My kids didn't learn much during the Chicago Teachers Union strike, but I got schooled daily.
I have a job that allows me to work from home when needed, so my house had anywhere from two to a dozen children in it on any day as the strike dragged on and my fellow CPS parents searched for places to deposit their increasingly restless charges.
I joke about the chaos and the speed at which we're plowing through Capri Suns, but the truth is I love it. Few things bring me more joy than a houseful of kids. They need to be in school. (They really need to be in school.) But having this extra time together has been a bright and shiny silver lining to the strike cloud.
Anyway, my schooling.
I learned a whole lot about what the Bears are doing wrong when six fifth-grade boys filled my house with their running sports commentary.
I learned there's a selfie pose called the Facebook Mom. You hold your phone as high in the air as your arm will reach, make a face that seems carefree and spontaneous and fun (See? Moms still have fun!!!) and then you snap a photo. (To put on Facebook. Obvs.)
"It's all about the angle," my 14-year-old daughter told me.
Moms like the phone high in the air so they look thinner. And far away so they look younger. She demonstrated. I laughed. Pretty spot on. ("I may invest in a drone for a slightly better angle," my friend Tracy joked when she learned about the Facebook Mom.)
I learned about OK, Boomer.
"OK, Boomer" is what people under 20ish say to people over 30ish to convey how utterly and completely banal they find our crusty, aged opinions.
It comes in handy when discussing current events, particularly when presidents come to town and trash your fair city.
President: "It's embarrassing to us as a nation."
Teenager: "OK, Boomer."
"The older generations grew up with a certain mindset, and we have a different perspective," Shannon O'Connor, 19, told the New York Times. "A lot of them don't believe in climate change or don't believe people can get jobs with dyed hair, and a lot of them are stubborn in that view. Teenagers just respond, 'OK, Boomer.' It's like, we'll prove you wrong, we're still going to be successful because the world is changing."
The Times reported about "OK, Boomer" and the merchandising it has spawned: hoodies, T-shirts, phone cases, stickers.
"Teens say 'OK, Boomer' is the perfect response because it's blase but cutting," the Times reported. "It's the digital equivalent of an eye roll. And because boomers so frequently refer to younger generations as 'snowflakes,' a few teenagers said, it's particularly hilarious to watch them freak out about the phrase."
We live in a fascinating moment of kid/grown-up relations. In many ways, the generations are physically and emotionally closer than ever. Parents and kids stay in daily contact long after the kids have graduated high school and moved onto the next chapter. Kids, even into their 20s, turn to their parents for companionship, advice and friendship in a way that feels new (and lovely) compared to when I grew up. (I was born in 1974.)
But with that closeness comes some well-deserved skepticism. Kids are watching us and listening to us. Closely. But that doesn't mean they're digesting and regurgitating our opinions and our values and our model without question. Far from it.
They're informed by us. In a lot of ways, they're amused by us. They're not, in a lot of areas, all that impressed by us.
I love it. I love their reservations about falling into lockstep with the old ways of thinking, even though they adore and hang out with the folks who embody that old thinking. I love their bemusement. I love their confidence that they can and will find a way to create a better, healthier, more equitable world.
When it became apparent that classes would be canceled on the day that was supposed to be the homecoming pep rally at my daughter's CPS high school, the students decided to rally instead for their striking teachers. A bunch of them joined their teachers on the picket line with food and noisemakers and musical instruments and, most importantly, their company.
We're in this together, teenagers, baby boomers, everyone in between. We read the same news stories and use the same social media platforms and binge the same shows and stream the same music and laugh at the same memes. We inhabit the same world.
And on our best days, when we're listening to each other with eyes and ears and hearts open, we work together to make it better.
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