Tag Archives: Teenagers

We are all incarnate babies (or I need a freaking nap)



Remember my posts on humility? Yeah, this is going to be kindof one of those. But with BABIES!

First, I would like to tell you a story. Once upon a this summer, I spent three weeks traveling with a 15 month old baby (and a group of sixteen 16year olds) through Italy. Aside from complete admiration for the parenting style of the 15month old’s mom and dad, I found myself learning or being reminded of something: humans are incarnate.

So freaking incarnate. I have been known to comment joyfully on this to my friends, for instance: “Gee isn’t it awesome that we get to eat and enjoy food for nourishment! We could be photosythethic! Isn’t incarnation grand!”

Cookie goodness? Thank Incarnation!  ... You don't have to taste these babies. BE GRATEFUL!

Cookie goodness? Thank Incarnation!
… Aren’t you glad to taste these babies? BE GRATEFUL!

This particular realization comes from a less joyful place and it progresses through three stages.

  1. Baby Stage.
  2. Teenager Stage
  3. Me Stage


Being a baby ain't to bad! Right?

Being a baby ain’t too bad! Right?

OK, so watching this baby through the 3 week trip, I started noticing. When she was hungry, tired, or had been sitting still for too long – we knew it. (I have to qualify this a little because this experience of “knowing” when a baby is cranky has got to be the most mild version of the experience I have ever had. Because her parents are traveling/parenting rockstars.) Nonetheless, when when baby was incarnationaly upset, her ability to be happy, good, calm, and otherwise Gerber-Baby-Like was hampered.


Basically she needed a freaking nap.

The good thing was that whenever this happened, her rockstar parents dealt with it. They fed her. Let her sleep. Let her toddle around the Roman forum showing them every possible variety of old rocking thing. And then she got better. I will come back to this.


Much as my brilliant, inquisitive, charming teenage students were determined to be grownups (and they really did mostly succeed), on the LONGEST TRAVELLING DAY EVER* that status as intellectually impressive Shakespeare prodigies slipped a little. (*When I say longest day ever, believe me. They woke up at 6, crammed to stand on a packed train for an hour, hiked up a hill in no shade for 2 hours, hiked back down, listened to 4 lectures, walked 3 more miles to cram onto another train, picked up their bags, got on a 4 hour train ride back to Rome Termini, negotiated through pickpockets for 15 minutes, and then sat in traffic without dinner until 10 pm.)

I don’t say this to make fun of them, but sincerely, in the most mature way possible, they were just cranky



They were hungry, over-tired, stubborn, getting into fights over whether someone had been on the phone too long, picking at each other over really dumb things, etc. I walked around campus watching these teenagers refuse to go to bed, I couldn’t help thinking: You just need a freaking nap.

Only, I couldn’t tell them that. I just had to watch them drive themselves nuts for a few hours. Next day, (LO AND BEHOLD!) after breakfast they were the brilliant students I had come to know.

Which brings me to…


I made all of these brilliant observations about how teenagers are just like babies. Then, on a 12 hour driving day on a road trip with my parents, I just about threw a temper tantrum.

Let me get my excuses out of the way: I hadn’t slept well the night before because I was too tired (yes, I mean that), the room was too warm, and my muscles were too sore. My legs hurt from sitting behind my 6’7” father. My stomach hurt from vitamins. I had a toothache. I had a headache. I couldn’t drive or be helpful because I had too many incidents on my record for my parents’ insurance. I was tired of my dad’s music choices. I needed a shower. I needed to go to the bathroom. I couldn’t write blog posts because my brain wasn’t working. I am a bad person. I sucked at praying. Why couldn’t I offer up this pain? I was hungry. I wasn’t hungry for that food. I hate road food.

Basically. I was cranky and needed a freaking nap.

How do I know this? Because the next morning, when I woke up after a long night of climate controlled sleep, ate a breakfast containing both carbs and protein, which also tasted delicious, and sat in exactly the same place I was in a fabulous mood. I LOVE road trips. Kentucky and Tennessee are gorgeous. I love classical music. I get to talk to my parents who I won’t see for a month or so. Praying is so easy! I can see God at work in the hills we are driving past!

All of this is to say: I am a baby. Or more specifically, I am incarnate.


I am not supposed to be a pure spirit or mind. I have a body, and sometimes that means that I have bodily needs that I cannot ignore. Babies have it so good because they have parents to make sure that their incarnational needs are met. Whether they like it or not.

But we are all babies. On one side, that means we get cranky when we are hungry or tired. On the other, we have a super convenient way to start fixing “existential crises”. And these I borrow from Reesa (who I believe was quoting her mother when she first told me this):

1. Eat something.

2. Go for a walk.

3. Take a nap.

Then think again. Then pray again. Because we an incarnate people with a God who became not only incarnate, but an incarnate baby to remind us that the needs of our incarnate bodies are not something to be purely shunned for the sake of higher spiritual pursuits. We are not angels. We are men! … who occasionally need to take a freaking nap.


Temptations of Teaching: STOP BEING WRONG AND LISTEN TO ME!


By Rachel

Today, I had the extrovert’s greatest joy: a day full of meaningful connections after a FREAKING DESERT OF AT HOME ALONE SICKLINESS.

It was awesome.

Anyways, this brought me to a few observations about teen dating practices, based on the comments some of my students were making about Pride and Prejudice in relation to their lives. Here are my observations:

  1. Girls do this stupid thing where we imagine things into existence until forced to acknowledge the passive rejection that is “He is not asking me out.” This is bad.
  2. Boys do this stupid thing where they pretend that things didn’t exist in order to side-step the sensation of actual rejection that is “No. I do not want to date you.” This is also bad.

So what do you (or as it happens, I, their teacher) tell teenagers who are participating in or are victimized by one  of these two very stupid things…besides: stop doing that, it’s dumb.

I ask because I really don’t know. On the girl side, I have an easier time imagining what to say. I could say, “Oooh. I’ve done that. And you won’t believe me, but the just imagining thing is not only a bad and unhealthy thing to do. It is also kindof a sin. No really.”

On the guy side, I mostly want to say, “Stoppit. This does not make you look cool or mature. It makes you look like a 5-year-old throwing a temper-tantrum. Or an ostrich (head in the sand and all that jazz).”

Neither of these is particularly teacher-y. Nor does either respect the prerogative of teenagers to do stupid (and hopefully harmless) stuff and (DEAR GOD, I REALLY HOPE!) learn from it. This is the problem with teaching. Freaking boundaries and freaking knowing that some of the crap that your students do is idiotic… and or damaging.

Right now I am settling for vague statements about literary figures: “Look, isn’t it stupid when Mr. Collins won’t take no for an answer, and then tries to think of Lizzy as less worthy to convince himself that the rejection isn’t that bad. Doesn’t he seem immature!” or “Look, isn’t Caroline Bingley, by reading the second half-of Mr. Darcy’s novel in order to make it seem like they are on the same page, a little bit pathetic and begging for a heartbreak. ISN’T SHE!?!”

Not that these behaviors are limited to teenagers. Nope. No, they are not. So, I can tell you (and through this, my future self) that both of these behaviors are BAD. Reality is good. And difficult. And good… That’s what I am sticking with.



What is it about teaching that shoves life into perspective?

Occasionally, it is the welcome perspective that somewhere between being 16-year-old me and becoming 23-year-old me, I acquired boundaries.


Not crazy boundaries that prevent me from making conversations, or making friends… or occasionally saying things I shouldn’t. But the kind of boundaries that allow me to think,  “No. This person I met an hour and a half ago really doesn’t need to know every detail about me, my life, my relationships or lack thereof, and my current emotional status on all things.” It’s AWESOME!

(I realize that by typing that sentence, I am officially sharing my life, experiences, etc not only to one random person, but to anyone who happens to read this blog. Please rest assured that – unlike the rants on my High School LiveJournal, which may or may not exist somewhere in the ether – this post is a calculated thing. I have considered and decided to allow this post past my boundaries.)

That sort of decision has become a really small thing for this 23-year-old. No big deal. But have you ever stopped to watch 16-year-olds interact? Better yet, have you ever watched them interact at camp? I have. (Not in a creepy way. I am payed to teach them and serve as their counselor and hopefully waylay them before they do something that they would seriously regret.) It is terrifying. Well, maybe that isn’t the right word. I kind of wanted to describe it as akin to a car wreck that you see coming but you just can’t look away. Sometimes it is: I find myself semi-frequently mentally shouting “NO! DO NOT HAND THAT BOY THAT LONG HEARTFELT, POSSIBLY TEAR-STAINED, HANDWRITTEN NOTE! HE DOES NOT NEED TO SEE IT! AND YOU WILL NEVER FORGET THAT HE HAS SEEN IT!” and yet, being nominally an adult, I am in the zone where it is just too awkward to say anything about it.

Worst. Ideas. Ever.

But it isn’t all car wrecks and tear-stained letters. The total lack of boundaries and filters, at least from where I am standing, is also a little miraculous. Most 16-year-olds have no boundaries because they haven’t learned any better – yes. However, because of this they make friends and form bonds at the drop of a hat. Real, if slightly intense, friendships.

And it isn’t just limited to high schoolers. Watch freshmen in college in their first semesters. It is just the most exciting and intense thing. They will (and I did) stay up all night, not for the proverbial academic all-nighters, but because they are having soul baring conversations with total strangers. They will date many, probably-incompatible people in quick succession. They will (and I did) express opinions  with a fluency and confidence that would make a narcissist blush. But they will  (and I did) form friendships that truly shape them because they are so open to being shaped.

I am not sure what this post is actually about. I think it was initially just observations. But now that I get to the end, I find myself wanting to have a moral or a thought or something…


1. If you are not a teenager — be grateful. You probably have boundaries that prevent at least a small fraction of the dumb stuff you have done or will do in the future.

2. If you are a teenager — be grateful. You can get away with so much and share so much and make friends so quickly and non-superficially that adults will half-envy, half-disbelieve, and half- pity you. (Yes, I know I said three halves. Sue Me.)

3. If you have teenagers in your care — be gentle. They have no boundaries. That is dangerous, terrifying, hilarious, precious, and miraculous all at once. When I say be gentle, I am not saying tip-toe around them so they aren’t ever hurt. They will be hurt. Not only are they kind of like open nerve-endings, walking around saying “Poke me,”  it is also necessary. They have to be hurt. (Hopefully in innocuous ways.) That is how they will someday become the person who is biting their tongue off with the urge to warn against ALL NOTE PASSING. IT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA. THAT IS DURABLE EVIDENCE OF STUPIDITY THAT YOU CAN NEVER REALLY TAKE BACK!!!… I am off topic. They will be hurt. But when you are about to complain about the fact that they are unreasonable, over emotional, or just really really dumb – try to remember why. They are dumb, emotional, unreasonable, little miracles who have yet to be damaged into the shame, cautiousness, and boundaries that will someday make them socially acceptable adults. So forgive them a little. Laugh at them as quietly as possible. Protect them from the really dangerous hurts by creating and enforcing the boundaries they are not aware that they really need.

Now, I just need to go worry about what all the 30-year-olds are biting their tongue to avoid telling me because it would just be too awkward. Because I am also a miraculously dumb person, just a slightly older and more cautious one than I was 7 years ago…