Teens and their squads

You’ve finally arrived. You’re the parent of teenagers. 

You’ve made it through the sleepless nights of babyhood, the tedious making of multiple lunches and snacks every morning. You share your home with somewhat independent creatures that may not keep a tidy bathroom, but show glimmers of their own future adultness. 

It’s hard not to make comparisons to your own teenage years. After all, whether they were your glory days or days you’d do everything not to recall, you remember them. 

Cliques no more

I do. I remember how things made me feel. I remember certain teachers who engaged my mind, and challenged my young views. I remember stupid things I wore, or wanted to wear because they were cool. And I remember my friends. 

My friends were my safe space in high school — the group of people I identified with. In our day, that group might’ve been called a clique or click. 

I can’t help but recall the identifiable groups of my day. Some of them — defined then by certain styles, attitudes or music genres — were named by the high school secretary, Grace, in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “There’s the sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, d*ckheads.” And then, of course, she says of Ferris, “They all adore him. He’s a righteous dude.”

I’ve often wondered, as I drop my teenagers off for school: Is navigating the social nuances of high school today anything like my memory of it back then?

The quick answer, of course, is no. 

They have those almighty phones in their pockets, used primarily to link them to their social lives.

My older child, a junior, communicates across various apps throughout his day — with Snapchat and Groupme, being his faves. Among the many message threads is Squad Centre, a virtual name for one of his friend groups.

A squad is what I’d describe as a modern-day version of a clique, his friend group. 

What these friendships mean

Bette J. Freedson, in an article on the National Association of Social Workers website, wrote: “In adolescence, it is normative for kids to begin to individuate from the original family, identifying more closely with peers, especially those with like interests.”

As a parent of two teens, it actually brings me great relief to see that my kids have some really great friends in their lives. 

When I read Freedson’s words, it helped me understand why their friends are so important to them. It even somewhat explained their need to always be on their phones. They’re preparing themselves for making reliable relationships when their parents aren’t around every day. 

Do squads really last?

My son says a squad is different than a clique, and that the word clique is somehow a harsher thing. 

He has friends in his squad who are in varying activities, and they introduce other friends, thereby growing the squad or at least making it less rigid and always changing. 

They don’t all dress the same, and they have a need for individuation I would’ve been afraid of in my day. It’s cool to be different to have a different activity or a kind of music you listen to.

I don’t want to tell him about the likelihood of things changing. I don’t want to tell him that — in a year and a half when high school’s over — he likely won’t talk to many of the kids in his squad, with the exception of one or two special ones. 

But one of the great things about my teenager is that he lives life in the now. He doesn’t waste time trying to economize or overplan how it will affect his future. 

And what he knows right now is that he has a strong group of friends to study with, laugh with, play guitar with, throw rugby ball with, sing in choir with, go to dances with. 

When we sit down to watch those John Hughes classics, my teenage son just laughs. 

“Wow,” he says, “it’s not at all like that.” 

 I think he’s just jealous of our clothes.

Jennifer Wizbowski lives in Excelsior with her husband and two teenagers. Send comments, questions and story ideas to jwizbowski@mnparent.com.