Teenage Resistance To The Teachable Moment

Dr Brown's Cream Soda
Dr Brown’s Cream Soda (Photo credit: stevegarfield)

TechSupport was relaxing, drawing in his notebook to complete an assignment for his art class.

“Can I show you something?” my husband interjected. He used to be a pretty good artist back in the day. “I want to show you how to look at that can of soda and really see it.”

“I kind of just want to draw,” Tech said.

My husband pulled a chair over to the kitchen table where our son was sitting. “I just want to show you something,” he said. “Will you just look?”

Tech kept his eyes on his notebook. “I will.” His hands gripped his pencil tightly. “In a little while.”

I addressed my husband. “Not every moment has to be a teachable moment…”

My husband glared at me. “Don’t do that.” He held up one hand. “You’re always undermining me. I just want to show him something.”

Insulted, my husband pushed back from the table, scraped the chair’s legs against the hardwood floors, and he stormed off into another room.

Tech’s hand continued to move. He wasn’t really looking at his can of soda. He was just coloring.

“You know,” I said. “Instead of making a big stink, you could’ve just listened to what he wanted to say.”

Tech bit his lip and continued drawing.

After a while, Hubby reappeared. “Now can I show you something?”

I could feel how much my husband wanted to show our son what he knew. How he wanted our child to see the world differently. How he wanted him to see shadows and light. How he wanted him to see a different perspective.

Tech looked at me, then at his father. I could see he was biting the inside of his cheek.

I imagine he felt outnumbered.

There are always two of us, and only one of him. He tries so hard to please.

My husband started again. He showed our son how the eye can lie. How colors can be different, not uniform. How a brown can of soda isn’t really brown when you are drawing it. If you look, it is gray and maroon. Even orange in places.

“That’s all I wanted to show you,” my husband said with some degree of satisfaction.

After all, he got what he wanted.

“Thanks,” Tech said with a blend of gratitude and sarcasm in his voice.

My husband’s cell phone rang and he answered it.

And Tech continued to draw with his brown pencil.

Not gray, no maroon, no orange. He only used brown: a Good Son’s quiet act of defiance.

Tech’s completed drawing

What my husband didn’t know was that Tech and I had plans. We’d said that while he drew his picture of Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda, that I would write about the same topic.

I guess it didn’t go quite as planned.

Or maybe we all got it done in our own way.

Michel Foucault once wrote: “Where there is power there is also resistance.” Anyone experiencing any resistance lately?

67 thoughts on “Teenage Resistance To The Teachable Moment

  1. Oh, man….I was there, in your house, in this moment, with my heart beating too fast in my throat. What a great piece, Renee – you captured so perfectly the tension and “fraught”ness of raising kids. Wow.

    1. This was from a few weeks ago. This was the beginning. The quiet resistance. It’s been getting louder lately. There is some yelling from the bathroom upstairs as I tap out these words. He is not moving fast enough. The eagle has landed. Plus, he is eating a lot.

  2. Sounds like many conversations in our house. “Only” kids have it tough when there’s no one to spread the “I want to show you something” between. (I don’t think that’s a well constructed sentence…)

  3. Oh, mama. I am trying to potty train a pretty resistant kid right this minute. Who wants to poop their pants? Seriously. I knew I was in trouble when waddling around in mess was more appealing to the kid than just listening to what I said.

  4. Yeah, my kids are going through that “I know everything” phase. I think it’s called childhood. Any time I try to explain something to my “I know everything” 7 year old, I get the not so patient squirmy quasi-listening look, and sometimes even an “I KNOW that” before I even get the words out. Parenting is so much fun, yes? 😉

  5. Fun stage isn’t it? It’s an important developmental one though, so just hang tight! My youngest is about 9 months younger than tech, and she’s nice this week. I’m celebrating and enjoying the fact that she cares to talk to me and be with me. Otherwise she’s been pretty withdrawn from me (only me) and it’s tough. My oldest did the same thing, that point when they know everything and I know nothing. I try not to push the issue and give them the space they need, but every once in a while I have to remind them that I’ve been at this game called Life much longer than them and it might be wise to listen up for a moment. It’s a tough time, and kind of a lonely time as a mom too!

    1. I’m hanging, Carrie. It’s hard, the pulling away. I miss him. And he just wants to Skype with his friends. And play Minecraft. I wish he still wanted goodnight kisses. I miss reading to him. I can’t believe how quickly this has snuck up on me.

  6. That’t the point of being a teenager is it not? Venturing out, doing things your own way right or wrong (usually wrong LOL). Eventually he will grow up and his parents will suddenly be smart again 🙂

    As far as independence goes – taking a rebellious stand on drawings is a battle I would choose not to fight – I’ll save my energies for the big stuff.

    1. Hi Lzbeth! I agree; this was not the day to argue about drawings — but I didn’t want him to be disrespectful to his father. I don’t want him to pit us against each other. But yes, I’m saving my energy. And I remember venturing out. *Ahem* Maybe he NEVER venture out the way I did. Oy.

      1. LOL I remember telling my kid “You cant get away with jack mister. I did it ALL and I know what to look for. You will just have to keep it on the straight and narrow.”

        For the most part he has 🙂

        1. I PRAY that is the same here. I know so many kids who have gone in so many different directions — despite their parents best intentions. I hope Tech will keep it on the straight and narrow. Mostly.

          I’ll allow for a little S-curve here and there, but really I’d prefer not to. 😉

  7. Way to articulate such an emotionally complicated scenario.

    I get angry and frustrated when I’m trying to share part of myself (wisdom would be a stretch) with somebody that is obviously NOT enthused about my input.

    It isn’t until I have cooled down that I remember being younger, wanting to show off my newly found skills, only to have some old dude trying to show me how HE can do it better.

    That enlightenment would never sink into my head until after I had walked away and swore vehemently that I would NEVER help said individual again.

    It’s a matter of POV. It can be very hard to see from two POVs at the same time, but there is value in it.

    1. Yes. That’s it exactly. Hubby was frustrated that the boy was not interested in what he had to offer, but Tech often expects us to be riveted by his wisdom regarding Minecraft or something high-tech or computerishy. I felt like I was watching a movie unroll. I saw the two POV’s — and I felt for both of them.

          1. If I might be so bold: I’m willing to bet you do (and did). Judging by what you have said, especially that last sentence, I’d like to tell you what I think might have happened. (If I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a drink)

            Everybone was mad at you –
            1) Tech was mad because he loves and looks up to his Mom (who is a very good Mom), and the two of you have a GREAT connection. Tech was mad because he wanted you to step up to bat for him. He didn’t understand that you could see and appreciate Hubby’s view.

            2) Hubby was mad because you two are a cohesive team, you understand each other, look out for each other, and he felt a little betrayed because you didn’t convince Tech to listen to/appreciate his sage advice. He didn’t understand that you cuold see and appreciate Tech’s view.

            3) There you were, the tender cream sandwhiched between the two chocolate cookies of the oreo. You were sad and a little hurt that those tough cookies that you love more than anything couldn’t come together.

            There’s not an easy way to push the two together and make them understand and appreciate the complete view that you have. But you should never forget that you are the cream holding those two knuckleheads together. 😉

            (sorry this was so long)

  8. Loved this realistic snapshot of a family exchange. I still catch myself trying to control aspects of my 22 yr old daughter’s college life: “Make time to study for your finals.” Yeah, right, thanks. Actually, I just get silence on those statements.

  9. Oh, yes.

    I have two teens. I’ve told them things that they then turn around and ignore UNTIL an unknown comes in to their lives like whoever and then they say, “that person told me to do this and that’s a good idea.” I can’t help but scream “JUST LIKE I SAID SIX MONTHS AGO???”

  10. That’s not rebellion. I’d love to tell you how I rebelled but you’d need to install one of those pop ups that checks the reader is aged 18 or above and warns that the material may be alarming/offensive first.

    1. Oh, Penny. You KNOW I KNOW all about your rebellious years. You were a force to be reckoned with. Will you be insulted if I say that I really hope that Tech does NOT rebel quite like you did? 😉 That would be good. But like you, I was a little rebellious. A little naughty. I understand he needs to be allowed to rebel. But only a little, okay? I swear, I don’t know how my mother survived.

  11. While I think that the idea you and your son were exploring is great, I felt bad for the father reading this post. In our family it very often happens that one parent is on board with one of the children about something and the other parent is playing “catch up”. It’s a tough spot.

    1. I felt for my husband, too. I don’t want us to let our son “divide and conquer” — and I believe he needs to be respectful, to both of us. He has to learn how to listen a bit. As an only child, it is easy for him to believe the world revolves around him. It doesn’t.

  12. Renee, while reading this post, I felt like someone was describing a particular instance of my childhood. Yes, I too listen to everyone and do my own. And maybe if I realize that my perspective is not right, then only I try to see the world with another’s perspective. Thank you writing it so beautifully. I enjoyed reading it a lot.

    1. Hi Arindam: Don’t you think we have all had these moments in our childhood? Where we are certain we know it better than everyone else? I remember feeling that way.

      And yet.

      I feel strongly that my son needs to be respectful to both his father and me. I imagine this is the battle we will face, going forward. TechSupport can complain about us all he wants to his friends, but in person, he needs to be respectful. And, as you said, the lesson — of course — is to learn to listen to other people. Isn’t that a life skill that he will need forever? Something tells me that he is much more tolerant with his friends. Probably. 😉

  13. You did this beautifully–wrote about the three of you and a real parenting moment.

    And yes, the big guy (8) is resisting A LOT. There’s always the baby . . . he’s my only hope. 😉

  14. I am an artist and so is my dad. I don’t remember blowing him off when he tried to teach me something. I think he was so busy trying to provide for us that I welcomed his input. He was always exceptional and I respected what he tried to teach me. With other subjects, I rebelled!

  15. One, I love the quote on power and resistance – perfect. Two, I love the idea of you writing this piece while your son drew – what a happy connection with your son. Three, at one time or another, I have played every role in the interaction you described so beautifully. I can feel the love and connection among the three of you – power struggles or not – all good stuff! Well done!

  16. My husband gets this reaction from our girls frequently – as if he is superfluous. I know that kind of dismissal hurts and I don’t know what to do about it. Parents DO want to teach and guide and help and kids don’t always (often) want to hear. Thus it ever was.

    1. I can see now how AWFUL I must have been to my mother. (*sorry mom*) This part actually kind of hurts. The rejection stuff is tough, and I imagine it has only just begun.

      Still, I hope his “man-struation” ends quickly. It isn’t pleasant. Plus, I’d like to be cool again.

    1. Hi Duffy: Yes, you are probably getting lots of resistance. But it is different. That’s like a foot-dragging kind of thing. It’s vocalized: “I dun-wanna.” But I’m guessing they both still want their kisses before bed.

      This is silent. Kinda leaves you feeling generally crappy at the end of the day. Plus, no smooches unless I initiate things. And then there is no lingering. It’s a quick smooch and he wants me out. Tech is actually waaaaaaay more interested in my husband these days. This was one of the rare times that he even rejected Hubby. It had to be documented. 😉

  17. Ack! Sides… it’s something I’m glad not to have to experience anymore! I had enough of that as a child, thankfully I don’t have kids to experience it from the ‘other side’.

    1. I know. Besides the almost dying in childbirth thing, this has been the worst part of parenting. I imagine there will be more of this to come. I don’t dig the “Divide & Conquer” thing. Luckily, he is outnumbered. I used to wreck my mother with this stuff.

  18. Just found you via Masala Chica 🙂 Ahhh, teenagers and parenting. We got an instant teenager and are really struggling to find a balance with her.

    Lovely writing…did he drink the soda afterwards? We love cream soda in our house 🙂

    1. Hi Peg! Nice to meet you! It is a challenge parenting teens, but we are settling into it. And yes, he drank the soda. Of course he drank the soda. He’s the only one who likes it in our house. Do you think he might be yours? Because maybe you can borrow him for the next 5 years or so. You know, until this teenage thing passes. 😉

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