Friday, August 26, 2011

Li'l Brudder and Rebellious Everyone

Having my little brother, Michael, come spend 10 days with us a few weeks ago was an excellent excuse to rewatch this HomeStar Runner Classic and make fun of my long-suffering sibling.
Fortunately, Michale doesn't have much in common with this pathetic one-legged pup other than being generally adorable, and having the delightfully unlikely goal of becoming a star quarterback.

(Okay okay. Michael has a much better chance of being a star quarterback than L'il Brudder, but he was probably wise to ditch the football team when he did and go out for lacrosse. He's having a lot more success and playtime in lacrosse than he did as the 5 foot 8 inch, 130 lb QB. Because as good as he was on the field, no amount of skill and speed will mitigate the force of a tackle from a 250 lb defensive lineman.)

Michael (right), wipes away tears of frustration after another pass went right over his head

And whatever his similarities to Li'l Brudder, one thing is undeniable: he's got the "heart of a champion," and I loved having him come visit. We had tons of fun hiking, shopping, playing, cooking and mostly just talking and joking about silly stuff while he was here. This was really the first time since I moved out in 2006 that I've been able to hangout with him for an extended visit. It was cool to see how much he's grown up in the past five years, and how much, in some ways, he's stayed the same.

I was amazed by how adult my 17-year-old brother had become, and how his maturity really shined in the absence of my parents. I easily imagined him renting his own apartment, studying for his college exams, gong to job interviews, etc. My L'il Brudder! Doing grown up things!

He even said something to effect of, "You know, it's weird. I love mom and dad so much, but just something about being away from them makes the world seem easier."

Haha! How right he is. As much as we love and need our parents (even in our adult years), the idea of trying to become a grown-up while constantly being influenced by their guidance is daunting. How could we expect to learn to ride a bike if the training wheels were permanently bolted on?

This got me thinking about the difference between "rebellious" teenagers, and "independent" adults.

When kids have conflicts with their parents - they're just stubborn or misbehaved. When adults have conflicts with their parents - they're just exercising their independence. But teenagers are seen as "rebellious" whether they're arguing about dating, curfews, school, work, life, or any valid conflict that a young person might want to bring up with their parents.

The I-Know-Everything Fallacy Case in Point: Michael created this image of himself  when he was about 15 

Of course there's truth to the stereotype. Teenagers have the added ingredients of hormones, inexperience, the I-Know-Everything-Fallacy, and lack of financial independence all stewing in the potential conflict cauldron. They're capable of (and likely to make) some poor decisions that get them labeled "rebellious."  But, I wonder if the stereotype of rebellious teen isn't largely an externality of our cultural norm that children move out as their teenage years are ending.

Allow me to explain. Kids begin seeking their independence more and more as they enter their teen years, and when they finally gain that independence and move out around age 18, they cease bickering with their parents and we assume that they've quit being "rebellious".

But, imagine that people lived with their parents for their entire lives. Suddenly, we wouldn't think teenagers were rebellious, we would think everyone over the age of 12 was rebellious. We'd be rebelling against our parents until they day they died if we had to live with them forever. Whether you're 15 or 45, living with your parents is kind of hard when you're trying to build your own life. Everyone is rebellious - it's just a question of parental proximity.

Maybe I'll feel differently when I'm the parent of teenagers, but for now this is my theory: Rebellion is just independence under someone else's roof.

No comments:

Post a Comment