“What were you thinking?” has got to be the most common unanswered question parents have. Our children grow to be intelligent young men and women. We push them to learn in school and are proud of their academic successes. So why is it when they grow to be teenagers there seems to be a missing link? The carefree confidence and bold stubbornness of elementary children sometimes disappears with puberty. They don’t recognize when to ask questions? They don’t want to ask questions or speak up. Or maybe they just don’t care. In short, they lack common sense.
I have an excellent example. I was helping a friend with a project at her house. Her 16-year-old niece was there and offered to go pick up some lunch for us. I won’t give away the restaurant chain name because some of this debacle is their lack of customer service. We were getting sub sandwiches.
Anyway, it was texted to her that we wanted an Italian with (insert ingredients) on it and a cheese steak sub.
When these sandwiches returned I immediately commented on how small they were. Now, it is totally understandable that “niece” has no control over the size or the fact the bread was horrible. However, when I looked at the Italian there was no meat. I looked at her and asked if there was a reason they didn’t put meat on the “Italian” sandwich. She responded something like, “Well, he asked me if he should just put the topping on it. I said, I don’t know. I didn’t really understand what he said so I said OK, so I don’t know why he didn’t put meat on it.” I continued to ask questions. I needed to go back to the store armed with knowledge. It was really hard to get the correct information.
Me: “So they thought we didn’t want meat?”
Niece: “I don’t know.”
Me: “What exactly did you ask them?”
Niece: “The (stuff) that goes on it.”
Me: “OK, so maybe they didn’t realize it was an Italian and they thought it was a veggie?”
Niece: “I don’t know…maybe.”
My head is about to explode. Why didn’t she just text us and ask to be sure?
My friend had the cheese steak, and I swear it had like two pieces of steak. Again, she hadn’t noticed.
So we were off to take care of our sandwiches or get new ones. My friend and I went to the store. When young, teenage dude comes out from the back, he begins to put gloves on, etc. I try to give workers the benefit of the doubt. I know it is not a dream job to work fast food, but they can be pleasant. He was not pleasant. This was NOT Chick-Fil-a.
So, my friend proceeds to ask him about the Italian and steak sandwiches that lack meat. Her temperature rises the more she speaks with him, and we begin to realize the complete lack and total breakdown of communication between these two young adults.
I honestly think “niece” left out an important piece of information; that it was an “Italian” sub. If she actually told him this important piece of information and he proceeded to asked if the sandwich should only have toppings, then I am at a loss. I give up. Which we basically did. After a 30-second exchange with “teen dude” we realized he was rude and honestly didn’t care that the sandwiches were wrong or horrible.
These two are not related to me, but trust me, I have similar experiences. My son (16 now) will order something at a restaurant. He gets it. Then proceed to question me about the food. This example is a Buffalo Chicken Wrap.
Him: “How do I eat this?”
Me: “It’s a wrap. What do you mean?”
Him: “Like, do I use a fork or do I pick it up?”
Me: “Well, usually you just pick it up. Did you understand what you were getting?”
Him: “Not really.”
Me: “Why did you order it then?”
Him: “I don’t know.”
Insert emoji, straight stunned face here.
Why don’t they just ask questions if they don’t know? In their minds they are old enough and should know everything so refuse to speak up out of fear. They are afraid of looking immature. They haven’t realized that all of us still have to ask questions, we still have to reach out, and we all still mess up.
If your teen drives to school with no shoes, doesn’t know how to fill out an application, tries the “cinnamon challenge,” or actually shoots himself in the hand with an airsoft gun (the last one was my son), just remember, you’re not alone. Our adolescents prefrontal cortex won’t be fully developed until they’re in their mid-20s. This means that when they have a thought about doing something, their brain doesn’t have time to calculate the risk; hence, the lack of common sense.
I have to remind myself to give them grace. I have to allow them to order without reading, get things they don’t like (at my expense), and learn to do a little more research next time.
I don’t know how to teach this to kids other than letting them learn and develop.
I also have to bite my tongue when I really want to make fun of them for the lack of common sense…yep, that is the hard part. In my head and on repeat I say, “I am the adult, I am the adult, I am the adult!”
OK, maybe I chuckle a little on the outside too.