Pencils, notebooks, batteries, calculators, binders, blah, blah, blah. The back-to-school shopping list, after more than a dozen years, becomes tedious. Or, maybe, it’s just that teenagers turn shopping for anything into a toxic brew of frustration, impatience, and we-know-better-but-we-still-want-you-to-get-involved-too experiences.
This year, in addition to all those standard school supplies, I’d like to shop for a collection of unconventional stickers or messages to put on the breakfast table — assuming the kids have breakfast — or in the bathroom, that they can read each day. How about:
“No, she doesn’t hate you.” Your teacher may have had a bad day and she may have a difference of opinion with you, but the chance that she hates you isn’t all that high.
“There is no such thing as ‘fake homework.’” It’d be nice not to have to do some subjects, but falling behind creates more work tomorrow, when you’ll be even more exhausted.
“Turn off your phone.” Yes, you might need the phone for homework, but you spend way too much time pretending to do homework on it while you’re killing virtual people or sending pictures of yourself to the world.
“Take a shower.” You smell, you’ll get away from your homework or job for a few minutes and you’ll make everyone else’s lives better after you no longer smell like a locker room.
“Smile, even if you don’t feel like it.” It’s amazing how much better you and everyone else will feel if and when you stop scowling.
“Don’t write in all CAPS!” It’s annoying and it makes you look like you want to shout.
“Yes, I’m sure he’s your brother.” We brought both of you home from the hospital and we intend to keep both of you.
“Neatness counts.” This is true at home and at school.
“Don’t waste too much time today.” Yeah, we all know that we won’t be efficient all the time. How about if we strive for less inefficiency today?
“Say something nice.” That is, to someone other than your best friend(s).
“Assume Santa Claus is watching you today.” Kids get presents regardless of whether they’ve been naughty or nice, which leads them to believe the song about Santa watching all the time is wrong. They may, however, suspect that he could focus on a few times or days. Today could be one of those days
“No, everyone is not an idiot.” Not even you.
“Laugh with someone more than at someone.”
“Clean up this crap.” You made a mess and you can clean it up, even if it’s more fun to watch a parent do it.
“Even if no one else knows, you’ll know.” Isn’t that enough?
“Everything might not matter, but something should.”
“Close the door and scream.” Shouting can release tension.
“Make more mistakes today.” Your errors present opportunities to learn.
“If you feel like you’re falling asleep when you shouldn’t, ask a question.” And no, it shouldn’t be, “Will this be on the test?”
“Your ideas are fine. Your breath could use improvement.”
“Yes, we have to have winter again.”
“Are you sure you want to cross that line again today?”
“Do you really believe your own argument?”
“Are you sharing more with strangers than family?”
“Try to say ‘please’ out loud as often as you send an instant message.”
“Yes, that clock is accurate, so move along.”
“Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true or false. It could be both.”
“Help someone other than yourself today.”
Maybe a few of these stickers will make a teenager’s world and those of us who live around it into something that smells better, is neater and contains a few extra social graces. Then again, perhaps aiming lower, a sticker could suggest:
“Try not to roll your eyes when you read this.”