The last fourteen months with a teenage boy at home has been strange. No 16-year-old boy is supposed to be sitting at home with his parents all day instead of joking with his friends, goofing off in the cafeteria, and shooting some hoops at lunchtime.
For those of us with children, we all have assessed the losses for them over this pandemic year and struggled to help them cope with the absence of social get-togethers, driver’s education, sports, and being at school with their classmates and teachers. My now 17-year-old son has had two birthdays come and go during COVID-19.
On the days when he is home, which has been most of the year, he comes downstairs, we make lunch, and we watch a twenty minute episode of The Office or Superstore on television before he returns upstairs to online school alone in my office. While each series has its own style and characters, we spend lunchtime laughing and joking over the episodes.
While we initially didn’t love Superstore as we found it corny and strange, we slowly came to enjoy it and watch it through all the seasons. The episodes carried many messages and lessons about unions, the state of American health care, minimum wage work, race, class, and education. And I often thought how I should discuss the messages conveyed and the important lessons intertwined with the different characters.
But at the end of the day, I thought about how he has already learned so many hard lessons this year. He has lost sports, socializing, driving lessons, in-person classes, clubs, and all the rites of passage of a teenager. He has learned adaptability, resilience, and strength. He has learned how to be patient and hope for a better future. I marvel at his ability to maneuver this new world. He has also learned to appreciate the many things he does have such as food security, housing security, good wifi, his own computer, and a strong network of family and friends. Mostly, I hope he has learned that life can throw you a curveball and you can survive.
So every day at lunch now, I wait to hear his steps coming down the stairs, a “hi mom”, and bantering as we make lunch. We then sit down and laugh at the characters and their quirks. And I put any lessons, lecturing or messaging aside in this twenty minutes since he has spent his life hearing these messages. In that moment, I relish that he chooses to sit with me, that he can laugh, and that he can feel there is still laughter and joy in small ways.
And I hope when he is older he will remember that he sat with his mom at lunch laughing at shows and getting through this pandemic. I hope as he looks back on this endless year, our shared lunches and laughter will be a bright light.
Perhaps the lesson in it all was to bond and laugh, forget the outside world, and enjoy twenty minutes a day of a show with my teenage son. Sometimes no lesson may be the lesson.
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