Living a life with teenagers is a different beast than the days of small children, cheerios, and time-outs. Teenagers set eight alarms on their phones, ignore them all, wake up ten minutes before the bus arrives, grunt, rarely shower, and wear dirty jeans. Brushing teeth isn’t really a thing. They are happy one day and crazy sad the next as hormones rush through their growing bodies. Little things to us are huge to them. Here are some funny reflections on how having actual teenagers isn’t the same as the pretend television shows about teenagers.
1. The Way They Dress
In real life, teens wear clothing that doesn’t stick out, often covers their face or body, and is pulled from the floor. It’s a web of insecurity masked with a hoodie. On television, teenagers have a full blowout with beach waves, professionally-applied make-up, and are wearing dresses. Sometimes there is a side ponytail. Apparently, on television, small belts and straight teeth are a thing. I’ve met zero teenagers who wear small belts. Do these kids get braces when they are five years old?
2. The Way They Look
Let’s face it. Kids have zits. Their faces look like the face of the moon. They hide said acne with make-up, creams, hair, or shame. It’s part of life, as we mothers navigate the CVS Pharmacy at 10 PM to get some sort of concealer for our daughters so they can get through their day. Apparently, on television all these kids use Proactive. Not a blackhead in sight. Their faces are as smooth as plastic. Wait—maybe they are plastic? These are plastic people! It all makes sense now.
3. The Way They Do Laundry
In real life, clean clothes are a fantasy only seen on television. Clothes that are ironed? Only seen in the movies. Imaginary and hypothetical. Frankly, unnecessary. Clothes are piled in a heap on the floor and when a parent comes into the room to gather them up to wash them, the teenager screams, “THOSE ARE ALL CLEAN, MOM! OMG.” On television, all the laundry is magically done. We don’t see anyone doing it, but it’s assumed. I don’t see piles of clothes. There are no stains or ill-fitting jeans. Maybe there’s a maid in the back room?
4. The Way They Talk
In real life, there is so much cursing you’d think they made money for every f-bomb they drop. Teenagers love to curse. It makes them feel powerful and old. It gives them street cred and status. They also use silly words like “yeet” and “dope” and you have to constantly keep up. On television, thankfully the language is as clean as their clothes. Sometimes they insult one another by saying “you’re so mean” or “are you honestly going to go out like that?” Nobody is grounded from their devices for talking back or using bad language, which clearly shows these television shows are not based on reality.
5. The Way Cultures Are Blended Together
In real life, racism is a real and difficult thing. Kids are trying to navigate home lives and cultural differences and trying to figure out how to work toward harmony. They want to befriend people that are different but also are confused about how groups interact and simply want to fit in. It’s a complicated dance that parents, teachers, and peers have to help navigate. On television, religion, race, culture, or privilege are rarely talked about.
6. The Way Real-Life Parents Have Actual Jobs
In real life, moms work, dads work, houses aren’t clean, dishes are piled up, dinner sometimes is just leftover enchiladas with chips, and everyone is late somewhere. Families are running out of houses with Ziploc bags of toast and moms are carrying coffee mugs and sometimes just wear sweatpants to drop off. On television, houses are always clean, parents are somehow magically at home and/or just standing around in some work uniform drinking coffee, nobody is actually cleaning, eating isn’t done that much, no one has an actual job.
Okay, so television doesn’t reflect real life. Does it matter? On one hand, it’s an escape from realism. But on the other hand, we are showing our children that in a “perfect world” the things that are happening in their life aren’t a problem and simply aren’t an issue. I suppose the popularity of these shows is due to the fact that kids see enough drama in their day, and they just want to see something happy for a change. It’s probably nice for a half hour to see a family that’s all neat and clean, never late, making jokes written by someone in a green room, with a full blowout and a tiny belt—and with excellent lighting.