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Last weekend I took my 15 year old son out on a 10 mile hike. To be more accurate, I dragged my 15 year old son out on a 10 mile hike since he never goes easily. When we do these things the scenario is always the same; I propose the outing, he objects outright, I insist. When it comes time to go, he stalls, I prod, he tries to come up with various inventive reasons why we should stay home, I dismiss them all. The rest involves many heavy sighs and rolled eyes and other things that teenagers do that they seem to think they invented. None of it makes the slightest impression on me. He always enjoys the day when we get there, but nevertheless behaves obnoxiously about going. It is some kind of hideous teenage ritual.
When we got to the trail he looked up at the sky and told me that it looked like rain.
“It isn't going to rain,” I told him.
“What if it does and we are a million miles away from the car?” he insisted.
“We get wet,” I stated, putting on my backpack and grabbing my walking stick.
Chuck rolled his eyes. “Great, Mom. There could be a thunderstorm with lightning and we'll be walking along under about a thousand trees, which, as you have told me numerous times, is the worst place to be in a thunderstorm.”
“No, Chuck,” I reminded him, “I said that the worst place to be during a thunderstorm was sitting on top of a flagpole, and you sound like a paranoid old woman, so stop it”
When we have these little exchanges Chuck likes to treat me as if I were an irresponsible party girl planning on dancing naked in a public fountain after racing down a mountainside of twisting roads going 90 mph in a Lamborghini. I call it his wise grandfather routine. By this time in the conversation it has ceased to be about anything other than a contest of wills and he hates to lose.
“You know, Mom,” he said with belligerent hands on hips, “ you lecture me about safety and then think nothing of taking risks. Inconsistent much?”
This is the point where I start to play with him. “Maybe you're right.” I agreed contritely. “Any number of terrible things could happen. We could be struck by lightning, or trip and fall over a cliff, accidentally eat poisonous berries, be chased by a psychotic moose, or abducted by aliens and forced to undergo painful and humiliating probes. We should go home immediately.”
This is the point where he tells me that being sarcastic is unnecessary and I tell him that sounding like Nostradamus with a stomach ache is also unnecessary and we move on. We started on our hike, the scenery was breathtaking, and we marched along happily. When we were at a particularly steep part of the climb and I needed an excuse for a rest I stopped and asked him if he were enjoying himself. He responded that he was.
“Then why,” I asked him, “do we have to go through this silly business of you acting like you hate the idea every single time, particularly when it is a good idea and in your own interest?”
“I don't know.” he shrugged. “It's like some kind of conditioned response. It's not really that I don't want to do it, it's just that there is something in me that refuses to give in without a fight when something is your idea.”
“That,” I sighed, “is so like a teenager. All rebel without a cause and needless hissy fits.”
He shrugged again and leaned up against a handy tree. “In that case, it seems to me that the entire world must be run by teenagers since no one ever seems to be able to cooperate all that well no matter how good an idea something is. World leaders seem to react to ideas with hissy fits all the time when the idea isn't theirs. Propose cooperation to them and they toss their heads, roll their eyes, march some troops up and down a few hills and drag out some pointless artillery just to be difficult. Everybody does it, including us. Religious leaders do the same thing. Everybody wants to be right and no one wants to appear to be agreeing to anything no matter how much it might be in their interest.”
He had a point. When you put it that way, it does kind of seem like the world is being run by a bunch of rebellious and difficult teenagers. What a terrifying thought.
On the whole, Chuck is a really good boy, generally pleasant, even tempered, easy to get along with, and often interesting. I find myself learning all sorts of things about him when we go on these little outings. He put out his hand and helped me up over some rocks and smiled.
“Don't worry Mom, I doubt if I will react like this to your ideas forever.”
Then the sun came out.
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