By RABBI BOB ALPER
(Editor’s note: This was obviously written in a pre-COVID-19 environment.)
Well, it’s that time of year again, time to check the ads, consult with friends and relatives, maybe even query the guidance counselors at the schools. Actually, “that time of year” can extend from late summer through whenever the goal is accomplished, but winter is the average starting point for trying to decide WHAT TO DO WITH MY TEENAGER NEXT SUMMER.
Emerging teenagers in particular. The older ones can usually land jobs or enroll themselves in advanced or remedial courses designed to get them into colleges their parents can brag about. It’s the younger teens that present the problem: too late to be campers, and too early to be counselors; no longer very cuddly, and, alas, not yet civil.
This is why one of the world’s most inspired geniuses created TEEN TOURS. The concept may be of recent vintage, or, then again, it may have developed as a way to assuage the angst of ancient mommies and daddies (“Flavius, sweetheart, this summer, how’d you like to go on a rowing trip to Carthage with a nice group of children your age?”)
In any event, teen tours are big business these days. It’s a fact: parents of fourteen-year-olds will pay any amount of money to get their darlings out of the house for a few weeks in summertime. Israel is the most frequent choice within the Jewish community, but I’ve also heard of bus tours to the Western US (for Eastern kids); to the Eastern US (for Western kids), and to “the land of our ancestors: Miami” for kids living anywhere in the non-Florida Diaspora. And somebody once seriously claimed there’s a teen tour that spends weeks exposing fertile minds to “major American malls with three or more anchor stores.”
In general, teen tours work out well for all parties, erecting a safety buffer of distance between generations during a genetically explosive time. It’s an era of bewildered parents and changing, confused kids, many of whom have successfully reached the pinnacle of self-centeredness that marks their stage in life.
Like my friend’s son, age 14.
The following conversation took place in late July. The participants were located in a suburban kitchen and a Denny’s phone booth, somewhere in Arizona.
Mom: Oh, sweetie, it’s so good to hear from you! We thought you were going to call last Monday…
Son: Unghrrup (unintelligible mumble).
Mom: That bus looked incredible! Mr. Decker told us it has a kitchenette, toilet, and even TV sets with lots of videos.
Mom: So…what have you been doing?
Son: Well, we went to Universal Studios, and then Rodeo Drive, and spent the next day at Disneyland.
Mom: Oh, that sounds so exciting. How was it?
Mom: Where are you now?
Son: Arizona. Umm. I gotta get off the phone. The bus is leaving for the Grand Canyon. Can I ask Dad a question?
Mom: He’s not here, honey. He took Stevie to a Tigers game.
Son: (Long pause. Followed by indignation.) WHAT? They went without ME?