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Take him on a trip.
Yep, it starts with the trip itself. Maybe there are some 15-year-old boys who would enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to be their mother’s travel companion, going off on wild adventures in exotic lands. Mine doesn’t. “Grudgingly agrees” would more aptly describe his attitude to our current five-month Ecuadorian escapade. In fact, just being here seems to elicit “this sucks” from him.
Take his picture.
He may even be laughing and I’m sure he’s having a good time (yay!), but the scowl will be out before the shutter opens, guaranteed. And no amount of teasing, cajoling, or outright begging will turn that frown upside down. I shudder to think how many albums, iPhones, and Facebook pages around the world are now graced with his menacing evil eye.
I can’t wait until we sit down together in 20 years and go through the photos of this trip, when he has matured (and is well past the age that social services could be involved). I’m sure we’ll have a good laugh over it…NOT.
Ask him what he wants to do.
Forget it. It’s much more fun to let me choose — the restaurant, hostel, day’s activity, you name it. That way, if it doesn’t turn out perfectly (which it never does), it’s my fault, and I can be berated accordingly. He sure seemed to have his own mind at home, but I guess choosing what to make for dinner or which movie to watch tonight are less threatening choices.
I keep reminding myself that the arrogant facade of self-confidence is just that — a facade — and that even small decisions in a foreign country can be intimidating. It doesn’t really help.
Encourage him to use the local language.
We speak two languages at home, and have done so since my son was born. So while I knew he wasn’t looking forward to speaking Spanish, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. And he does seem to pick it up easily — at least I think that’s what the exasperated look (often accompanied by eye roll / heavy sigh) means when I offer to translate a conversation for him.
Of course, he won’t go so far as to participate in that conversation past the level of a nod or unavoidable response. “Repeat after me” has a 100% piss-off success rate — only to be used when I really want to fire him up.
Reflect on how wonderful it is to have this quality time together.
And it really is wonderful…just better not to mention it. We’re getting to know each other on a different level. We have to trust and take care of each other. We’re thinking and talking about things we never would have back home. And we laugh a lot together.
It’s only a five-month trip, and his friends / school / life will all still be there when we get home. Someday he may even consider himself lucky to have gone on this trip with me…hopefully!