Yesterday I touched on a common thing with 13-14 year olds, that they have to challenge the adults and complain. It’s nothing personal, it’s just their way of asserting their autonomy, even if it hurts them more than anyone else.
We have an old family video that illustrates this well. I’m a baby, so my brother is about 14. The family is off to Vancouver Island to spend time at my dad’s company cabin on Long Beach, in what is now Pacific Rim National Park. While the rest of the family sits out in the wind enjoying the ferry ride, bro is sitting inside with a comic book, ignoring everyone else. When the camera comes near him, he scowls. Later, I’m toddling along the shore, my sister is playing with a dingy in the waves with a friend, and again, bro is reading a comic and scowling. After several days, he was finally bored with his comics and went exploring. He met an old beach comber who let him tag along. Bro was fascinated by this old guy and his stories. When it came time to go, he scowled because he had to leave. When we watch the video and tease him about this, he says, “I was stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
I do. He was being a poster boy for the oppositional nature of adolescence.
The last week of school I arranged a game for my class. The worst whiner grumbled as usual. I made him play the game. He participated, laughed and had fun. Afterwards, I pointed out that because he complained so much, he missed out on things he’d really enjoy. He smirked and admitted that he knew that. He observed that sometimes his parents force him to do things, and when he finds himself enjoying the activity, he has to make a point of complaining a bit so they ‘don’t think they won.’
That just about sums it up, doesn’t it? Opposition for the sake of opposition! Thankfully, sometime around their 15th birthdays they discover they can assert their own autonomy without opposing everyone else’s. That’s when they reach maturity.
Just like a fruit that looks as if it’s ripe, adolescence needs a little sour time to properly develop into sweet maturity.