your boxes can’t hold their experiences


“I wish I was a little kid again. Life was so much easier then.”

I see so many tweets and status updates echoing that sentiment. True, I follow and friend a bunch of teenagers. Call it a job hazard. I’m bombarded with teenagers bemoaning their loss of childhood. Those same teenagers offer up complaints about how many hours they work in a week, too.

“I have to work every day this week from 1-4. That’s 15 hours!”

Sometimes I stifle a giggle at that. The blasted 15 hour work week and all… I’d kill for that schedule. Life was so much easier in high school.

It’s fine when I’m like that, but I hate it when people older than me tell me to enjoy the easy years of my 30s.

The one that gets me most is the mommyjacking. I’ll post something about an event I’m going to or some fun day trip and one of my well-meaning friends will say something like “Enjoy it while you can. I miss those single, carefree days” or “Silly kids with their naps and mealtimes getting in the way of me doing things like that.”

I think we collectively have a problem: few of us are content with where we are in life. Our perspective on different life stages changes as we fly through them. That’s okay. Our desire to impose our enlightened perspective on people going through life stages or experiences is not always okay.

It’s helpful to remind people that we’ve survived a hardship similar to what they’re going through. Take 2nd grade for example. A 10th grader might feel like 2nd grade problems don’t exist. I know a few 2nd graders who might disagree. Talk to a 2nd grader trying to find a lost piece of homework or trying to avoid the mean 3rd grader on the walk home. Small problems are big problems in 2nd grade. That doesn’t even touch other problems like parents’ divorcing, abuse, grief, moving or whatever.

I dismiss high schoolers upset with how many hours they have to work a week and I should know better. Should teenagers work full time in the summer? Maybe. Maybe not. But just because I was a teenager half my life ago doesn’t mean I can diminish what a teenager goes through today. Get over your part time job… soon you’ll be working full time!

And yeah, it seems innocent to point out the freedoms a single friend has that a married person or a parent doesn’t have, but it can be painful to the person trying a dating site for the millionth time. Empathy is awesome and risky.

We have similar experiences. We age at the same rate. We are wiser for what we go through. Thank God we can learn from people who have gone ahead of us– there is hope and encouragement. We can teach people following us– there is shared wisdom and empathy. We can’t, however, categorize and fully understand exactly what another child, teenager or adult is going through. We can listen and we can try to understand but we shouldn’t diminish the magnitude of another person’s experience just because we think we’ve already been where that person is right now.

About SaraBSutter

I serve as the pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Goldfield, Iowa. My husband Steve and I are excited to be in a friendly small town and look forward to the years ahead. In addition to nerdy church stuff, I love reading books, writing, good coffee, cats, and football.

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