Teenagers are not the most dependable lot, and the Dude is no different. We have the typical garden variety complaints – not putting his dishes in the dishwasher, leaving the garbage until the last second and forgetting to take it to the curb, or the “it’s 5:00 a.m. but I need you to sign this and give me a check for $49.50.”
At least once a week, his dad or I utter the words, “You need to take responsibility” or “You have to be accountable,” or the ever-popular “What don’t you get about this being your job?”
I always say, if one wants reliability, a dog is a good choice, or a Volvo.
The Dude is a basketball coach. He came home last week all hacked off because only one kid showed up (problem number one) and because only one kid showed up, the other coaches (also teens) decided to cancel practice, and left (problem number two), meaning the kid that actually showed up would be sitting in the gym watching other teams practice for 45 minutes or until his parents arrived to pick them up.
The Dude stayed and played one on one with the kid for the duration of practice. He was hacked not because he stayed, but because he was the only one who felt they had a duty to stay. They don’t get paid, but in his words, “parents pay money to the league, and even if only kid shows up, that kid’s parents expect he’s going to learn something.”
My husband and I listened while the Dude finished his rant. Once he was done, he grabbed a loaf of bread and headed to the basement.
We looked at each other and my husband found the words first. “We can send him out into the world and he will do the right thing. His bathroom will be disgusting, but he’ll do the right thing.”
It’s so easy to focus on the little things–the crumbs on the floor and the dirty socks hanging from the lamp. I still don’t get that one, and I’m not sure I really want to know. But when it comes to the big things–what the Dude puts out into the world–he’s got it right.
We talk about kids having a lot on their plate. I know that feeling of “I can’t do one more thing, even if it’s putting this stupid letter in the mailbox.” It’s like the circus guy who keeps the plates spinning. As the Dude gets older, he’ll learn how to spin the plates and keep them all going. In the meantime, he knows which ones are really important, and he doesn’t let those fall, and for that, he gets a standing ovation.
That doesn’t mean he gets a free pass on the garbage, but it’s not a referendum on his ability to accept responsibility. It’s just a crappy chore that he doesn’t want to do any more than I do. And maybe, the one who doesn’t get it, is me.
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Spinning Plate” by Fonso © 2008 via Creative Commons/Flickr