I was reading this article about normal developmental stages from infant to adolescence. I had to stop and make my own list before finishing the article, because I am always interested in what is considered baseline. I have some firsthand knowledge of my own baseline, but I don’t know how normal it is.
Here is my list, followed by the real list, below. What do you think when you compare it to the real article? How would your list read?
Allison’s Normal Adolescence
- You will hang out with your best friend nonstop, talking about boys while also still playing with Barbie houses. You repeatedly create castles where Barbie is either a ruler or a slave, always with a prominent and dramatic kitchen scene. Unrelated, you snack constantly all through adolescence (and adulthood). Just kidding, it’s related.
- You will attend a 7th grade Halloween party at your best friend’s school dressed as Captain Hook, while your best friend goes as Peter Pan. All the other girls are in vaguely sexy costumes. But it’s OK to be Captain Hook because no one there knows you. Also, no one will hit on you.
- You don’t mind that your best friend also doesn’t get hit on, because all you need is each other, and she feels the same. This will last until 9th grade, when you fall in love hard with Thad Chatterton (not his real name, but it should be).
- You will suddenly wonder why you never paid more attention to fashion, and try several attempts that fail spectacularly, including pleated stonewashed jeans, Nikes that you later discover are boy’s shoes, and a red fedora from Banana Republic that you pair with a floral ankle-length skirt.
- You will pretend to hate Thad Chatterton, and secretly diagram every known way to pass his locker to/from every class. You will choose one period per day when you don’t pass his locker, and keep changing the time to make it appear “natural.”
- You’ll drive an orange car your best friend nicknames “The Pumpkin.” It has beaded seats and a sweet tape deck you’ll use to blast the Smashing Pumpkins (ha), the Doors, Green Day, the Bach Cello Suites, and the 5th Dimension. You won’t realize how weird that list is until years later. You’ll let your friend Katie ride on the hood one night after the Homecoming bonfire, and get into trouble with the cops even though you were only going, like, 20 miles/hr.
- You will think about sex nonstop with Thad Chatterton, his best friend Chad Thatterton (not his real name), and every other boy you sit behind, next to, or work with on the school newspaper, Forensics, choir, and the sexiest of all classes, BAND.
- You will make up love songs in band rehearsal, rhyming “Thad” with “rad” (not the real word, because not the real name). You’ll play mallet percussion, the only instruments that translate from your piano lessons. You’ll do this because band means you and your best friend have at least one class together. You’ll also spend most of rehearsal laughing hysterically in the back, pretending to play the instruments until the band director allows you to enthusiastically take up the tambourine, and a set of maracas shaped like pieces of fruit from Carmen Miranda’s headpiece. You will march with them proudly during football games while your best friend plays the triangle, and people in the stands will wonder why you’re there. You’ll wonder why you still haven’t gotten laid.
- You will smoke weed for the first time, and then the next few times, and find it’s easier than drinking. You’ll get drunk one time and decide to go back to weed. You’ll hang out with your boyfriend, though you won’t call each other boyfriend/girlfriend because that’s too much of a label. You’ll get the weed from two brothers who surprisingly end up dropping out of high school so that the weed supply dries up. You’ll be sober for the rest of high school.
- You’ll know you want to go to college, but forget to apply until the last minute. Senior year will be a constant struggle of catching up to new adulthood milestones as you apply to colleges and prepare for auditions (because you still think you’re going to be a classical pianist, even though you’re reading more books than ever before, and forming opinions about them). You’ll try to reconcile that you won’t live with your best friend forever. You’ll be excited about the world. You’ll love your family. You’ll leave town and think that you’ve become an adult. You’ll someday realize that, for you, being an adult means you will never completely leave your adolescence.
Their list of Normal Adolescence
- Friends will be more important than family. You’re still important, but there’s something they have to do – find who they will be when they step into the world as a healthy, independent adult. Just like you had to do at their age.
- What their peers think of them will be a source of stress to them for a while, peaking for girls at age 13 and for boys at age 15. They might go to extra lengths to try to fit in with their peers. This might involve making silly decisions or putting themselves in risky situations. Breathe. It will end.
- They will become more argumentative and will push against you more. This is perfectly in keeping with their adolescent adventure and their experimentation with independence.
- May become more emotionally distant from you (don’t worry – they’ll come back but maybe not until they leave their teens).
- Might not want to be seen in public with you – however cool you are.
- Will experiment with their image, their identity, and the way they are in the world.
- They might be impulsive and they might start taking risks. (For a full explanation of why they do this, see here.)
- They will be more creative and will start to think about the world in really interesting, different ways.
- They will act like your opinion of them doesn’t matter but it does – as much as ever.
- They will often misread your emotional expressions – reading anger, hostility or disappointment when you feel nothing like any of that (See here to understand teenage emotional flare-ups).
- Their sleep cycle will change. Their circadian rhythm will move them about three hours past where they were as kids. This means that they will fall asleep three hours past the time they used to and unless they are completely exhausted, it will be biologically very difficult for them to fall asleep earlier. They will need about 9-10 hours earlier so will need to sleep in for later.
- Will want to make their own decisions about the things that affect them.