When your house is full of teenagers, it’s also full of drama. Sometimes it’s a severe sort of conflict (which, I feel seriously blessed and lucky and fortunate to report, has been pretty rare so far for us). Sometimes it's just silliness. But it’s always around. Last night, for example, when I got home from work, Nathan was melting down because the laptop where he’d saved his Nanowrimo novel had crashed and he couldn’t get it back. (I emailed his teacher to explain and then had to talk him out of being too anxious about it to sleep.) Haley needed new notebooks for English and biotech, couldn’t find her cell phone, and was mediating a fight between two of her friends. (After said phone was located in the bathroom drawer, we ran to Target really quickly, talking about the friend thing during the drive.) Jake was suffering from conjunctivitis that he caught from Kaleb (our six year old) and he really wanted to watch TV even though he is banished until his eyes feel better. (I was compassionate but firm and suggested he take a shower.)
Teens have drama. Moms of teens have perpetual exhaustion.
Hopefully the next four scrapbooking layout ideas will rev up your creative energy!
1. Don’t Neglect the Trends
I love those emails/Facebook posts that pop up every once in awhile, the ones about “you know you were a teen in the _____ if” (insert your teenage decade in that space). It always cracks me up to think about the trends I’ve forgotten I used to love. (Jelly shoes and Units outfits and side ponytails, for example. Oh, and Swatches! And Atari. I could totally kick anyone’s butt on Atari Asteroids!)
In fact, I’m certain that the concept of “trends” was invented just for teens. This goes back to their passionate natures—“passionate” and “obsessive” are sort of synonyms after all! Each of my teens has had his or her own way of defining which trends to obsess over, but they’ve found them and then spent large amounts of time living with them.
(I’m just really, really grateful that parachute pants are no longer a trend!)
Get some of those trends down in your layouts. You’re certain to already be documenting your teens clothing trends just by taking photos of them. Other trends will take some advanced planning on your part. Start by making a list: which trends have influenced your child? My list includes things like cell phones (an obvious one!), downloaded music (remember CD’s? no, wait—remember cassette tapes?), fancy pants (which is my name for any jeans that have anything more than your basic jean details), v-neck T’s (for the boys; Haley won’t be caught dead in a T shirt), Facebook, colored hair streaks (Haley had a blue one for about a year), and novels about dystopias.
In this layout:
I wrote about the Twilight series of books. The vampires, love triangles, and fairy-tale endings in these books (as well as the movies) have created trends in young adult literature and in movies, and while I decidedly don’t love these books, Haley has read them. We’ve talked about them quite a bit, too, and they’ve led us to conversations I am 100% certain we wouldn’t have had otherwise. When you write about your teen’s trendy obsessions, think not just about the trend itself, but what it means and how it has influenced your kids.
Since I never took any photos of Haley reading any of these books, I had to think about how to portray them in a photo. This snapshot of her bookshelf, with arrows pointing to the titles in question, works. I realized after I finished the layout that it also captures a little snapshot of who she is right now. Hair supplies and lots of jewelry, inspirational quotes and fingernail polish in—hey!—trendy colors: each of those little visual tidbits say something I’m pretty sure would have gotten lost in the everyday busy-ness of life. (Although…I’m really not sure what is up with that Ken doll!)
Idea Take Away If you want to add textual elements to a photo before you print it (like the arrows I used here), crop your photo first and then add the text. That way, the proportions in your print will be correct.
2. Use What They’ve Already Written
Sometimes it is hard to know exactly how to journal on teen-focused layouts. Lots of things happen when we parents aren’t around. Or putting your thoughts into words gets complicated. You might just not know what to say.
But sometimes you really don’t have to know—you just have to dig a little bit. Use what your teenager has written in other places as the journaling for some of your layouts to add a not-so-inconsequential layer of meaning. I’ve already mentioned my penchant for sending my kids writing assignments via email, and honestly: those layouts are some of my favorites because I know they are authentic. But asking isn’t the only way to get a hold of your teen’s thoughts. Facebook and Twitter updates are a good source, as are the texts they’ve sent to you or the ones they might share with you. (When my kids got cell phones, it was with the understanding that texts aren’t journals and I, as the person paying for the phone, can read them whenever I want. This didn’t happen because of scrapbooking, of course. But it does make journaling easier!) If your teen has a blog, read it for ideas. You can even use stuff they write for school assignments.
Is this snooping? I don’t think so. For one, my kids know I do this. Two, I would never, ever, ever snoop in secret. Their journals? Completely off limits to me, which they know and (I hope) trust. Everything else? Fair game.
Here’s a layout that uses something that my daughter Haley wrote on her blog just this week:
The words that came from her blog are the ones in the script font (it’s called Sweetly Broken). I love that she is having her own epiphanies and that she is learning about life—and that she isn’t afraid to put it out there for other people to see.
Idea Take Away This is such a simple layout—so simple it nearly makes me feel guilty. I think, though, that sometimes we make it too complicated. Simple is good. Simple means we are getting more of our supplies out of our boxes and drawers and into our albums. So if you need permission, here it is: it’s OK to be simple!
And, a little bonus Idea Take Away: here’s a PDF with the “never run away” quotation, in case you’d like to use it on one of your layouts: Download Junot diaz quote
3. Use your past
If you could go back in time and take some photos of your teenage years, what would you document? Now, document that for your teen. Honestly, I learned this the hard way, from my mom’s decisions when I was a teenager. A rebellious and angry and always-wearing-black gothy sort of teenager. (Yes, I know. No one who didn’t know me then believes it now.) There are precious few photos of me during that phase of my life because it bothered her so much. I wish I had more photos of me with my friends, my car, and my hobbies. I wish I had a picture of my stereo and of all my tapes lined up underneath it. Or one of my bedroom. Or my steel-toed boots. Photos of me with boyfriends? Nonexistent.
The real point is this: try to not let how you feel about your teenagers’ choices stop you from documenting them anyway. It will add to their feelings of self worth if you take time to photograph and scrap about their blue hair or too-heavy eyeliner or too-short skirt. In your gut, you know this because you were once a teenager, too. Let yourself remember that time and learn from it.
I took this idea in a slightly different way:
In this layout, I journaled about a few of the things I wish I had known when I was a teenager. It grew out of an experience I had just last weekend, when I watched her walk up to the door of her Preference date’s house. How did I—socially awkward, utterly shy, and totally angry teenager—create a confident, outgoing, friendly daughter? It hit me, watching her, how much her teenage experiences—my sons’, too, but in a different way—have caused me to revisit my own. And have helped me to put to bed old issues, too. I’m still not certain if this layout is for Haley or if it is for me! (But, hello. Can I just say how much I love this photo of her?)
Idea Take Away If you want to use a border punch on journaling strips as I did here, pay attention to how thick you cut your strips. Depending on the punch, you’ll need to leave about one-half inch of empty space below (or above, if you want, or even both!) the words. (Pay attention to descenders like y, z, and p.)
4. Write What you Feel
I think I have a pretty good relationship with my teenagers. I try to keep our conversations open, to help them trust me, and to avoid judging them. But I’d be foolish if I believed they talk to me about everything. It just simply sometimes is hard work, communicating.
And this is what I love about scrapbook journaling.
It is the perfect space for you to put into words what you have a hard time saying out loud. Or what your teen would, quite simply, not want to listen to. There is always so much emotion involved in the issues we have with our teens, both on their part and on ours. Writing what you feel helps you to figure out what you feel. Strange but true.
So here’s a challenge. The next time you’re feeling strongly about something related to your teen—and this “something” can be a negative or a positive—take ten minutes or so to write down your thoughts. You might not ever use that exact writing on a layout. But the act of writing will help you process what you know, think, fear, hope, and/or feel. This parenting of teens is a complicated experience. Writing will help you make it a little bit more simple.
Here’s a layout I love from Emily:
In her journaling she writes about that moment we each eventually experience. I think of it as the grocery-store moment. It happens when you see someone else’s small child in a grocery store and you realize: my teenager will never be that small again. (Finding yourself weeping in Target, Walmart, or your local grocery store? Totally one of the hazards of being a mom!) This is the bitter sweetness of motherhood, I believe: that they grow up. What other way would you have it? But it still stings. It might be decades before Emily’s daughter truly understands this emotion her mom was feeling. But when she does? This layout will mean even more.
Idea Take Away Embrace the white space! No matter if it’s a single-photo layout or one with 29 pictures on it, every layout needs a little bit of breathing room, some space with nothing in it. The white space Emily incorporated here makes the layout feel expansive and open-hearted.
I’ve made more than few layouts where I’ve written about how I feel. Here’s one I did about Jake:
where I write about the core emotions that go along with raising him specifically. See, I grew up with three sisters—no brothers—and so every day Jake teaches me something about boys that I never knew before. This teenage boy thing is faintly terrifying to me, and writing down my fears, as well as my hopes and the things I know, helped me to feel more brave.
Idea Take Away You won’t find the word “Teenageboyness” in any dictionary I know. But I am totally OK with that anyway. Titles are a great place to play with language; try to not let The Official Grammar and Spelling Rules overcome your creativity. Stay within the basic guidelines, of course. (There’s a huge difference, for example, between a layout that’s about “My Heroine” (detailing this scrapper’s hero, who happens to be a girl) and one that really means to be about the same thing but is stuck with the title “My Heroin.” And, yes: I am not making that up!) But it’s also OK to let yourself play. More than just OK, in fact. Fun!
In this layout I did for Haley, I journaled some of my feelings about her entering high school and how it changed her. She had a tough sophomore year, and this layout
Idea Take Away Don’t be afraid to mix your old scrapbooking supplies with your new ones. The “bird” letters here are some really old Basic Grey ones—five or six years. The pink background (which I just realized I also used on my Twilight layout!) is less than a year old. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the must-use-new-stuff mania. No one who matters in your life will ever care which products you used. Just that you went to the effort to use them!
Don’t forget to check back in tomorrow, when we’ll be having some drama of our own, but of the best sort: give away day! Until then!