Welcome to August. Here in Central Texas, August tends to be the hottest and driest part of the year. This is the time when the earth herself gets bleached white from the searing sun. There are only two places to be in August in Central Texas: inside or in the pool. I’ve been dividing my time as evenly as possible between the two.

At our local neighborhood pool there is a lifeguard on duty between 2 and 9pm every day during the summer. The lifeguard this summer is a 16-year-old (approximately) boy. He’s quite the swimmer – he does laps when he takes an occasional break – but he doesn’t do much else. That is to say, he doesn’t stop kids from running, he doesn’t straighten the kids out who are making a ruckus on the slide, and he never, ever says a peep to the teenagers who occasionally take over the pool, if there’s only one or two kids in the pool, he’s more likely to be in the pool himself, talking with friends.

Do I sound like a grumpy adult who has isn’t accepting or acknowledging of the hard work that a teenager is trying to put in? Do I sound like I’m focusing on the negative rather than the positive? Probably. Is that because I am a negativity-focused, anti-teenager adult? I hope not.

Nevertheless, this teenager is not suited to this job yet. It may be that after some training, after some guidance, he might be. His parents are the ones who tend the pool, so I expect he got the job by default. I don’t even know if he wanted the job in the first place.

It’s situations like this that give teenagers a bad rap. This boy has a relatively public face in our neighborhood. Plenty of the neighborhood adults are fed up with him and fed up with acting as the lifeguard because he isn’t. I’ve heard many of the neighborhood adults sigh about “teens today” and “lack of responsibility” and allow this experience to reinforce their negative assumptions about and associations with teenagers in general.

I wish the parents who run the pool had set up a competitive hiring process for the lifeguard position. I wish they had taken the time to write up a job description, and that they routinely help evaluations of the pool lifeguard. Then, even if they did end up hiring their son to fill the spot, they (and we) would have been able to expect more from him. Teenagers can be responsible people. They just have to want to be responsible, they have to see that they are able to be responsible, they have to be shown what it means to be responsible, and they have to know that people expect it of them.