There's a cartoon called Zits--depicting the interactions between a teenage boy and his parents--that never fails to crack this family up. Jeremy, the son, burns the midnight oil, sleeps 'til all hours, eats whatever he can get his hands on, lives in a pigsty of a bedroom, and often communicates in non-verbal grunts. One of the reasons we all find this hilarious is how polar opposite the comic-strip adolescent is, compared to Derek. (Well, except the "ravaging the refrigerator" part.) Specifically, I love that my high schooler will still wander into my room and flop himself down onto my bed...just to chat. Most of the time it's about mundane stuff--something one of his friends did during lunch, or the latest baseball news, or an upcoming assignment. But other times...let's just say that things can go off the rails in a hurry.
For example, last night's conversation began in the usual way. He brought the latest draft of his speech for English class in, to show me how much he'd written. The topic he chose is Cy Young (which should surprise...absolutely no one). So he asked me--kind of out of the blue--if there were any famous sports figures born in Baltimore. "Um...Babe Ruth!" I answered in a 'you should reeeaaaly know this' tone of voice. At least he had the sense to appear sheepish as he replied, "Really? Huh, I just always wrote him off as a Yankee." (And it should be noted that the amount of scorn and contempt he was able to infuse into this last word made it as powerfully insulting as if he'd said something with 4 letters. Sniff...I'm so proud...) After that, I had to wrack my brains for another example. Tentatively I offered, "Isn't...Michael Phelps from Baltimore?" He nodded, "Yeah, that sounds right."
All of this was refreshingly light and normal, right? But then I had to go and take it to another level. Without considering the consequences, I continued voicing what I was thinking. (Seriously? Like I don't know better? My internal filter must have somehow gotten turned off...) "However, he's not exactly a shining example of a role model right now, what with his latest DUI arrest and checking himself into rehab." Derek looked at me quizzically, so I continued, "It's such a shame for a phenomenally gifted, talented athlete to jeopardize their career--and their life--with alcohol and/or drugs." In the interest of fairness, I hastened to add, "Although alcoholism is an actual disease, and it's been scientifically proven that some people have a genetic tendency toward an addictive personality...so it's a good thing he's getting help."
Oh, what the heck...since this had clearly turned into an opportunity for a lecture--um "informational seminar"--on the dangers of controlled substances (both legal and prohibited), I forged ahead and explained a little bit about what rehab programs try to accomplish, with detoxing, counseling, education, establishing healthy new patterns, etc. It seemed like he was hanging with me on all the technical points, and he didn't appear glazed, twitchy, or ready to bolt, so I took that as a good sign. In what I planned to be kind of a wrap-up statement I added, "But even when people come out of the program, it's a lifelong commitment to stay away from whatever your drug of choice was, because people who are truly addicted can't touch their particular poison without falling back into bad habits. So they also have a sponsor to support them."
At this very serious pronouncement...his mouth fell open and he burst into hysterical, inappropriate laughter. Excuse me...what just happened? "A sponsor?" he sputtered. "Like...Subway goes...'Hey, this guy can drink a ton and still drive, let's give him a contract!'?" Oh. Dear. Always with the sports references at the uppermost, frontal portion of the brain. And on top of that, can I just say that someone obviously watches waaaaaayyy too much ESPN. Noooo, dear, not THAT kind of sponsor...in fact, why don't we just use the word 'mentor' instead. Sigh. And with that, the serious...sober, if you will...portion of our little Mother/Son bonding talk was O-V-E-R. So...moving right along to safer ground...how about those Gold Glove awards, yeah?