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9.26.2011

On being Ben

I'm hoping we're having a "teachable moment" (as Prez Obama likes to say) this week with Tio. I've mentioned a few times over the past months that he's never wrong and gets angry if he's cornered by a falsehood. Well, I was talking to an old friend of mine last week comparing notes about adolescent boys and their stubborn persistence to be completely in the right. Her son is the same way only he's 15 and been at it for years. I remembered that Tio met her sone Ben a year ago on a vacation where they spent several hours together over a period of days. None of our boys could stand the way Ben was so stuck up. He acted like everyone else was woefully stupid and that everything that wandered out of his mouth was a pearl of wisdom and absolute unlacquered truth. He would argue that trees were blue if he had to.

Light bulb time! The next day I reminded Tio of that vacation. Tio remembered Ben (and his younger sister who he thought was pretty cute) and remembered how everybody cringed when Ben would start spouting his know everything tirades. "Well," I said, "when you don't watch yourself that's how you're starting to sound and you are headed to become that kind of boy."

Talk about a wake up call. His eyes blinked twice like he'd been splashed in the face. "Really?" he said.
"Really. Teenage boys especially get full of themselves and don't even hear what comes out of their mouths. But that's what everyone else hears."

That was the medicine but not the cure. He still has to learn to hear himself talk. Like tonight at supper, insisting that he could outrun our dogs. Tish and I both told him that he didn't have a chance in hell of being anywhere as near as fast as any dog. But he stuck to his guns. "Then, we'll test the theory after supper when I throw the ball for them," I said.

For the next hour he kept it up about how he'd get across the field super fast and that I better warm Gully and Bunnie up so they're ready for the challenge. When I was up to my chin in swamp water I told him to put his money on it. "If you beat the dogs in a sprint, I'll give you full privileges back (something he's working hard and slow to earn). If you lose, I take your gameboy away FOR EVER. Is that a deal?"
The poor kid started actually thinking seriously about it. He was grinning and calculating in his head how fast the dogs really were compared to his awesome ability.
"Don't be a Ben," said Kit. "Grampy knows you can't win."
I let him off the hook. "Grammo raises and trains dogs for a living," I said, not really wanting to watch him to go down in flames. I mean, he is a good runner and had proved recently that he can finally outsprint me, but this wasn't about his abilities. It was pure physics. "We've both had dogs for years and know a lot about them. Do you think we don't know what we're talking about or that we're trying to pull one over on you? When we say that dogs are much faster than people, it isn't a boast, it's a fact. Otherwise we wouldn't say it. So why insist you know better?"

He ran the race and got clobbered. Bunnie zigzagged in front of him and still got there first. Gulliver ran flat out after the ball and made it in half the time. There was no surprise and as the wind had been taken out of his expectations, he wasn't bruised by the defeat.

"When I don't know something, I keep my mouth shut," I said afterwards. "It was a lesson hard learned because I, too, was a teenaged boy. When you're dishing the crap back and forth with your friends, who cares. But when it matters, you don't have to say anything - then you're not wrong. It buys time to get your facts straight. If you learn sooner instead of later that a right word left unsaid is worth a thousand wrong ones blabbed and defended you'll be well ahead of the game."

And you won't get accused of being a Ben.