When one is a teenager, the state of the universe balances on a razor’s edge. The day can be awesome or awful depending upon something as simple as picking out a backpack. As usual, we’ve waited too long and all of the good ones are taken. The only one we can find has too much brand identifying information, and it’s not a brand the Dude finds acceptable. Social ruination is inevitable. His punishment will be both swift and certain.
I am annoyed by his lack of initiative. This same young man will spend hours on line researching football player stats for his fantasy league draft. He has skillz. We could have done this weeks ago. I am trying to finish the ironing while watching the Sox game. This is my “fun” time. However, I end up taking him by the figurative hand to help him find a backpack that he can live with. I remind him of the wonder that is the internet. Even more so, the wonder that is Zappos. I want him to be happy.
It’s not just the backpack. With my help he could probably boost his grades, his SAT scores and his cross country running time.
It is the age-old maternal dance. How much
nagging help is too much? When does one swoop in to save the day versus let the child suffer persevere?
It is so easy to want to fix what is fixable, because so much of life is not. I used to be able to solve almost any problem with cookies and a boo-boo bunny. These days his hurts are deeper and more difficult to treat. I could be completely consumed by my desire to make sure he is socially accepted, excels at whatever he attempts and never feels the sting of disappointment in any way. I could hover around him all day and be his safety net, and to some extent, he might let me.
Unfortunately life’s hurts are also training for the day when he’s on his own and he’ll have to do it for himself. So I will have to teach him how to bake cookies, and ice his own owies, and as much as it hurts, let him fall and get back up again. Not because I don’t care, or don’t want to fix things for him, but because I do and I believe he’s better served by doing so on his own.
Picking out a backpack is not a life-altering event, but it’s not about the broken cookie. It is the realization that there is no “Dude store” where he can find whatever he wants, whenever he wants it. It’s not about the khakis or the back pack, it’s about college and girls and the fear that if the simple things are hard to do, what must the complex things be like? Letting him negotiate the world is a gift to us both, because not only can’t I make everything perfect for him, I probably shouldn’t.
The new backpack arrives tomorrow. More things in life should be like Zappos.
Fifty thoughts review
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Boo Boo Bunny” by Leiah McCormick © 2011 Creative Commons