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Top 5 Things To Talk About With Your 15-Year-Old Son On An Airplane

photo-1 copyThere will come a day, if you have a 9-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son, when you fly across the country with your 9-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son. Maybe. It’s possible. Ages and genders may vary. Just roll with it. And your 9-year-old daughter will fall asleep and stay asleep and this will be very good, not because you don’t love her like crazy, but because a big aspect of your crazy love is reserved for when she’s sleeping. You’re not a bad person. That’s just how it is. And when this day comes, you’ll need some things to talk about with your 15-year-old son and that is exactly why I wrote The Top 5 Things To Talk About With Your 15-Year-Old Son On An Airplane. For you. I wrote it for you.

THE TOP 5 THINGS TO TALK ABOUT WITH YOUR 15-YEAR-OLD SON ON AN AIRPLANE

5). DEATH AND MEANING. In spite of statistics that indicate how air travel is so much safer than driving around in cars, airplanes are deadlier just because they are. They take us above the clouds and we know we don’t belong there, so it’s mythical like Icarus and his melting wax wings (or what have you). Airplanes remind you that you’re going to die and maybe soon, so it’s a good thing to talk to your 15-year-old son about it. We talked about how he thinks that when you die you just end, stop living, no you, nothing left, which I found to be rather bleak and indicative of my son’s indoctrination into the soullessness of modern consciousness wherein “reality” is limited to only that which can be confirmed by the scientific method. But what about Heaven or reincarnation? He shrugged. Maybe dying is a doorway to a different shade of life and it’s, like Whitman said, better and luckier than anyone has ever guessed. He was unmoved. How, I wondered, did he even get out of bed every day and derive meaning from his life when death was so apparently dark and final? He said he didn’t worry about it all that much, which I construed as profound psychological health and left it at that.

4). SCHOOL AND CAREER.

His freshman year of high school was the first time my son ever struggled and he ultimately needed to attend summer school for failing Algebra II. I told him he needed to really buckle down for his sophomore year and my words entered his left ear and exited his right, crisp and clean, not altered by any evidence of consideration. I asked him what he wanted to do with his life and he said something about computers and I told him that he’d probably never work with computers if he didn’t do well in school, but then I suddenly heard myself and realized that this was nothing more than parental propaganda. Then we talked about how school was mostly stupid and that it was more like a social game that you played to indicate the extent to which you were able to be controlled and manipulated by authority figures. I told him the trick was to play the game while seeing through the game, that this was a way to both succeed and defy the system because people who merely revolt just get locked up in prisons or shot. My son thanked me for my frank honesty and I told him he was welcome.

3). SEX AND CONDOMS.

It was a long flight so I asked him if he was having sex with Alecia and he mocked offense and declined to comment. I told him there was a sexier sex talk than the original sex talk. The original sex talk, back a few years ago, was just simple biology and it had to be that way because the information, in and of itself, was mind-blowing and it was important to just grapple with the facts for a couple years. But there’s a lot more to sex than just what you put where and how babies are made and I was available to discuss, you know, moves and the like. Deafening silence. I told him that not wanting to talk about it was fine and that I had an open door policy where nothing was off limits. Then I told him that sex, now that he was 15, was not an act that I considered punishable, that punishing someone for having sex struck me as twisted and sinister. However, not using condoms was maybe the dumbest thing he could ever do, way worse than failing Algebra II, and that if I caught him having sex without a condom, no X-Box ever again for life. I could hear the gears in my son’s head audibly processing this information. I counted this as a win.

2). HIS MOM’S BOYFRIEND AND MY GIRLFRIEND.

I asked him if he liked his mom’s boyfriend and he said yes, he’s pretty cool, and we discussed my girlfriend and her chocolate chip cookies, which we agreed were very very good and that she too is awesome and knows a lot about Dr. Who and John Green and really good books. We talked about how it was okay for him and his sister to really like, even love, the people me and his mother loved, and that there was no breach in loyalty or any need for allegiance. In the best way, everybody just wants everybody to be happy and no one should feel bad or weird for feeling good. We also talked about the need to talk about unhappiness if unhappiness ever enters the picture. I told him I knew both sides of this coin because my first step-dad was a lunatic who drank himself to death and my second step-dad was his grandpa, so my son already knew he was awesome (unless you were in your early teens and didn’t want to sweep the garage). The bottom line to talking about this with my 15-year-old son on an airplane was for him to know that he could talk with me and his mother about anything.

5). MINECRAFT AND DR. WHO.

So after that ordeal, I asked him about Minecraft and Dr. Who and he talked and talked and talked and I (though I don’t care in a way that’s honest) listened. Let me amend that. Honestly, I don’t care about Minecraft or Dr. Who. However, I care about my son and he cares about these things so I care about them by proxy. There comes a time in the life of a parent where you begin to assume the identity of your children and, in this quirky family bond, you begin to care through them. What matters to them matters to you, not necessarily in a way that appreciates the content, but formally. You become infected by their enthusiasm for things and you meet them, share a relationship, in the geography of their enthusiasm. Having children is not about you. It’s about them. And the path into them occurs on the road to listening to them, asking them questions about who they are and what they love, and not judging them in relation to who you are and what you love. The very best thing to talk about with your 15-year-old son on an airplane is nothing other than him, as you give way to who he is with a careful eye to who he’s becoming.

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