Careful Recklessness

Kid #1 has finally chosen a university to attend next year.  Let the heavens sing.  This event called for yet another celebration.

Having three teenage boys among the four kids left in this house gives one perspective on so many different aspects of life, including the ideas of 1) taking risks, and 2) the fear of making an ass of yourself; both at which teenage boys excel.  Both are hormonally driven, both are inescapable.  However, as parents we can guide (a.k.a. completely control) their energies toward risk-taking and ass-making opportunities that are at the same time safe and satisfying.

It is a teenage boy’s job to try to always appear cool, in control, fearless and dangerous.  Luckily, we’ve learned to use food as a means to this end.  Throughout the course of this 100 Percent List experiment, my husband and I have watched the kids move from fearful, timid creatures when it comes to food toward the opposite end of the kid spectrum — wild daredevils, willing to indulge their risk-taking needs in the ridiculously-safer-than-motorcycles environment of the dinner table.  When once they wouldn’t dare move beyond their comfort zone, wary of appearing fearful, they now happily partake of stuff they can’t pronounce or identify, perfectly comfortable with the prospect of looking like a fool when accidentally eating something he once swore was akin to poison or dog poop (yes, kid #1 once called my food dog poop; nevermind that we didn’t have a dog and he wouldn’t have known what dog poop was had it been served to him on a silver platter; it came out of his six-year old mouth nonetheless.  So for those of you who think I’m lying when I tell you that my kids eat all these weird foods I serve them, just know that occasionally I, too, am accused of serving up dung for dinner).

This was made very apparent recently when I ventured into dangerous territory with them — spicy food.  Kid #1 and kid #4 tend to avoid spicy food, so I knew it was a gamble from the start.  Kid #1, who is now 18 and in the throes of serious teenage hormonal chaos, casually dumped a rather large portion onto his plate with the exclamation, “I’m not a wuss!”  This could have been shouted from the top of a bridge while attached to a bungee cord, or in the doorway of an airplane while wearing a parachute, or somewhere else adrenalin-filled and mom-coronary-inducing.  But while recklessness at the dinner table isn’t nearly as hormonally satisfying for him, I’m sure, it does help his not-done-growing brain to mature to a place where taking the aforementioned risks won’t seem quite as appetizing or necessary.

The second piece of the teenage boy puzzle has to do with saving face and not appearing like an ass, an event which seems to come so naturally to them that the irony is nothing short of amazing.  I’ve coached teenage boys who make a statement and then do anything possible to prove that statement is still correct, even in the midst of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  However, in this house we celebrate the “oops, I’m an ass and I’m ok with it” occasion with energetic gusto.  At the outset of this particular dinner, kid #3 stated that he doesn’t like pork too much; kid #1 reminded me that he doesn’t care for spicy food; kid #2 said he wasn’t very hungry, and kid #4 just sort of sat there dumbfounded at the large, dark hunk of meat sitting in the enamel pot in front of her.  Upon learning that this meal was a) pork (too bad, kid #3), and b) spicy (too bad, kid #1), neither kid (much to my surprise, I admit) dug in his heels to avoid the “I just said something stupid and now I have to eat my words” moment.  With a shrug and a giggle, both tried it — thus proving that there really is a time and place for safe ass-making opportunities, even for teenage boys.  When these needs are fulfilled at home, in the presence of food rather than things like knives or weapons or (gasp) teenage girls, the tendency to avoid risky experiences elsewhere grows, while the fear of looking foolish at the cost of doing something truly beneficial diminishes.

Kid #1 sheepishly admitted that this is now his favorite List food.  The rest agree.  Find the recipe for Carne Adovada here.

The List now sits at 21…

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