In reflection: England with the teen

A few reflections on traveling with the teenager…

We are both really glad we did this trip with Symone. She learned a lot – not just about the places and the people we visited, but little things that make life more functional like how to navigate putting your passport somewhere you can reach it quickly, or paying attention to addresses and train numbers so you know what’s happening and can get around.

We both feared that she would put up resistance around food, but she shocked us with her adventurous choices. Wood duck pate, pigeon, cuttle fish in wasabi ink sauce, lamb curry, and beetroot cole slaw were things she ordered that she’d never had eaten if I served it to her at home. She ate without complaint and enjoyed most all of it.

She loved all the things we did and she noticed and delighted in all the little differences. She loved the quaint touches of the Cotswolds, and actually enjoyed the more traditional museum-like stops we made. I never once heard, “I’m bored” and I never found her on her phone outside flopping at the end of the day in bed. She loved eating in the pubs and quietly eyeballed all the dynamics at the bar.

We noted a persistent symptom of teenage hood – not really understanding where your body was, where other people’s bodies were and where to position your body to take advantage of what was next. She’d often be facing backwards, standing in the middle of the road, knocking over old-ladies with her backpack, and not reading the social cues of others to understand when to start moving. This teenage feature was less annoying than dangerous. More than once we had to shove her out of harms way as cars came speeding along narrow roads.

Another notable transitory teen affliction was not knowing how to alleviate one own discomfort. She’d be hungry, tired, frustrated, wet, entangled, or stuck between one awkward place or the other, and not know what to do to help herself – she’d get snappy or sullen when we tried to assist.She felt shame at being stuck in a physical or emotional spot that she couldn’t navigate out of, and didn’t like that we had to intervene. We explained more than once that we weren’t down on her, and that any correction we made was about giving her more tools to be awesome.

While it didn’t surprise me, I was delighted how deeply she dove into the art. Even the lace work and the tapestries caught her attention. She noted the ages of the ‘ladies’ of court not being much older than herself and was horrified at how they spent their days. The Tate modern really exposed her to a lot and she seemed to process it all pretty well. There was a video of a performance artist walking down a market street carry a bowl of blood and periodically dipping her feet in so that she’d leave bloody footprints where her she walked. Symone asked a lot of questions about that piece, and really picked at the notion of breaking social convention to make art.

A number of artists represented in the museum had works that explored gender in various ways. These artists were breaking ground in the 50’s and at the time their work was completely off-the-charts controversial. Symone didn’t even blink. A sign that maybe we’ve moved the social needle a bit?

She really came alive in London – and seemed to feed off the city’s energy. Kaety and I get drained of our super powers in the city so the contrast in our collective energies was a bit wonky. We let her agenda drive things while in London and she got a taste of what the city offered.

We saw very little of the sullen teen and much more of the young woman – we were both relieved that she was able to take advantage of the trip and really stepped up. Valuable, good time!

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