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The Spartan VP of content and I were talking (by talking I mean we exchanged abbreviated text messages.) We noted that teens, and parents of teens, seem to be invisible in the media right now. Here's the letter I wrote for publication on the Spartan site. ( Spartan published the article 4/23)
Spartan teens and moms, dads and mentors of 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 the vision, energy and innovation of our teens? I'm not going to give advice because I'm pretty sure I'm doing it wrong, but here's 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 DeSenas. Even then Joe was leading pre-schoolers in jumping jacks and push-ups at birthday parties.
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 & reveal us to ourselves." ~Bruce Babashan on Spartan Up
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, they know there are a lot of people who have things a whole lot worse than us. Sometimes I wish they knew it was Ok to admit that this is hard, 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” ~ Tom Bilyeu on Spartan Up Podcast
When school closed and track practice shut down the boys started running every day. I think today is day 37. I’m convinced 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 8th grader is usually finished with school in a few hours, then he's left to fill his days without much direction. He used to tell me he was lonely, he doesn't anymore.
My high school junior feels the stress of adapting to virtual school. I regret all the times I told him junior spring was the one time he needed to worry about grades. He spends a lot of time in his room.
There are so many resources for activities with young kids, I haven't seen anything for parents of teens. It's a time when they should be spreading their wings, 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.
We try to model resilience. The moments 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 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 - help them find their purpose.
Teens, what can we do to help you live - body, mind and spirit - during a pandemic? Moms, Dads, mentors - how are you helping shepherd this essential resource for our future?
"If I’m not failing, then I’m not reaching high enough…." ~Kevin Flike on Spartan Up Podcast
Today I went shopping. The first time away from the house (other than my daily run) since Saturday. It was a pleasure to get away from the computer, to clear my head. I thought - how lucky I am that I'm not living paycheck to paycheck and we have food to put on the table, how lucky I am that I have time to come shop unlike the front line first responders and medical personnel, how lucky I am that I live in town where even with shortages most of the shelves are full, how lucky I am that I was able to shop for my mom when I last saw her on March 10th, how lucky I am that my father keeps a huge store of food and doesn't need to go to the grocery store, how lucky I am the the the clerks and workers continue to work, stay friendly, checking us out and stocking the shelves. There were a few empty shelves. I haven't seen toilette paper on a store shelf for weeks, no alcohol or thermometers, not much pasta or rice, the fresh produce was a little sad today - kale and broccoli wilted, no flour - but the whole chickens were back, and there were a few small bottles of chlorox today. There was more than enough to bring home and keep everyone not just fed, but happy with their favorite things.
I enjoyed the ritual of wiping down the groceries. A little time outside just "doing."
Maybe it's unnecessary. I do the up side, down side calculation. Worst that happens if I wipe it all down - I waste 15 minutes. Worst that happens if I don't - Someone gets sick. Best that happens if I wipe it all down - I save someone from getting sick. Best that happens if I don't wipe it all down - I save 15 minutes. Easy decision.
Early in the morning, walking the yard before anyone else is up, it could be any early spring day.
But then things get rolling. And the surreal reality we live in reemerges. I won't be taking the kids to school, or lining up a meeting for coffee in town, I won't be scheduling in person shoots and interviews or travel. I'm still editing & publishing podcasts, still taking the dog out, still enjoying my morning coffee. New on the list: getting things in order for today's live Zoom call. Today's guest was Bruce Babashan. He was one of the most powerful speakers yet. He talked about how he is coaching his athletes:
"We all experience fear. The trick is turning fear into fire. If that is true, right now the world is ablaze with energy.
You can wallow, or take the fuel of this moment."
Our friend Kressa Peterson, founder of Shower Toga, was on the call too. She has been sending her products free to medical workers and first responders who have been changing and showering outside of their homes so they don't expose their families to the virus. Processing and verifying requests has become overwhelming emotionally. She said "I thought I was the kind of person that could handle this...maybe I'm not." In a few seconds both she and Bruce (and many of us) had tears in our eyes. Even those of us safe at home have been feeling this slow, continuous, build-up of pressure. Bruce told her she is strong enough, and the tears and emotion are sure signs that she is a genuine person and shouldn't change. He shared some stories about fighters - famous ones facing fear each time they go into the ring, and the young athletes he coaches keeping training on track when food and money might be scarce and the future of their sport is uncertain.
“These circumstances reveal the pretenders & reveal us to ourselves."
Yesterday was Saturday. What to do Saturday night? We took a walk around downtown Woodstock, Vermont. Empty as it was, it felt good to get out. We saw surprisingly few people out walking. All the shops were closed, for years as a videographer we took extreme measures to could get photos of storefronts without the traffic and cars in the foreground. Last night it was easy. Many shops are still finding ways to serve (Yankee Bookshop offers porch deliveries, Woodstock pharmacy is serving prescriptions at the door.)
It's hard to say when the "quarantine" started, or even what to call it. It's been a gradual process that now has keeping more and more to ourselves. I'm still working, still producing the Spartan Up podcast and other content for Spartan, still working to to help our audience stay strong, positive & productive. And yet - there's a sense of disconnection.
I decided to challenge myself to take daily photos of this experience. There will be a lot of the dog Trooper (the most willing photo subject,) and some of my family, lots of nature and I hope some around town. So..Day one was marked by gorgeous morning light. The day started with a smile.
It became "the" tough day. There's always one where the reality hits. That was today. The announcement that school would not reopen this spring, big cuts in contracts, none of it was surprising. It will pass, tomorrow will be another day. The people I love are all healthy. We're truly fortunate.
On March 27th I was envious of the "pause" to reassess and learn I kept hearing about. I was fortunate enough to still be working, so I committed to a more active blog. This is my chance to think out loud about podcasting, messaging, story, nature, family and life.
~ Marion Abrams