Breaking the Adult Rules: 3 Lessons I Learned from a Trip with My Teenage Son

Family Matters on 11.01.11
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Photo: Rene Syler

In late summer, I took a quick trip out west with my son. It was actually two-fold; I grew up in Northern California, so I went back for my 30-year class reunion and I owed Cole a little one-on-one time, something he'd been haranguing me about ever since I did the same for his sister. So off we went, winging our way to the land of fun and sun. Little did I know I was in for some big life lessons, courtesy of my baby boy. 

LESSON #1: HOW TO THROW CAUTION TO THE WIND. Most of us think of the same few things when renting a car: Is it practical? How much will it cost? How is it on gas? Not so when you're a 13-year-old boy. The first thing that comes to his mind is, "Is it cool?" followed by "How fast can it go?" So just as I was about to sign for the practical, fuel-efficient (read: painfully boring) compact, Cole saw IT. IT was a brand new, Ford Mustang convertible and we had to have it. It was double the daily rate of the compact but about a zillion times more fun.  We tooled all over the Southland in that thing, hair whipping in the wind but both of us, despite the heat, wearing ear-to-ear smiles.

LESSON #2: HOW TO LET HIM LEAD: I know he's only 13, but my man-child is growing up. One of the things I noticed was, when we would walk together he would casually throw his arm around me. Not around my waist the way he used to. Nope, now he wants to put his arm around my shoulder. It's not the most comfortable position for me, seein' as I still have a few inches on him. But it's such a sweet gesture that I slouch down, risking serious knee or hip injury, so he can do it.

LESSON #3: HOW TO SEE THE WORLD LIKE A CHILD: As adults, we are experts at sucking the joy right out of life. We see the worst in people, we grumble about the bills and traffic, and we stress about things we cannot change instead of appreciating the small things. But kids don't do that. We ate at a really good sushi place one night. The following night, I asked what he wanted for dinner and of course, he wanted to go back there. "Again? Two nights in a row?" Because you know, it's against the adult code to eat at the same place twice in a row. Not so in a kid's world. I relented, we went back to the sushi place and it was even better than the night before.

Ultimately this was a chance for Cole and I to create memories and to relate to each other differently. He saw me as someone who wasn't yelling and stressed but who laughed at her own stupid jokes, didn't worry that her hair was a mess and wasn't incessantly counting calories. I saw Cole not as someone who needed to be told to stop doing that (whatever "that" is), but instead as a really, cool kid. It made me realize that along with loving my son, I really like him too.  I can't wait to do it again. Neither can he.

What about you? Have you ever done a one-on-one trip with one of your kids? Where did you go? What did you learn? When was the last time you threw caution to the wind because your kid said it would be fun? When was last time you broke the "adult rules"?

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