Mouths of Babes: teen hubris

Look at that face...He thinks he knows everything.

Look at that face…He thinks he knows everything.

Here’s another comment one of my kids made that bears sorting out in a Mouths of Babes post.

It happened during a round of Trivia Crack with Eli the other day.  Jacob– who will be 15 next week and has all the markings of a surly, know-it-all teenager– was listening in as I struggled with a science question.

Me: “Quick what’s the abbreviation for iron?”

Jacob: (eye roll) “Fe!!”

Me: (smiling) “Thanks!”

Jacob: “How do you not know that? I’m already so much smarter than you mom.”

Needless to say, I missed the next question because I was staring at him, jaw dangling open, blood boiling up to my temples.

There was no sense of irony, hesitation, or even humor in his comment. NONE.

He truly believes that in his short time on this planet, he’s acquired more knowledge than I have.

Of course, this is ridiculous. Besides the fact that I’ve had many more years of education, my decades more of life experience have made me wise.

His standard "I don't have to smile for you" face

His standard “I don’t have to smile for you” face

Yet I felt threatened, defensive and alarmingly insecure in the face of his confident conviction that his intellect is superior to mine. I haven’t understood his math homework since 7th grade and I know nothing about the sports trivia he can recite from morning til night, so in his view, I am a dumbass.

The comment was misguided and really funny when you think about it. But there was something about it that struck me deeply in one of my most vulnerable places.

When I was growing up and scared to death of boys, the one thing that terrified me most was that they would think I was dumb. Sure, I wanted them to think I was pretty and cool, but I gave up many a flirting opportunity if I had the chance to best a male in conversation.

In my career, I often found myself going an extra 10 miles to prove to my bosses (often males) that I was prepared, that I knew my stuff.

When I commute on the train, I’ll actually choose to read Time rather than People sometimes so strangers on the train will know I’m a person of substance. (As if only shallow people read People!)

These are the crazy games we play in our heads.

It's hard always being the smartest person in the room....

It’s hard always being the smartest person in the room….

Jacob’s comment really got to me for a second. He’s very smart and driven. And one day– probably sooner than I think– he will be smarter than I am. I want that for him. I hope he continues to be intellectually curious, and fascinated by people and how the world works.

But part of living with a teenager is taking lots of deep breaths and reminding myself that every foolish word out of his mouth is age-appropriate. And this too shall pass.

I’m sure there will come a time when life will knock him down and he’ll come to me looking for advice and maybe realize I’m not so inferior after all. Until then, there will be no way to convince him that he’s not the only one at the dinner table who has a clue.

Beating him at a few rounds of Trivia Crack will have to be enough for now.

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4 responses to “Mouths of Babes: teen hubris

  1. My father told me that when he was 16 he thought his father was the dumbest man in the world. When he got to be 21 he was amazed how much his father learned in 5 years. It happens to all of us.

  2. This is the story of my life, Brooke. But, some reason, and this really infuriates me, Ben never seems to think he’s smarter than Eric. When do you shoot back and defend yourself and when do you allow a disrespectful (or idiotic) comment pass? That, is the question! (Bet neither Jacob nor Ben can cite where that came from!)