Day 50

This weekend I asked my son John to come for a walk with me, and to my great surprise he said yes.  John’s a great kid, but we all know teens can be snippy.  Teens can be tough.  Teens can be hard to pry out of bed and wedge into their sneakers. Especially teenage boys.

But there are plenty of reasons to keep on trying, and not just because someday in our old age we’re going to need them for a ride to the airport, or for help moving the new couch.

 Teens have great music on their iPods.  If you can get ’em talking, teens can tell you all kinds of things you don’t want to know — like which plaid shirts are hip and which are dorky, or who the heck Minka Kelly, Justin Bieber, or  Beth ditto are. They have a youthful view on life — ok, often their youthful view is cynicism, but it comes from the false notion that they’re going to be young and healthy forever and can afford to waste a few years snarling at the daylight. So we can forgive them, because we have the last laugh on that one!

But the best reason to take a walk with your teen comes from a woman I met years ago, when we were both students at NYU.  Let’s call her Doreen. She was one of 8 children, and Doreen was very close with her mother. Closer than any of the other sibs, she said. 

“In a family of eight, it’s hard to get one-on-one time with your parents,” Doreen said. “My mom used to walk around our neighborhood a few times a week, and when I was around 10 or 11 I started going with her. Nobody else wanted to go, so it was always just my mom and me. That’s how I got close to her. And it’s lasted.”

At a time when so many young women were at odds with their parents, Doreen talked about her mom with great affection.  I’ve always remembered how she described her relationship with her mom as natural, easy, and companionable.  I remembered it, and I envied it.

So I tried to ignore the little bit of sulkiness John brought into the car with him this Sunday. I tried to ignore the hints he’s been giving me for weeks about why he “needs” a cell phone upgrade, and I tried to cheerfully enforce the “We’re not talking about cell phones or convertibles” rule of walking with teens.

Because it was annoying (embarrassing?) him, I tried really hard to stop taking pictures of Hilltop Park — even though there were some pretty wierd and awesome things to see, like the Peace Trail.

I didn’t even ask him about school.

We walked. We talked. We relaxed. We laughed. We’d started out tense, and we went home happy. At least, I was happy. And as long as he gets all As and Bs on his report card, John’s getting that cell phone upgrade.  So I’m pretty sure he’s happy, too. 

Best of all, he’ll be able to take even better pictures from his new phone next time we go out walking together.