The angriest I have been at Riley lately happened when we were watching Blue Planet II. (I bet you weren’t expecting me to say that.) It was towards the end of the episode, and the narrator was starting to describe how overfishing is affecting the health of the world’s oceans. Riley interrupted to complain, “This guy always has to say how humans are so bad! Every show he’s all, Blah blah blah global warming or whatever.”

I turned to look at him. “Well … I mean, he’s not lying, right?”

Eye roll.

“No really, what bothers you about what he’s saying?” I tried to keep a neutral tone, although my brain was going ALERT ALERT WHOOP WHOOP.

“I just really don’t believe overfishing could hurt an ocean,” he mumbled.

Well, so much for a neutral tone. I found myself asking — angrily — who was likely to know better about stuff like this, scientists who have dedicated their entire careers to studying marine biodiversity and the ecological unity of our oceans, or some 12-year-old who, let’s be honest, still hasn’t really progressed past books that heavily feature cartoon drawings? Like, come at me with this opinion when you’ve actually read an article or two about overfishing, mister, not that you ever will, because that would require using your screen time for EDUCATING YOURSELF rather than staring slack-jawed at some hyperactive millennial overusing jump cuts on fucking YOUTUBE.

Listen. I may have overreacted. A tiny bit.

But can I just say how maddening it is for your own child to display the same who cares/it’s probably not even true attitude we are getting from, say, oh, I don’t know, the current administration. How did it come to be that my kid is the one going “OH UGH NOT THIS SAVE THE PLANET GARBAGE AGAIN”? I mean, I don’t expect that he should be garment-rending over the footage of dying coral reefs or pledging his life to Greenpeace or even really thinking anything more serious than “Hmm, I did not know that,” or “Wow, that’s not good,” but preemptively rejecting the entire message because, what, it’s a conspiracy from the BBC? What’s going on here?

John pointed out that Riley is currently very into arguing about everything, which is true. He is often both opinionated and condescending: a toxic tweenhood combo that has been unfolding in textbook fashion.

I talked to him later, when I wasn’t so irritated, and told him how smart I know he is. Like: so smart. He is a lot of things and one of them is crazy smart, even though I wish he’d read something other than Diary of a Wildly Popular Franchise, and I just hope he uses that big brain to be curious about things. Learn stuff. Be respectful, be kind, be curious.

Then he hugged me and was like, “Gosh, Mom, you’ve really changed my perspective, I wonder what other topics I’ve summarily dismissed that I should reconsider?”

Ha! No. But maybe something sunk in, if only the message that when Mom’s in the room and Sir David Attenborough is talking, you keep your big yap shut.


18 Responses to “Unlikely friction point”

  1. Faith on February 1st, 2018 4:58 pm

    In Canada we have Remembrance Day on November 11th instead of Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day or anything else like that. When I was about 14, I wrote in a diary that I thought it was silly to keep remembering war, when I wasn’t even alive for it, and maybe it was time to forget and move on. I still cringe when I think about it. It took a little more maturity to realize the gravity of war, and the importance of the fact that I wasn’t alive during the war and never had to experience any of the effects of it. He’ll come around, probably, but it can’t hurt to keep inviting David Attenborough to do what he does so well.

  2. Melissa on February 1st, 2018 5:18 pm

    You are just… such a good writer.

  3. Olivia on February 1st, 2018 5:21 pm

    I’m a special needs para, and while sitting in a freshman earth science class my head nearly exploded. They are leading about climate change and fossil fuels, and at least half the class was all, “I don’t really believe it. I mean, why isn’t Alaska under water? Besides, it won’t happen in my lifetime.” Ugh. I raised my hand and practically shouted, “Johannesburg is running out of water in like two months!”

  4. Cara on February 1st, 2018 6:21 pm

    You’re not asking for ideas. I know that, and I still can’t help myself. So, please consider exercising your complete freedom to totally ignore yet another person who can’t keep their trap shut on the internet, but have you tried planting materials that might spark his interest? A book casually laying out open to cool pictures or an interesting web page left up on the computer kind of thing. I want to believe a kid that smart wouldn’t be able to resist even in the obnoxious tweens, but (1) you’re probably already doing that and (2) he just eye rolled friggin Blue Planet.

  5. Melospiza on February 1st, 2018 6:32 pm

    When my oldest was in middle school, I was 100% convinced (on some days) that this child was the most obnoxious, materialistic, shallow, condescending ass the world had ever created. Fast forward five years, and while he isn’t exactly the model young man I would have designed in my pre-parenting dream days (and I remind myself that this would be totally boring slash appalling), he is…budget conscious. Thoughtful. Notices things. Realistic about his flaws. Would rather DIY than buy flashy overpriced crap.

    And lo and behold, my once sweet and accommodating second child has hit 7th grade and is materialistic, shallow, self-absorbed, etc. etc. etc. – OH, I remind myself, this is a PHASE. (I mean, God I hope so.) But really: an entirely different child from my first, and almost the same complaints.

  6. Mary Clare on February 2nd, 2018 7:20 am

    David Attenborough’s narration is the best. I’ve been watching Planet Earth II on Netflix with captivation. So random that Riley dug in about the overfishing. Too bad that tweens have lost those cute, chubby cheeks of toddlerhood; the kissable cheeks made forgiving every crazy, irrational toddler moment so easy.

  7. Cheryl S. on February 2nd, 2018 9:31 am

    I have a 12 y/o daughter. I keep having to tell myself “it’s the age. It’s the age” otherwise, I’d probably kill her. Between the mood swings, the inability to remember anything, and the whatever attitude about EVERYTHING, she makes me nuts. Then, on the other hand, she’s funny, and smart, and sarcastic (like her mom). Hang in there!

  8. Jill H on February 2nd, 2018 11:14 am

    As a mom of 2 teenagers, all I have to say is buckle up. Raising teens is a strange and bumpy ride. We have created new rules like “no discussing politics at dinner or in front of your grandparents” Good luck!

  9. Stephanie M on February 2nd, 2018 11:44 am

    I will never forget the time my tween stepson said something similar about 9/11 (“what’s the big deal? I’m tired of hearing about it.”). My head just about exploded.

  10. Deb on February 2nd, 2018 11:58 am

    Actually, I find this comforting. My 13 year old seems determined to kill me by treating me like I’m the stupidest person alive, which enrages me like nothing else. I’m 46 years old, little boy, surely some part of your brain can recognize I might know more than you, even if by accident. So hearing other boys are equally dismissive? Oddly cheering.

  11. rebecca on February 2nd, 2018 12:04 pm

    Please write a book called Toxic Tweenhood. I would line up to buy a copy for my almost 12 year old.

  12. Katherine on February 2nd, 2018 12:32 pm

    Time to assign some extra-curricular research projects, I think. Tell him to go research the effects of climate change on some local Oregon flora or fauna and make a short film about it.

  13. Jessica V. on February 2nd, 2018 3:14 pm

    “both opinionated and condescending: a toxic tweenhood combo that has been unfolding in textbook fashion” – this is happening in my house too. It’s the literal worst.

  14. Koa on February 3rd, 2018 12:07 am

    J’s been driving me INFINGSANE with opinions and eye rolls lately (this whole school year ONLY 3rd oh boy it’s gonna get real in a few) but tonight first he neutralized me by suggesting we watch a few episodes of Choo Choo Soul to which my only response is utter disbelief followed by cringing and/or laughter and then I neutralized him by suggesting we watch a few beat box battles (best and worst) on You Tube Red (my latest addiction, what, it’s 3 lattes, 2 if you order Venti, a month). But he’s solidly entrenched in S Eug so I don’t fear he’s going republican except he has SO MANY OPINIONS and the one that started tonight’s need to neutralize was that why should he get some “stressful job” like “lawyer/biz owner/teacher/doctor” and “like working at a gas station would be perfect” because “then I could just hang out with my friends vand go on trips and” Why the heck do I let him get to me???????

  15. Kate on February 3rd, 2018 11:19 am

    Coming out of lurking to say YES THIS FOREVER and also THANK GOD IT IS NOT JUST ME.

    my former “social justice warrior”, GAY teenage son, has now decided based on like YouTube? Instagram? Who knows – that he is “anti-feminist”, that racial oppression in America isn’t real, and whole host of other horrible, hot, BULLSHIT. I try so hard to keep a level head or at the very least ignore him, because I know this is his way of rebelling against a family that does not care about his sexuality or his hair color, but a lot of dinners end in a whole lot of snide remarks and me eventually sending him to his so that he doesn’t poison his younger siblings with that bullshit.

  16. sooboo on February 4th, 2018 5:12 pm

    This entry made me think back to my former tween self spouting all my very untested ideas about everything. Cringe. Have to put in a plug for NASA’s climate change website. It’s interactive with a cool design, lots of facts and entertaining too. Also, my friends company designed it.

  17. Misti on February 7th, 2018 9:35 am

    I honestly think tweens have such a difficult time grasping the abstract. I mean, it is the ocean and how can it be overfished? As an adult who takes an interest in all things nerd, I cringe FOR you, but 12-16 year old me would have been like, “and? so what?” about it. It’s natural and with parents who are educated and open to discussion, I truly do think this phase will end and he will be able to appreciate the information he is learning.

  18. BKC on February 10th, 2018 9:27 pm

    My 11 year old daughter asked me the other day who pays for the library. When I gave her the brief overview about local/state/fed taxes and she turned to me and said, “Huh. Seems wasteful. Like, why are there SO MANY books when everything is online?”

    I promise I only smacked her in my imagination.

Leave a Reply