How to embarrass your teenager

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Perfection Pending

I had two important tasks that needed to be accomplished yesterday. Number one, get passport photographs for each family member. Number two, buy new trainers for elder son. Not too tricky you would think, no great challenges involved. A quick trip into town, two places to visit and home. If only things could be as simple as they sound.

First off we all had to get out of the house together. Cooking up a big breakfast seemed like the easiest way to coax those sleepy teenagers from their beds on what is usually a lazy Sunday morning. Cups of tea were delivered as wake up calls and warnings given that food was being prepared. Somehow, by the time we were fed, dressed and the debris cleared away, midday was approaching. How does that happen?

Getting toddlers out of the house always seemed like a major accomplishment. All those socks, shoes, coats and toilet visits had to be sorted; juice, snacks, changes of clothes and toys packed in the large bag I dreamed of being able to one day leave the house without. It should be easier when they are old enough to get themselves ready, yes?

I have long since dumped the bag, but somehow it still seems to take forever to get more than one child out the door at the same time. I suspect that the distraction of computers and social networks may have something to do with this. That and their ability to tune out the sound of my voice.

Eventually however we piled into the car and drove into town. Concerned about wasting his valuable time, Grumpy in the back was asking how long this was going to take and if it was really necessary. I pointed out that I needed his head and his feet so yes, his presence was necessary. He did not appreciate my comments.

There are three photo booths in the town shopping centre. The first was out of order, the second did not produce passport quality prints, the third was rejecting around 90% of the coins it was offered. Having got this far I was not going to turn back. We fed coin after coin into the irritating machine, even going back to the car to fetch the change we keep there to pay for parking to see if those coins would be more acceptable. Slowly we managed to coax the uncooperative device into submission.

It is possible that we may have got away with the delay and frustration had not my elder son’s worst nightmare then occurred. Standing in the mall, trying desperately to get the blasted booth to just take the damn photographs, two of his friends walked by and recognised him, in a public place with his mother. I could see that he wished the floor could just open up and swallow him whole.

As I collected the last of the prints (which incidentally make us all look like convicts) my son strode off towards the sports shop. Hurrying after him I was stopped in my tracks as he swung around and demanded to know if I needed anything from this shop. I knew from his look what he wanted; I was banished to wait in the car lest I be spotted once more in his presence.

Letting go of our kids as they grow up can be a challenge for any parent. It would seem that shaking off those pesky parental units can be as much of a challenge for certain teens. They need us for the roof over their head and the food that they can never get enough of. What they really want though is for us to acquire invisibility should we ever be required to inhabit the same space as they outside the home.

My son has reached the stage where he believes that he knows a great deal more about what matters than I. There is no doubt that he is quicker at maths, more knowledgeable about the intricacies of science, more in tune with the latest happenings amongst his peers. When he talks to me I can appear foolish because the things that interest him do not always tally with my own areas of expertise.

If I knew that he wished to talk about the development of a new jet powered engine, the orbital capabilities of a certain type of rocket, the possibilities unleashed by over clocking a computer processor, then perhaps I could look into these topics and pick up enough knowledge to at least nod in the right places during our conversations. He has no interest in the matters that engross me; we are both drawn to enquire but about different subjects.

I remember not so long ago I was the font of all his knowledge. If I could not answer the question then we investigated together. It must be hugely disappointing to discover that a parent is not as bright as once thought. I wonder how long it will be before he understands that my abilities lie elsewhere but can be just as interesting and challenging as his.

My son is capable of showing patience when I cannot keep up. He explains and modifies his explanations that I may gain an understanding of the subject that is so fascinating to him. This is, of course, in the privacy of our home.

I suspect it will be quite some time before I do not embarrass him in front of his friends just by being there. Until that time I will do my best to quash the hurt I feel when he rejects me, and remember that we all have a lifetime of learning ahead. He may not know everything as he sometimes appears to think, but then neither do I.

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