Tag Archives: kids

#SaystheEditor Stereotypes From the Mouths of Babes


Last weekend, I took the boy and three of his teammates to southern Virginia for an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. I came away with an awful lot to write about, both in my fiction and right here, as The Editor.

Today, let’s talk about teens. Teenage boys, in particular because even though I wandered over to see the girls and even though they came and watched most of our first game on Sunday, I didn’t get to observe the girls nearly enough. (They are, however, quite cool.)

Often in fiction, kids appear in one of two roles: the comic relief or the brooding, troubled kid.

Reality isn’t so easy, is it? I had four kids in my charge this weekend: three high school sophomores and a high school junior. Not one filled those roles in the typical sense, although they were each comic relief in their own ways. Each had moments of brooding. In their own ways.

We were standing in Subway on the way home and one of them — we’ll call him Tom — looked at me and said, “Mrs. G, know what I’ve noticed? You and [your kid] both like to have a lot of space around you.”

And I realized… he was right. Dead-on correct. The boy and I need that buffer space (although I was sort of curious about that when the boy leaned over from the backseat and started massaging Tom’s face and yes, it was really strange and utterly hysterical at the same time … like I said, lots of food for future fiction.). We’ve been through some pretty big traumas, me and my kids. And every now and then, someone with a high level of perception or empathy comes along and sees it. Tom, at age sixteen, was one of them.

So what’s this got to do with writing? Well, haven’t you figured it out yet? Kids and teens are too often cast into stereotypic roles in fiction. Would any of us — myself included — expect to hear something like that from a kid’s mouth?

Well, sure. There’s that third stereotype: the too-wise-for-his-years kid.

But Tom? Like I said. He got a face massage from my kid (and purred). He whined about being attacked by a thumbtack yet only complained twice about the finger he sprained and how swollen it was. He informed us that Krispy Kreme was the reason he was fat as a kid (think about that one). He spent two hours doing his homework with the quiet kid.

Definitely a character in his own right. And definitely not a stereotype.

So… let’s bring this to you, shall we? If you’re going to include kids in your books, spend time with them. Volunteer somewhere, even if it means getting your child abuse clearances and oh, no! Spending money on travel costs and crummy hotel rooms (that’s a story for another time) and food and yes, Krispy Kremes for the drive home.

Get to know these kids. Figure out who they are and what makes ’em tick. Know the stereotype about kids being absorbed in their phones? Not this crew. Four kids. They talked in my car. They played games. They engaged in a science experiment with Kool-Aid. They did homework. They slept. And yes, they watched videos… for about an hour. Of sixteen in the car.

Again, they’re not fitting the stereotypes.

As writers, it’s on us to get it right. Yeah, you may be the writer who uses those broad generalities to make a larger point about human nature. But… do you really need to?

What would happen if you break out of those molds and formulas and stereotypes and portray kids as the complex, perceptive, funny people they truly are? Wouldn’t fiction — YOUR fiction — be better for it?

I suspect it would. Go for it.


Where’s that Teen Boy and what’s he Reading?


Oy. My child.

Yes, Teen Boy IS really my kid. And yes, he was feeling crummy yesterday, so I let him stay home from school, concerned it was the stomach flu that’s going around (it wasn’t). And yes, every time I walked into the family room, he was sitting with his back to the entertainment cabinet, working on the laptop. Almost every time, I’d look at the screen and … he’d be working on a blog post.

So where is it?

Well… I guess it didn’t get done because those few times I was quiet enough to catch him with a game screen open instead of the blog must have been only the tip of the iceberg.

It must have been good medicine because he was raring to go this morning. I even played the role of the kind mom and drove him to the bus stop with his social studies project.

I’m thinking he owes me. And you guys.

If you miss him, leave a note in the comments. I’ll be sure he sees it.