My 16-year-old son has announced that his life is officially too complicated and, as such, things need to change.
I chuckled when he brought this to my attention. My first instinct was to laugh hysterically, but I held back, knowing that would only alienate him and his feelings.
Admittedly, we keep our son busy. This is by design because his default approach to life is horizontal. But it’s not like we’re overwhelming him with lessons, practices and leagues. He plays basketball a couple times a week and also attends band practice twice a week with a private music lesson on the side. He also has a job that requires him to show up for maybe 10 hours a week.
Other than that, he has school (which has been remote for the last year and not nearly as challenging) and an occasional chore around the house. And that’s it.
Honestly, I want my life to be that complicated.
So, when I inquired into why he was feeling so put-upon, he told me that he wasn’t sure, but he did know one thing with certainty: He needed more free time. He said this in such a way that his words and tone better reflected a 16-year-old from the early 1800s who was forced into child labor seven days a week, than the ridiculously lucky and entitled young man that he is.
Again, I held back my laughter.
Eventually, I gave him a philosophical reply that was something like, “Just remember, no matter how much free time you have, you’re always going to want more.”
This did little to assuage his mood and actually made him more surly and annoyed.
Seeing that I wasn’t making headway and sensing that his attitude was drifting precariously close to “spoiled brat” level, I finally launched into an impassioned tirade on what a complicated life really looks like.
For the next 15 minutes, I unleashed a verbal assault that outlined everything that I have to do in a given week, from my various jobs and coaching responsibilities to the numerous activities I oversee for the upkeep of our house. When I was finished, I then outlined everything his mother has to do.
During this rant, I put special emphasis on the things we do for him, including washing his clothes, making his meals, helping him with homework, paying for his activities, cleaning up his messes, keeping him entertained, arranging his weekend get-togethers, and driving him to and from his job, practices, games, concerts, meet-ups, and sleepovers.
By the time I was finished, he was leaning back in his chair in an effort to move as far away from my words and me as possible.
I then took a deep breath and slugged a couple sips of water before finally looking at him intently and stating, “And the worst part about it is, by the time I reach the point in the day where I can finally relax, it’s time to go to bed!”
He sat there and stared at me for a minute, with me staring right back at him. I was trying to assess whether my diatribe hit a nerve, hoping he would suddenly snap out of his funk and realize how blessed his existence was.
To no avail.
His next words nearly floored me. “Dad,” he stated. “I’m 16 years old and not one of my friends has a job. And none of them have to do homework every night either. And William has the newest Xbox, and why do I have to have the Screen Time app on my iPhone. I just don’t think any of this is fair.”
At this point, it was obvious that he was just lashing out and wasn’t even considering the words he was saying. That’s when I knew what was wrong. He was hungry – or as it is now popularly termed: “hangry.”
I immediately walked over to the fridge pulled out some bread and cold cuts and made him a massive turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich, which he proceeded to devour in less than three minutes.
After he finished, it was as if an entirely new entity had overtaken his body.
“Thanks for taking care of me, Dad,” he offered up, knowing full well that his earlier words were ill-conceived. “I know how lucky I am… but I still want the new Xbox if you’re thinking about a birthday present for me.”
The main character in this week’s feature, “I Care a Lot,” also has a knack for taking care of people, but in this woman’s case, she’s doing it for all the wrong reasons.
Starring Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage, “I Care a Lot” is a deft little dark comedy that presents a crooked lawyer who hunts for wealthy senior citizens that she can fleece. Everything is working out swimmingly for her until she picks the wrong woman to prey upon.
This one starts out feeling like a drama, but slowly develops a more comedic tone. Thankfully, the transition doesn’t detract and actually gives this film some much needed spice.
A targeted “B” for “I Care a Lot” (available on Netflix).
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