August…the dregs of summer…

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.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. I’m glad you acknowledge adult responsibility and the nuances of personal motivation to do a good job at whatever one does. I sometimes try to imagine a world in which every human were encouraged to pursue their most compelling interests; of parents who were willing to tune into their child’s natural talents and inclinations and support them in that direction. Too many of us, young and older alike, are doing work we don’t particularly enjoy. The culture still supports that, although I hope the tide is turning. Your observations and comments continue to be insightful and thought provoking, Karen, and I appreciate reading your posts every day!

  2. Thanks, Margaret! It’s so lovely to have supportive comments – really keeps me going!

  3. While reading your blog my mind floated back to my teenagehood. Overall, I thought of myself as a responsible, kind, adventurous teen who got along with my parents. I adored my parents (intermixed with being sooo annoyed by their obvious uncoolness). When I talk with them now about that time period they both say that I was a ‘good’ kid and they did not have many problems with me. Because of our overall warm relationship I have always thought that when my tadpoles grow up into prefrogs, we would also have a pleasant, loving relationship. My son is now 12 and so far he is awesome. There is occasional rude talk (from both of us) but we are doing well. I look forward to watching him grow into a teen along with his friends. And, I am A LOT more confident of his upcoming changes since my husband and I have taken a ‘How to talk with your kids about sex’ class with Dr. Rayne. Thanks for your support and ideas about teens!

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