Wednesday, August 29, 2012

France at 14



Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with two interesting and quite different French teenagers, both of whom are at the very particular age of 14. I have known Mateo, above, for a few years now as he the son of one of Remi's closest friends. Each time that they come down to Provence for a visit, I see Mat's mind opening with leaps and bounds. He is already a consummate Parisian with impeccable manners, his own "look" and a wide grasp of current culture. He is a willing conversationalist with very specific points of view, including a strong argument that his particular generation is not as deeply impacted by the violence present in video games as we adults might think.

One of the highlights of Mat and his Dad's visit this summer was a picnic held at our secret church. The day was blistering but that didn't prevent us from having a wonderful time. It says a lot about Mat that he is not the kind of ado that will whine about being bored, he takes his time into his own hands. So while we chattered on and on, he asked if he could borrow my camera and went on a photo hunt. Below are two that he took, which I wanted to share as it was lovely to discover where his eye roamed.




Unfortunately, Mat headed back up north the day before Loïc's arrival, so they weren't able to meet.


Also from la région parisienne, Loïc was vacationing en famille with an old friend of ours. He is quiet and discreet, yet I was quickly impressed by his attentiveness towards his younger Sister, Julie as well as his lack of hesitation in asking questions on subjects that were new to him. I also could call him "The Dog Whisperer" for his excellent connection with animals. Ben was certainly completely charmed by him, answered his call and followed him wherever he went. 


Perhaps because Remi and I don't have children ourselves, I find such meetings edifying, a means to touch base with a youth that is quite different from what I experienced. Of course, some aspects are not surprising--Mat and Loïc both have an ease regarding their near constant connection with the virtual world, one which they can take or leave unobtrusively, without any show or pretension. But what marked me the most was how serious they both are about their futures. Yes, at 14. Both admitted that due to the fact that we are in such shaky times financially, they will need to have specific career plans and have already taken solid steps in moving towards their perspective choices. Impressive, isn't it? I sincerely hope that both of them have bright futures ahead.

So, any thoughts from my friends around the world about our youth today?





40 comments:

  1. Hello Heather:
    The young, we believe, are very much our future and it is heart warming to read this post of two young people with clear plans for the future, on the look out for the unexpected, have a resonance with nature and possess the glint of optimism and energy in their eyes. Yes, we too hope that they will achieve their dreams.

    As we too do not have children, we think it very important to stay in contact with young people and to hear their views and ideas. In our school days, we were very much aware of such things and now we are pleased to have young people as friends in order to keep in touch with the modern world.

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    1. As always, you have such wonderful perspectives to share. I couldn't agree with you more heartily on the importance of staying in touch with young people--or our elders! We all have so much to offer that having a sense of the Big Picture is the true gift.

      Looking forward to hearing about your excursion to Venice!
      Bisous,
      H

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  2. I do think that the character of the children is instilled via the parents and their teaching & requirements. Your 2 examples are verifying this, I believe. Strong, good guidance of receptive kids will definitely be our future. I'm thrilled to hear this description of the taking/leaving of computers and games. Of course, this is their world, still sorta new to us, you know? They were born into this so it is natural for them. And, yes, I do believe everything is cyclical. Love from Texas, darling.....

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    1. Merci dear Marsha and right back at ya. And yes both of these young men come have excellent fathers (I have yet to meet their Moms) of that I can be sure. Both of the Dads have confidence in their boys and what an effect that clearly has on them both.

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  3. YES. Impressive.

    Heather, you have my heart racing and my mind sprinting to catch up with the portrait of these two young men. From where I sit on the other side of the world, I send whatever blessings I am capable of to the boy whose eye roams to secrets hiding in plain sight and the boy who charmed Ben. My speeding heart is filled with a desire to see both Mat and Loic succeed in all that they put their hands to.

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    1. Suze, where have you been all my life? ;) Kindness begets kindness and so these two are well-deserving of your wonderful words.

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  4. Bonjour Heather. This story resonated for me because my one and only, Alec, is about to turn 13. It was interesting to read about Mateo and Loïc, who, in spite of their different personalities, sound like very smart, centered, and personable young men. I guess mine would be closer in personality to Mateo, even though he looks more like Loïc. I can just see Alec ask you to borrow your camera too! He has long been interested in photography, and his dream is to own his own Leica camera. :-) -- I admire kids that age who, in spite of the unavoidable teenage angst, and the constant swirl of "bad news" about the state of the world surrounding them , still manage to remain optimistic, dream, and look forward to the future. Great story. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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    1. Absolutely, Veronique. C'est completement ça! I was struck by how grounded they both are. And I can only imagine what a charmer Alec must be with a Mom like you and such a cosmopolitan upbringing! You might want to show him Remi's website, the vast majority of the work on it was shot in Leica. :)

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  5. With two boys now in college - one 19 and the other (OMG) 20, and having just been through weeks of all-night parties chez moi as a result of both touching down at home for a bit... I find our youth to be serious, yes, but also still full of a desire to play and experiment. That's a good thing, of course, though the source of worry for most parents.

    It's been interesting as I'm a cultural hybrid, my kids are half European, one has spent tons of time overseas (France, Switzerland, Belgium), and the other - recently - his first extended stay in Europe with an apprenticeship.

    Their friends are and have always been a bit of everything. They (and we) have housed teenagers from France as well as Latvia. What strikes me is the consistency of both the serious side and the wild side. Again, that seems exactly as it should be. And getting to know these kids (not just my own) is always - as you say - edifying.

    Lovely post!

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    1. Well, I certainly couldn't have asked for a more cosmopolitan point of view than this BLW!! And for sure, I met both of these kids in front of their parents. :) But they seem as I have already said, very grounded.

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  6. Despite their age, both of these young men seem to be very wise. It is interesting that there is a seriousness about them which belies the fact that they are 14.

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    1. That is exactly what struck me as well, Loree. Hope that you have had a break from the heat!

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  7. Heather,

    Beautiful portraits by you and photos by Mateo! I find today's youth to be most thoughtful and these two are prime examples. It is also great for kids to spend time with non-parental types. Adults without their own kids are more likely to see and accept kids just as they are without comparisons, judgment or expectations -- there's no "mommy" filter to turn off. Do you know what I mean?

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    1. I really do. I could tell that both Mat and Loïc seemed happy to talk to me just as the 'persons in forming' that they are. They both were smart and thoughtful so I treated them as such, which was great because I learned more about them.

      Thanks for this comment, Judith. Unexpected and thought-provoking.

      Bisous à toi,
      H.

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  8. Simply thoughtful and touching! Not to mention how you captured the moments with your camera!
    Love it!
    amicalement, k

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    1. Merci Karin! I really appreciated how open they both were to having their photos taken--how different than I was at that age!!!

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  9. I loved this post! It's always encouraging to hear something GOOD about today's youth! I have a son that is 18 and he is so wise and I have to remind myself that I can trust him…and to not worry so much about him. So far he has made wise choices and I pray that he will continue to do so! Both of these boys are so handsome and seem to have a great head on their shoulders! Glad you got to spend quality time with them!

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    1. I can only imagine how a Mom must worry but I think (as I have already said) that kids really respond to such well-placed trust. It says much about what a fine Mom you must be...

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  10. Hello Heather

    Mateo and Loic sound like they are both very good company. Both are very handsome too.
    Their parents have done a wonderful job in bringing them up to be comfortable with adults and to be able to converse to all ages and animals. I am confident the world will be just fine when this age group takes over.
    Thanks for sharing this uplifting story
    Helenxx

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    1. Hello Helen. What an interesting thing to say--and yes, this new generation seems more capable of getting things done than my lost and dreaming Generation X!
      Gros bisous,
      H

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  11. Beautiful,so European to me.As I recall the youth there was so much more grown up then over here!I have two boys 22 and 24................I'm still waiting for their career choice!One has long hair and one has short hair.One lives in Northern California while the other lives down South.............compelety different in thinking and doing.Good to know these FRENCH BOYS are already thinking!Bravo to their parents...............perhaps they had just a little something to do with how these BOYS turned out!COMPLIMENTS from the UNITED STATES!

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    1. Will pass them along, my lovely Contessa.
      xo,
      H

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  12. Wonderful and touching in many ways post. Being around kids of this age is very invigorating. They are touching the ground and spreading the wings at the same time. The most difficult and the most rewarding time together. Wise, inspiring parenting while learning along the way is a mission in progress. I'll be wondering forever how different siblings could be. My boys 20 and 11, one bright, practical and grounded the junior is a dreamer, open hearted. I see their friends, our friends kids. It's normal now to mature faster, they are born with pixels. By 14-15 most kids have a part time small jobs regardless of financial situation in family.
    We were idealists, heads in the clouds. Dreams and reality rarely got along. We set goals.
    With virtual reality it's different now. Kids are learning to easy mix these realities. The best ones like your young friends Heather know how to use this advantage. Bravo to their parents!

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    1. An amazing, amazing response Natalie, thank you. "They are born with pixels"--so simple and yet so true and yes how very, very different it was for us! I am also interested what it will be like for you to see your boys grow and evolve--there is such a big age difference between them, there must be inherent cultural shifts that mark them too.

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  13. My daughter is the same age, and I see many of the same qualities in her and her friends. Thoughtful, concerned for the future (it never would have occurred to me at age 14 that I might live in an economy where I couldn't get a job), heading toward growing up, but still with a sense of fun.

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    1. Wisely concerned for the future and also concerned for the environment too! Very interesting.

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  14. These two seem very mature and grounded for their age. I can't say I know any, or have known many, fourteen year olds that are that serious about their future. It's nice to see that they seem to have one foot planted in childhood and the other ready to step into the real world :)

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    1. I don't even know about that one foot planted in childhood. Holy cow, 14 is not what it used to be.

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  15. I think today's teenagers get a lot of undeserved "bad press". I have 4 boys aged between 10 and 15 and while they certainly do love computer games, especially war games, they are kind and gentle souls, reasonably responsible and certainly do take an interest in their futures, as do most of their friends. They are able to separate the virtual world from the real world, but seem to be able to move easily between the two. They care a lot more about the planet than we did as children and I think are more knowledgeable about what is going on in the world. I am grateful to say that, so far, I have been very pleasantly surprised by the teenagers around me! Have a great weekend. x Sharon

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    1. Four boys Sharon!! You are an expert then. :) And what you mentioned was exactly what I was trying to express regarding Mat's thoughts about video games. It is hard for someone like myself to even comprehend but their sense of realities is so different than what ours was.

      Wishing you a wonderful weekend as well!

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  16. Dear Heather,

    Your posting made me recall the time, a few years before my grandmother died, when we were talking with a new neighbor of hers who was the beleaguered mother of two adolescent boys who'd recently been giving trouble. We'd both coughed up various bits of advice before she said (not in the most pleasant of tones) "Well, you two seem to know a lot about teenaged boys, to not have any".

    I recall looking at my grandmother, and she looked at me....and she said "How many have you had?". I thought a moment and replied "oh....only about 500.....did you ever keep count?", and she flatly said "Something around 1000, I guess...."

    Mrs. "I can't handle two boys" looked understandably puzzled, so I let her know that I'd been teaching at/living in a boys' boarding school for four years, and my grandmother had been the matron of a boys' orphanage for 25 years. All done and said, we were thoroughly familiar with our product.

    Only a few days ago, I talked on the telephone with a friend (who's known me only in my incarnation during the past ten years) who was less-than-entirely happy over having just dropped-off her 16 year old son (who's been doing very poorly in school) for his first year at military school. I consoled her somewhat, treating her to my stock of bromides, cautionary-tales, and re-assurances. She, also, expressed puzzlement over my having so many opinions about adolescent boys...until I told her what I'd done for a living over 13 years.

    Her response was "Oh My GOD!....hundreds of them at a time? I can't understand even the one boy I've got!!".

    I told that they were, as a very general rule, much more interesting and pleasant when you happened not to be their mother or father.

    Paradoxically enough, my grandmother had one child (my father) and afterwards made a very clear point of getting out of the reproductive business. I've never had any children and never felt the least bit wistful about the matter. In that respect (and in regard to teenaged boys), my grandmother and I were/are both like several quite accomplished veterinarians I know; they spend all day, every day, working with animals, without having the slightest desire to have any of their own.

    For some reason, I'm recalling one of my headmasters (he was a good one) telling the new faculty at our boys' boarding school "The only un-fixable sin you can make while you're teaching here is underestimation....every one of these boys is capable of surprising you."

    He was a fine headmaster. I also recall his telling a middle-aged, not-very-pleasant teacher (who'd said something about going to look-up a particular boy's file) "Don't go reading his file...get to know the boy before you memorize everthing in his file". It was good advice.

    Well, enough from me. thanks for the good posting,

    David Terry
    www.davidterryart.com

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    1. I love all of your stories, David, you know that. And yes, oooh what valid experience you and your Grandmother both had. Remi put himself through law school while working at the internat, so he has a similar point of view. For me, I can honestly say that I have zero experience with children or teenagers so moments of coming into contact with them is always one of "finding my way as I go."

      And I especially appreciate the head-masters first bit of advice, one applicable to much in life it would seem...

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    2. Oh, yes....as I said, he was a very good man and a fine headmaster....just as concerned with showing his faculty how to become good teachers as he was with formally educating adolescent boys.

      He hired me after asking me (a 24 year-old, unemployed English major who really wasn't qualified for the job) what my favorite quotation was. I considered that an odd question.

      I told him it was written by the novelist George Eliot:

      "It is never too late to be what you might have been."

      I was answering truthfully, by the way....and he gave me my first job, which I loved.


      ---david terry

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    3. That quote was most certainly worthy of a job offer, David.

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    4. P.S....Heather? I may have been only 24, but I was nobody's fool...and I wanted/needed that job...for a while at least ( know the feeling from your actress-days?). I did, quite honestly, LIKE that quotation from Eliot, but I should admit that I'm not the sort of person who even HAS "favorite quotations" (even at that age, I'd read and memorized too much to go around picking "favorites").

      The final fact is that the quotation is one of Eliot's loveliest and wisest lines....and I chose it because I was fairly sure (having been scouting-out the headmaster as surely as he was scouting-out me) that he wouldn't have previously heard it, but would love it. I was right. Good thing...since my truck had just died, I needed to buy a new one, and I got the job. To my surprise, I liked the job.

      For better or worse, I'm a tiny-bit less fiercely manipulative these days.

      ----david terry

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  17. Don't you just love it when a teenager impresses you with their ability to see beyond themselves (and facebook!), are interested in conversation, and take initiative? I thought cool teenagers were a dying breed...especially French teens! Good to see I was wrong!

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    1. Looks like we were visiting each other's blogs at the exact same time! How do you like them apples? And yep, maybe it is something about being 14 and not 17 but these guys both were engaged and present.

      Welcome back to France!!!

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  18. Like you we don't have children, but we are blessed to live in a small cul de sac of four homes, each of the other three with two children - the oldest is 11 and the youngest 4. They all are charming -- they can be the usual ruffians - but when all simmers down, their heads are pointing in the right direction. Between the two you describe and the six we know intimately, I think the future is looking very bright for us all!

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  19. KIds! Or children as my mother would say... she always rebukes me for saying that... 'they are not baby goats'...

    Anyway... what I want to say is that children, mine and their friends, never cease to amaze me. They are so much more sure of themselves, worldly and responsible than I ever was. They have grown up in a very different time to the golden age I lived in. My children have witnessed Sept 11, survived terror attacks in London, understand the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.. and now have to make a future in the uncertain economic times after the GFC...

    This generation plays hard... yes they are social media demons and run their lives as fast as their fingers can type... but they are accomplished and successful human beings... These children seems to know their own minds... and that is what I admire.

    Great post Heather... xv

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    1. What a really important point and one that had escaped me entirely: the historical context of their youth. Of course. And yes, I also really admire the assuredness of their points of view. I suppose they don't have a choice, do they? They have to know where they stand in light of current events and the never ending shifts.

      Merci et Bon Weekend,
      H

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