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1. Time to Wake Up

What it is: The state of California will require all public high schools to start classes no earlier than 8:30am.
Why it could catch on: If you feel like you need a fog horn and a water gun to wake your teen up in the morning, you’re not alone—and the solution could be as simple as moving back the academic clock. The Atlantic has published a book excerpt adapted from Lisa L. Lewis’s The Sleep Deprived Teen that makes the case for this policy. Lewis points out that waking teens up early for school puts them at a higher risk of driving accidents, poor performance in school, and even mental health conditions. She quotes a host of academic studies as well as a 2014 recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that advocates for later start times in middle and high school. Teens are biologically programmed to prefer later evenings from the onset of puberty, but their need to get hours of quality sleep doesn’t decrease just because they’re not little kids anymore. With bills similar to California’s in development in New Jersey and New York, start times for students 11 and up might start to reflect these scientific findings.

2. I Still Do

What it is: In her latest column for the New York Times, Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren argues that we should normalize some level of dissatisfaction and disappointment in marriage relationships.
Why it’s relevant to teens: The contemporary understanding of a healthy, fulfilled marriage can be a complicated one. Christians and nonbelievers alike would agree that choosing a person to partner with is a critical decision, and that the person we select will inevitably let us down in some way or another in the course of a lifetime. The Christian idea of marriage diverges quite a lot from the secular idea of a soulmate who single-handedly will bring us to our highest level of happiness. Warren points out that “if we as a culture view seeking personal fulfillment as a sacred duty, staying in an unhappy marriage is then seen as an act of self-betrayal.” To put that another way, relationships that require a lot of work are often seen as handcuffs on our happiness potential. Staying in difficult relationships when we feel convicted and called to do so has become controversial. As followers of Christ, we know that our hope is found in Him, and while a person may assist us in the painful, humbling, virtuous pursuit of sanctification, it’s not our spouse’s job to make us happy.

3. La Croke

What it is: A viral hack for “healthy” Coke on TikTok requires two ingredients: balsamic vinegar and any flavor of sparkling beverage.
Why it’s dividing the internet: The original post about the trend, which apparently was invented by @mandyjones’ Pilates instructor, has over 5 million views. Several famous influencers plopping a splash of balsamic in their La Croix and hoping for the best. People who have tried the fad seem to be divided firmly into two camps: “This tastes better than I thought” vs. “This is absolute internet madness.” If your family is curious, it could be fun to give this one a try together — although with the caveat that there is no clear health benefit to drinking fizzified acid, Coke or no coke. One could argue about whether this “recipe” is representative of some deeper neurosis about diet culture and FitTok’s obsession with health hacks, but we’re just happy that this week’s trending TikTok doesn’t breed disease-causing pathogens the way last week’s avocado storage hack does.

Slang of the Week

Mid: used on TikTok to describe something that’s simply average, poor, or mediocre; based on a TikTok that went viral in December 2021 in which wrestler Maxwell Friedman was seen declaring, “It’s called the Midwest because every single person who lives here is… mid!”

Translation: I Still Do

In a culture that promises infinite pleasure (or at least, infinite options for pleasure), sometimes fears can develop that we aren’t experiencing as much

life-satisfaction as we otherwise could be. This fear of missing out now pervades almost every aspect of modern life—including the way many people think about love and relationships.

In his book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz points out that “the very option of being allowed to change our minds seems to increase the chances that we will change our minds. When we can change our minds about decisions, we are less satisfied with them.” But mind-changing is part of this restless desire for maximal satisfaction, which can frame even divorce as something like a “radical act of self-love.” When we prioritize personal fulfillment above all else, the natural outcome is this lopsided view.

In Romans 8:12, the Apostle Paul writes: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.” In other words, as Christians, our obligation is not to our own maximal experience of satisfaction, fulfillment, and pleasure. Our obligation is to the Lord, and to the way he has designed us. And although Warren is careful to say that subjection to abuse is not part of “our design,” she also writes that, “There are times in marriage when the Bible’s call to love your enemies and the call to love your spouse are the same call.”

Let’s be clear: there are some in dangerous homes who need to find safety; they have God’s (and our) compassion. There are others who, for one reason or another, are parenting alone; they, too, have God’s (and our) compassion. The body of Christ’s call is to care for all such people. And as part of that care, we hold out hope that the next generation can find something better. Toward that end, here are three questions to hopefully get some conversation going with the teens in your world:

  • How do you think FOMO impacts relationships?
  • Do you think life is fundamentally about being happy? Why or why not?
  • Do you think relationships are fundamentally about being happy? Why or why not?