Parenting Lessons from Ferris Bueller: Taking Teens Out for the Day
Life Moves Pretty Fast, Especially With Teenagers
I had my family’s last three-day weekend planned out perfectly. Saturday and Sunday, my two teenage boys would hang out with friends or just laze around the house, but Monday would be Family Day. My husband Chris and I excitedly picked a destination, bought Groupons for a couple of activities, and even figured out a restaurant to try. Everything was in place for Wonderful Togetherness. Until Monday morning when we told the boys to get up and get ready.
Son A: “What?! No! I don’t want to go! I’m still sleeping!”
Son B: “All day? You mean we’ll be gone ALL DAY? Please don’t make me, please don’t make me! Gah, why are you SO MEAN?”
It was at that point, standing in their bedroom doorways, covering my nose to block their teenage funk and thinking about how I’d already told them 10 times we were doing this, that I yelled, “GET UP NOW OR I’M TAKING AWAY YOUR PHONES.” But then I realized this truly amazing fact:
My husband and I are Ferris Bueller.
Our kids are his stick-in-the-mud best friend, Cameron.
To refresh your memory, here is what Cameron moans after Ferris calls him to get him out of bed for a Day of Fun:
“He’ll keep calling me, he’ll keep calling me until I come over. He’ll make me feel guilty. This is uh… This is ridiculous. Okay, I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go. What – I’LL GO. Shit.”
Make Cameron a few years younger, give him a Volvo instead of a priceless Ferrari, and put a Texas Longhorns poster on his door, and you pretty much have my two malcontents. They’re completely happy to just stay in their rooms, doing who knows what, and only emerging if they’re hungry or a really cool Pokemon is in our cul-de-sac. Howard Hughes and his tissue box shoes has nothin’ on them.
Family outings were definitely not like this when they were little. It was always a pain in the ass to get their supplies packed for a day away from home, of course, but at least they didn’t have much of an opinion in the matter of leaving the house. I could wake them up when they were toddlers and excitedly announce, “Guess what?! We’re going downtown to the IRS offices today!” and they’d both run off with excited grins on their faces to grab their Crocs and favorite stuffed animal companions.
Now that they’re teenagers, I could wake them up and excitedly announce, “Guess what?! We’re going downtown to have lunch with Steph Curry today!” and they’d both dive under the covers and forlornly ask me why I’m ruining their lives. My usual answer: “Because I’m your mother, that’s why.”
The worst part about this teen drama is that they have a blast pretty much 100% of the time we all go out for Family Day. Not 98%, not 99%. 100%. You’d think they’d remember this, and change their attitudes accordingly, but no. It’s a fight each and every time. My husband and I try to remain calm, knowing that once we get them in the car they’ll be fine, but once or twice I’ve actually been compelled to yell to the oldest, “You’re only living with us for four more years, so suck it up and stop whining!”
Nothing like the fear of moving away to college to compel a 14-year-old to enjoy his trip to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
I know this attitude is developmentally appropriate and normal teen behavior. I know that I shouldn’t be hurt when they have a burst of energy if a friend texts them and wants to meet at the mall. I get it. I was the same way, and maybe even worse. But still. Does it have to be such a struggle each and every time we want to take them somewhere? Do they always have to act like a dog who’s just realized he’s going to the vet to get a snip snip?
There’s a scene at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Ferris, after a day doing pretty much every awesome thing you can do in Chicago, asks sourpuss Cameron, “What have you seen today?” Cameron’s response? “Nothing good.”
But just like Ferris knew that Cameron wasn’t telling the truth with this answer, my husband and I know that our boys aren’t telling the truth when they say our day out together was, “Okay, I guess.” We look for their little smiles in the car, their excited glances at us during an IMAX movie, their comments of “That was so cool!” after roller coaster rides. We gauge their real, non-teenage cool feelings the whole time we’re out, and in doing so, we get a glimpse of the enthusiastic toddlers they once were. And we’ll gladly take it.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” Ferris Bueller famously declared.
Replace “Life” with “Living with teenagers” and you’ll understand why my husband and I still force our boys out of their rooms at least once a week. The four of us don’t have a lot of years left in this configuration, and I’m going to make the most of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself singing on a parade float at some point.
Going out to explore the world with your teenagers, or Cameron, isn’t always easy. But Ferris and I can tell you that without a doubt, it’s always worth it.
Photo source: KimsVinyls