Or: How Stephanie Thompson’s teenage son learned to stop rebelling and love the mom-time

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Teenage rebellion is a much talked about thing, and something we as parents see as a given. But what if kids realized such rebellion was kinda stupid, it hurt them as much as it hurt us, and they just decided to give it up?

It seems like a pipe dream, and it probably is, but my teenager made a statement at a recent Sunday-night dinner that gave rise to an itsy-bitsy bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, he won’t go against everything I say just to go against everything I say.

We had hung out a bunch over that weekend, unlike many other weekends. I had stood my ground about co-opting my children’s Saturday night to go into the city to see the holiday craziness, and to meet up with some friends.

On Sunday morning, I nabbed them again to go to dim sum in Chinatown and do some shopping. It was a lot of family time, and I loved it. I worked on my own behavior, trying not to be too bossy or boring, trying not to direct every little action of theirs like I sometimes do. There is so little time left to have them around that I am working on being someone my kids like to be around. It is hard sometimes. I’m not the biggest fan of rude rap and I rarely find those “funny” shows they watch funny. But still.

By Sunday night dinner, we’d seen a lot of each other. Eli, my 15-year-old, sat down and started eating the empanadas I’d made, which he loves, so he must have been feeling good.

“It was fun to go into the city so much this weekend,” he said, and then added, sorta nonchalantly: “I think maybe it was even better because I didn’t put up so much resistance…”

AAAHHH! OHH! WOW, WOW, WOW! Lightning seemed to strike, and the heavens seemed to open up, along with my mouth, which fell agape as I stared at the boy.

WHAT? Was this my stubborn progeny, my little protestor, recognizing that maybe going along with something and trying to enjoy it instead of fighting, fighting, fighting, might actually make it better, for everyone, including him?

I tried to act cool and collected. I tried not to jump up and down and do a little victory dance like Odell Beckham Jr. after a 65-yard touchdown. But this was indeed a touchdown of sorts. It was a major win. Have I said this out loud once or 1,000 times, that just trying to enjoy something could make it enjoyable, that fighting against something and stubbornly holding on to that resistance, instead of being open to the new experience, might in and of itself make the experience horrible?

See, it doesn’t matter how much you tell people things. They have to experience it firsthand. They have to realize it, and hopefully recognize it. Naming it is important too — resistance makes something not as fun. Letting go and letting yourself enjoy things is important, and it makes all the difference in terms of what you get out of the experience.

I have to breathe as I write this. I need to remember this lesson myself, of course, a million times a day: Let it go. Don’t be so stubborn. Try to enjoy.

His words were wonderful to hear, not only because he was saying he enjoyed our family time but also because he was acknowledging that maybe he needs to let go of some of that knee-jerk rebellion that rises up in his independence-striving teen self. Of course, some resistance is necessary to become a freestanding individual. He doesn’t have to go along with everything I say or his father says. He needs to have his own spirit and be his own guide.

But the realization that it can be really nice to go along without a fight is a lesson we all have to learn in life, over and over again, it seems to me. Maybe the nicest part of his comment, and his recognition of the need to relax and let things happen without resistance, is that if he gets good at it, maybe he’ll be able to remind me!

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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