Do you ever wish you could hear exactly what people thought of you, without having to filter through any of the tactful social conventions or polite beating-around-the-bush? Well, if you chat with a preteen boy, you just might get his honest, unvarnished...bordering-on-obnoxious....opinion. For example, Derek wandered into my room last night to share a favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic he'd just been rereading. In it Calvin's parents had left him with a babysitter for the evening. Of course Calvin got up to his usual mischievous hijinks, and in a clever but misguided attempt to rid himself of adult supervision, anonymously called the police to report that he and his stuffed pal were being held in a "hostage situation". Whew, his Mom and Dad must have been in stitches, right? After Derek had gleefully recounted the highlights with much hilarity, he calmed down, paused for a moment, then soberly stated, "You and Dad never DO anything." Um...excuse me....what? He continued, "Yeah, he goes to work, and you just...are a Mom. You guys need to go out more!" Oh, I was onto him: "You mean so you can plot ways to terrorize a babysitter, too?" But he denied it, "No, you just need to be more...wild!"
What can you do defend yourself against such a heinous charge? (Because clearly, in his eyes, this is tantamount to being a deadly dull person with no redeeming value whatsoever.) Naturally, I immediately launched a vigorous protest. "But, but...I go to dance class!" He scoffed, "That doesn't count." Um...thinking, here..."Sometimes I do dinner and a movie with my sister!" He remained supremely unimpressed. In desperation I threw out, "Wait, sometimes I meet friends for lunch!" He favored me with his most withering look and shot back, "And I'll bet you sit nicely, and talk quietly...MY lunch is probably more exciting than that!" (Translating from Boyspeak, I inferred "exciting" to mean "unruly, raucous, and borderline-visit-to-the-principal-worthy". So yeah, I guess my Ladies' Lunches are quite civilized and tame by comparison...and we've never gotten thrown out of anyplace, so actually that works for me!)
I began to realize--with dawning horror and mortification--that perhaps he has a point. I like to think of myself as somewhat adventurous--or at least open to new experiences--after all, I ride roller coasters! I snorkel! Heck, I even take week-long vacations where I'm carbound for thousands of miles with my family...on purpose! If that's not wild and crazy, I don't even know the meaning of the words. The kicker is, there are soooooo many stories I could tell him, about driving cross-country by myself (totally shareable); about hiding out on a train from Monaco back to France because my travel companion and I had neglected to buy roundtrip tickets and didn't want to get stranded (mild criminal activity--probably okay); about calling in sick for three unauthorized days to attend Mardi Gras with friends and staying up all night...ahem....frolicking (yeah, he's not hearing anecdotes about that particular interlude, anytime soon). But I suppose in day-to-day LIFE, the details are in fact pretty regulated, structured, and predictable around here. I'm not saying this is necessarily bad, either--it keeps us organized and running pretty smoothly in general. However, I concede that my 12-year old, with his blunt analysis, has actually made an insightful observation: perhaps we grownups need to shake things up a little bit, break out of our routines, and try some daring behavior...at least once in a while.
Great, that's decided! Now, I wonder if he has any suggestions...