I’ve written (or perhaps spoken, or perhaps both) recently about the sort of mental fog that occurs in teenagers (or those about to be). It seems more prevalent in boys, though it could be that I’m just more attuned to them because that’s what I was and have. It commonly manifests as impaired ability to remember multiple responsibilities, and consequently “dropping” a task/obligation or two.
This happens to everyone from time to time, so why am I picking on kids? Well, because in adolescence, this tendency responds poorly or not at all to increased effort. I remember experiencing it myself. I could sit and plan and really emphasize to myself how important it was that I not drop any of these balls, and my chance of success might increase 5%. I’d understand completely how important it was, and I’d try as hard as I knew how, but I was still going to drop a ball more likely than not.
Nathan showed me another manifestation of what I think is the same impairment last night. It is the ability to evaluate a thoroughly elementary choice and somehow make the wrong one.
We had 6:30 reservations at Below the Radar last night. That means leaving the house about 6. Because it was about 18 degrees, about 5:50 I went out and started Lea’s van. Ten minutes of running should make it bearable, and positively toasty wouldn’t be far behind.
Now our habit is to exit the house and open both power sliding doors on the van, which then stay open until the boys get in and close them. For obvious reasons, I didn’t want to do that tonight. So, inside the house, before I went out, I said:
Boys, I am going to open the right side door on Mommy’s van. You will get in together. Nathan, you will go first, as you sit in the left seat. Aaron, you will follow behind and close the door behind you. I am not opening both doors because I want to keep as much heat in the van as possible. Everybody understand?
Affirmative acknowledgment all around.
I exited the house to get in the van. Nathan came out behind me, though I didn’t notice until I was almost all the way in the driver’s seat with the door closed. He stood on the right side of the van for a few seconds, then opened the door, got in, and closed the door.
My explanation of how things would go was, at this point, perhaps ninety seconds in the past. Unbelievable.
I said “Nathan, Aaron is still in the house. Now we’ll have to open the door twice for no reason. Did you not understand what I said about the van doors?”
“Well, I didn’t want to stand in the cold!”
I am trying hard to be sympathetic, because I really do remember having this fog and so little ability to genuinely clear it.
Remember Louie Anderson? He’s a pretty good comic. One of my favorite things he ever said was an impression of his buddy talking to him when they were both teenagers:
Hey Louie, your dad told me not to drive all over the lawn…so I did anyway.
Parenting teens? How about equal parts sympathy, frustration, and abject terror? Is that about the right breakdown?