Life, Puberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

“Just tell me. Three years? Five? How long are you gonna hold me hostage to this? What am I in for? If I know how long I’m in for, at least I can pace myself. Otherwise, I don’t think I can survive this.”

Careening southerly around the last sharp corner before the Golden Gate Bridge and it’s $6 toll, I am practically begging my newly-13 year-old. Trying a new tact. Attempting to appeal to his fleeting sense of logic, as if calling up the only stable personality in a stable of split personalities. He vacillates so wildly nowadays between jaw-dropping insights around which I cannot wrap my mind (but which will surely some day land a Nobel statuette on his mantle), and equally jaw-dropping insights about “what a dick move” I just made, and how much I “totally suck.”

Don’t get me wrong, I have made plenty of dick moves in my 50 years. It pains me to conjure them up. To bring to mind the faces of the grade school buddies whom I bullied (when they weren’t bullying me), the former girlfriends with whom I broke up (when they weren’t breaking up with me), and the adulthood acquaintances to whom I have intentionally or unintentionally offended (this one is not reciprocal, as I am for some strange reason very hard to offend). And for sure, I suck. At plenty of things and in plenty of ways. Go ahead, start at the beginning, five years ago with my first blog post. I write about sucking. And maybe my actual writing sucks, as well. A two-fer. So I can’t and therefore won’t quibble with the suck label either.

But I simply refuse to believe that I ever labeled my own parents with any of these ignoble character traits. At least not to their faces. And I suspect they would agree with me on this. They might also suggest that they each and all made lots of dick moves and sucked a fair amount when it came to me. They may even claim that they made way more dick moves and sucked far more than I do as a parent. I bet it’s aspirational: Parents want their own children to have things they never had, to enjoy a more robust and meaningful life than they had. Or simply to commit fewer dick moves and suck less than they did. But according to my 7th grade son, this generational relationship is trending in the wrong direction when it comes to my relationship with him.

Which is why I resorted yesterday to inquiring flat out about the Timeline of Puberty-Driven Hostilities. And why I’m profanely twisting the sacred language from our country’s beginnings at 5 in the morning, sitting in my cramped little booth at Starbucks before the sun has come up.

I’m past the point of point of bemoaning the injustice of having the bejesus beaten out of me. I only want to know when the bejesus-beating will be over.

And for some reason, I posed these questions to my tormentor yesterday afternoon with a genuine expectation of getting a rational response in return. Father Merrin engaging the pea soup-puking demon with biblical incantations and splashes of holy water, eliciting “the sow is mine” answer in return. I’d settle for that. Honestly, I’d be thrilled with that level of discourse. I wish I knew to whom my sow belonged. Yes, I realize that technically my son would be a boar, not a sow. But I have no idea to whom the boar belongs.

So as the sun begins to peek over the Safeway parking lot across the street, I gird my loins for another day of battle with the beast. Perhaps I’ll give the holy water a shot. Wish me luck.

And thanks for reading.

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