In Amber Carpenter’s upper school creative writing class, students have been exploring flash storytelling. Students read the flash nonfiction essay, "Future Care Instructions for Your Wife with Multiple Sclerosis," and discussed its form, figurative language, and syntax. They then wrote three vignettes or fragments that mirrored this piece and provided instructions on how to care for an adolescent in the year 2021. Below are the vignettes students wrote.
How to Care for an Adolescent in the Year 2021
Please do me a huge favor and fill up my water bottle as I dash out the door. Your little gestures mean the world to me.
When you sneak glances of the books I’m reading to quote to family and friends over the phone when they ask what I’ve been reading about, I don’t care. I can hear you reading, even though you think I’m in another room, and I’m fine with it. Just leave the bookmark where you found it, please.
Please leave that stack of miscellaneous papers where it is. I’m still working on it. Nope, not that stack––the other one. That one you can put away.
Please don’t raise your voice at me; the cacophony of sounds corrodes at the skin on my fingers until there’s nothing left there but red. It stings. Please don’t take away the moments I have to breathe: closed off, away, no longer suffocating, though in a much smaller space. There’s a reason I spent so long stapling memories to my walls. Please don’t enter said room, my room—a glimpse into the confines of my soul—the one place I feel truly at peace. With the door closed and the lights off, my lamp casts galaxies onto my ceiling. And I would like to keep that piece of a universe just for myself.
Please let me collect dirty bottles, colorful soda cans, metal tabs, unused gum wrappers, *all* kinds of rocks, interesting pieces of metal, old candles, and dried plants. It makes me excited to see what I have amassed. And please don’t ask me to move the stuff to make room for my clothes, I can get to them just fine how they are now.
Please knock on my door if it’s closed and quiet. Don’t come in, open the door just a bit, seeing your face reminds me that you care. I know I told you a while ago that it was annoying, and when she does it it is because she always comes in, but when you do it and ask if I’m okay it reminds me that I put you through something and that you still love me.
Please call me by my name.
Please leave the dog in a regularly accessible place as I may visit her for emotional support more than any human.
All I ask is one thing: I beg that you please leave me alone in the morning—I am not liable for any sudden outbursts or acts of rage I may have if you make the foolish decision of interacting with me before 11 on the weekend.
When I wear big headphones and scream at the tv until an ungodly hour of the night, please remain calm; crashing cars online is much better than in real life.
When I wake up late and make my brother late to school, please know that I’m not trying to be inconsiderate.
When I yell at my brother, please know that I had a good reason to do so.
When I order a chicken sandwich for the 7th day in a row, please don’t get mad.
Please don't hug me when I come home from school, a disheveled bundle of stress and chaos and anxiety and... Let me come to you in the thick blue of night, after I’ve finished my homework and you’ve already gone to bed.
If you feel us pulling away, loosen your grip but never let go completely. Be there when we want to come back."
Treat me softly. I didn’t mean to hurt you. You know how we are—hot rage simmering underneath the surface of our skin. Quick to lash out, slow to forgive.
I am not perfect. Don’t crow my strengths on your Facebook like I'm a prize-winning trick pony or a Ferrari. Don't nag me, worms of doubt wriggling deeper, when I’m not as good as the next kid. Tell me that I am enough.
Please greet me in the morning when I stumble out of bed, my hair all jumbled and my eyes purblind. I cherish these interactions as if they are an heirloom.
Listen to me when I come begging for help. My fragile ego forbids me from doing this often, so when I come on my knees, I implore you to hear me out.
Comfort me when the world’s an unscalable mountain and talk to me when shadows exist without sunlight. Be the anonymous hand behind my back, and break the trail before I hike on my own.
Show that I don’t have to hide. Stand behind me, watching as I face forward to the world, ready to catch me and help me up on the occasions that I fall.
Say yes to meeting up with friends on a Sunday night. Encourage me to find my communities of comfort, even if it’s not one you know. Just make sure your home is ready for me to come back.
Feed me with the old, piping hot family recipes. Sit down with me to experience a meal while slowing the exponential pace that the world speeds at.
Please give me the space I need. There are times I won’t talk to you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. There are secrets I will never tell you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t trust you. I trust you with my life. I feel the never-ending compassion and care you have for me. Now trust me with the independence I need. To learn my own lessons, make my own decisions.
Please don’t ask if we’re okay if we come to you crying. Don’t say anything. Hold us so that you can’t see our face; let us pretend you don’t know. We only want to feel the weight of your embrace, be enveloped by your smell, hear your breathing into our hair. It reminds us of the good old days when we’d cry over anything and everything and you were always the solution.
Don’t ask us about school. When we want to tell you about it, we will. It sits heavy in our heads all day, only forgettable when we’re asleep—and even then it dominates our dreams.
If you feel us pulling away, loosen your grip but never let go completely. Be there when we want to come back.
Please let me play my music on the car radio in the morning, until I can drive myself. I was halfway through that song when we had to leave; it’s been the lifeline stringing my morning together.
If I seem quiet, please ask me why. If I seem scared, remind me you’re here. When I cry, take me in your arms and let me wish I was a small child who could curl up in your lap and melt into your embrace.
Adolescence is letting go. The hardest transition, more heartbreaking than the coo of my first word. More painful than my first day of preschool. More distressing than losing my first tooth. Time is our greatest friend, our greatest enemy. The inevitable agent of change that we shared together but slowly lose as life—goes on.