By Marion Abrams, Producer of the Spartan Up! Podcast
As part of our ongoing #UnbreakableKids series, Spartan parents are sharing what it's like to raise kids during a pandemic. It's not easy, but we want you to know that you're not alone. We're with you in spirit, from Sparta to San Francisco and everywhere in between. Stay #Unbreakable.
A message to Spartan teens, moms and dads of teens, and mentors to teens: You are not invisible. In fact, you may be the world’s most powerful resource. And here’s the question: How do we empower our teens' vision, energy, and innovation right now? How do we soothe them without prom? How do we explain that missing SATs/PSATs and house parties doesn't matter?
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I'm not going to give advice, because I'm pretty sure I'm doing it wrong, but this is what being a parent of a teen in “captivity” has been like for me. My kids have lived on a steady diet of the Spartan ethos since early childhood, even if we didn't call it that then. In our tiny Vermont town, our neighbors were the De Senas. (Joe De Sena is the founder and CEO of Spartan.) Even then, Joe was leading preschoolers in jumping jacks and push-ups at birthday parties.
Here we are in the old days, before we had to be six feet apart.
Around 2007, we started shooting videos for what would become Spartan, and as soon as the kids could manage, they started tagging along as my assistants.
"These circumstances reveal the pretenders and reveal us to ourselves." — Boxing Coach Bruce Babashan on Spartan Up! (Listen to the episode here.)
Fast forward to today. My husband and I find ourselves in isolation with two teen boys — teens who seem invisible to the media these days. In addition to the uncertainty we all feel in the face of a pandemic, they are experiencing the flip-flop of hormones, eddies of energy, the usual stresses of life, and a deep yearning for both the social interaction and structure that school and sports provide. They don't complain, though, They know that there are a lot of people who have things a whole lot worse than us. Sometimes I wish they knew that it is OK to admit that this is hard, but at the same time I admire their fortitude.
"Ultimate success is how I felt about myself in those quiet moments when no one is around." — Impact Theory CEO Tom Bilyeu on Spartan Up! (Listen to the episode here.)
When school closed and track practice shut down, the boys started running every day. I think today is Day 37. I’m convinced that the time alone, the outlet for energy, and the fresh air are essential for all of our mental health.
On school days, we insist they get up and make their beds at a set time. Other than that and a few chores, they manage their own school schedules and responsibilities. My eighth grader is usually finished with school in a few hours, and then he's left to fill his days without much direction. He used to tell me he was lonely. He doesn't anymore.
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My high school junior feels the stress of adapting to virtual school. I regret all the times I told him that the spring semester of junior year was the one time he really needed to worry about grades. He spends a lot of time in his room.
There are so many resources for activities with young kids, but yet I haven't seen anything for parents of teens. It's a time when they should be spreading their wings and becoming independent. How do you guide them through that when they are stuck at home with mom and dad for company? It’s not the natural state for a teen. A teen is a doer by nature, an inventor, an explorer.
"If I’m not failing, then I’m not reaching high enough." — Green Beret Kevin Flike on Spartan Up! (Listen to the episode here.)
We try to model resilience. The moments that we spend together, without the separation of headphones and devices, come into crisp focus. The long FaceTime calls with their grandmother; the unconditional love of our dog, Trooper; watching them learn to cook dinner for the family. Those are bright lights.
We're all learning how to live together and learning together how to live. What I know I’m doing right is letting them know that I love them, focusing on the positive, and continuing to adapt and learn as we walk into the future. What I need to do better is help them find their purpose.
It's a daunting, complex challenge for everyone right now, and teens (and the parents of teens) are certainly no exception.