The days of summer stretch out long.
The sun is up till late, and then rises again early. There seems to be plenty of time. But for what?
I remember when I was in my early teens, I would sit in my backyard rubbing baby oil on my pale legs, hoping the blazing Arizona sun would bake me into a dark, delicious brown.
I’d bring my family’s small Sony television with me, and plug it into an outside outlet. The screen was hard to see with all the sunlight shining on it, but it didn’t matter — the dramatic storylines of the soap operas I watched were just as easily understood through bad dialogue alone.
I’d call my best friend and see what she was doing, hoping maybe she’d invite me over to swim in her pool and talk about boys.
But mostly, I did not have too much to do.
I did not like sleep-away camp very much. Archery hurt my fingers, tennis was fine when I played against a wall in the cool shade of my garage at home, but horrible in the hot sun playing official “games,” and I was really bad at arts and crafts — my misshapen clay bowls were always embarrassing, my string creations a sad approximation of the counselors’. Really, all I wanted to do was to sit and play Chinese jacks on my bunk whenever I felt like it.
It’s funny to think how, even though I often was bored out of my mind in the backyard, I always said “no” when my mother suggested activities, refusing to partake unless they were absolutely in line with my state of mind.
Maybe I was scared, or felt like I just didn’t fit in. I can’t really say. I ripped most pages from my diary after I wrote in it, so there is no record.
All I have now are sad attempts at putting two and two together based on my actions to try and uncover the strange workings of my teenage self.
I am trying hard as a parent to re-collect my feelings and the reasons why I wanted to do everything possible on my own, even if my independence took me no further than my own backyard watching bad soap operas. (I call them bad now, but was obsessed with the shows back then — go figure.)
I can be a harsh critic of the actions, and inactions, of my children, only to have a memory of my younger self creep in and put their behavior in perspective.
There was the time when I once waited all morning for my mom to drive me to a friend’s house, begging and pleading and annoying her as she completed her many tasks before we could leave. When finally she agreed to take me, I pointed out that my friend’s place was just five houses from ours, and she was outraged. Looking back, I can only imagine.
What was I thinking? How can a young, able-bodied person be so incredibly lazy as to not walk to a destination a mere five houses away? How could I have been so upset with my mother for not driving me when it would have taken at most five minutes to get to my friend’s house by myself?
I do not pretend to have any idea of what courses through my kids’ brains any more than I could tell you, or myself, what went through mine when I was a teen.
I recently dragged my younger son along to a friend’s house, where he knew no one. He was uncomfortable and wanted to go home. I almost took him, but my husband suggested that he stay a while and deal. Which was true — it was not the worst thing in the world. When I finally drove him back, I told him that I spent a lot of time at my parents’ friends’ houses as a kid, being bored.
“Then why do you make me do it?” he asked.
Back then, in my backyard, I could not have seen the benefit of being dragged along to places I did not want to go, but now…
“Well,” I said, gripping the wheel harder as I tried hard to find an answer. “There are a lot of times in life when you are somewhere that you don’t want to be. Sometimes you just have to go along, be friendly, make it work.”
As I spoke the answer, it made me sad. I suppose, ideally, all of our workdays and social events would make us truly happy.
But the reality is that learning to go with the flow even when you don’t really want to can be an asset. At least I hear it can be an asset.
Oops. I guess it’s a lesson I’m still learning.
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