks.
The girls’ visits overlapped for about two weeks so we had a total of three teenage girls living with us. Needless to say, as a mother of two preschool-aged boys, I learned a lot.
During the girls’ time with us, we took lots of trips and visited many places. I wanted to show them the best of what this part of America has to offer. Along the way I realized something about their generation (and those even a little older) — they walk through life multi-tasking like I’ve never seen!
The most interesting thing I noticed was how often they had earbuds in. These earbuds were attached to their phones (which, by the way, seemed to be the mother-board for their multi-tasking abilities) and were always being popped in as we navigated through our adventures. So many times I would ask them a question or make a comment only to turn and see they hadn’t heard because of the earbuds.
The buds were in their ears when they were cooking, when they were walking around the house, when they were laying out at the pool, and even while watching TV (seriously?). I could understand using them when we took road trips, because I remember donning those large Sony headphones attached to my Walkman to drown out my parents 60s music and boring conversation. But all the time? Everywhere? I was fascinated by this.
I noticed these earbuds the most when we were in Rehoboth Beach. As I sat on the sand listening to the crashing waves, cackling seagulls, laughing children and screeching lifeguard whistle, the whole scene just became so alive. Add in the smell of the salty air and breeze on my face, and instantly the whole beach experience was etched vividly in my mind. I know that years from now, I’ll think back to these days that I watched my children play on the beach and will be able to hear those sounds in my mind. But as I looked around and watched the teenage girls with their earbuds in, I wondered how much of this memory they will retain. Will it be as vivid for them one day, without all the sounds? Or will their memories be different, accented by the soundtrack of whatever music or podcast was drifting through those earbuds?
I started noticing earbuds everywhere that day at the beach. As we walked the boardwalk and I heard the tinkling bells and buzzers from the arcade, popping popcorn, and shrieking children on the rides, I saw young adult after young adult walking the same path, but hearing completely different things through their earbuds. I have to be honest, it made me a little sad. Does that mean I’m getting old?
Of course the girls didn’t always have their earbuds in, or their phones out, but apparently it was enough to get my interest. I’m learning just how incredible that generation is at multi-tasking. Whether it’s with earbuds in or not, they are masters of holding a conversation or completing a task while simultaneously updating their Instagram or replying on Snapchat. And they do those things 10 times faster than I can. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’m quite jealous at all the little emojis and filters they add to their posts so effortlessly. (Did you know there’s even an emojipedia?)
This teenager-filled summer has been eye opening for me. I’ve been so absorbed in my little bubble of 30-something-year-old friends and daily drama of raising young children, that I was naive to the unique habits of this other fascinating, and yet frustrating generation of teenagers. I’m a little sad that I’m not part of the young, hip, cool crowd anymore. But I guess I should have realized I wasn’t part of it anymore since I still use words like “hip” and “cool.” Sigh.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.