As the sticky post at the top says, I’m on vacation–travelling and mostly away from the internet. For a brief moment here, however, I have access. I wanted to add a passing thought, which is partly offered in jest, but somehow seems to me to conceal an important truth.
I’m here with an extended family group that includes my own teenager. It seems to me that his parents have a unique ability to cause him mortification. Indeed, it seems to me that we are incapable of acting without causing said mortification. By contrast, other adults in this group, though members of extended family, do not have this effect on him. Nothing they do seems to cause him the same degree of discomfort my every move creates.
And this leads me to suggest a new varient of the functional test for parenthood–one that would, it seems to me, simplify matters for children of a certain age. All a judge would need to do is to observe whether every action taken by the person in question caused the child to cringe. If it did, then the person is a parent. If not, not.
I must admit here that my sample is small and perhaps I flatter myself in thinking that the embarrassment displayed by my son isn’t so much personal as it is situational. But I’m certainly aware of a significant number of other parents of teenagers who have a common experience.
As I said at the outside, I offer this test at least in part in jest. But there is something more substantive here as well. It’s clear to me that what creates this problematic relationship between teenager and parent is social. There’s something about the social relationship we have and how it appears that makes him more sensitive to my actions than he is to the actions of other adults around him. I don’t have the time to think about this carefully enough at the moment to pry loose the greater meaning, but I think it at least suggests the degree to which the relationship of parent/child is a social (rather than a genetic, say) relationship.
My time grows short. I should be back on a regular basis at the end of next week.