Good fences

A teen, a dad and a young adult walk into a bar. This was on the second day of our trip to the Golan, and unlike on the first, none of us was naked. But I get ahead of myself.

That first day the morning had broken over the Hermon cool and cloudy. After a good night’s sleep in a lovely apartment about 200 meters south of the Syrian border (a Majdal Shams rental unit) my 24-year-old son, my 16-year-old daughter and I had respectively: complained about being woken up at 7 am, watched a video extolling the virtues of skin exfoliation, and davened shacharit on the porch to the sounds of YouTube and grumbling from within. After a quick breakfast of coffee and fruit we grabbed our packs and piled into the car. Destination: a long hike up one of the Hermon’s many flanks.

Although we set out in direction A, we soon decided that direction B was more to our liking. Luckily, a dirt road led from A to B through some verdant mango groves, so off we went. However, at about halfway to B, there was a fence and a locked gate. But, as Nachal Guvta beckoned just beyond, we saw no reason to let such petty hindrances force us to retrace our steps. We surveyed the gate, inspected its height and sturdiness, and my son, ever the one for adventure, was up and over in a moment. My daughter, however, not content with following, chose a path of her own.

There is, as any parent of a teen can tell you, something about the teenage brain which just needs to harken back to that toddler stage of “Me!!” Learned psychologists may come up with fancy sounding names like “individuation,” but parents who have watched their 3-year-olds fling themselves screaming on the floor as if they were being murdered because they wanted to put the spoon on the plate by themselves, can recognize this piece of teen-dom with uncanny déjà vu. It mattered not that her brother had successfully negotiated the fence, proving that his was an easy-to-maneuver spot. His sister would have none of that. So she began to climb a few meters over to the right.

I stood behind her watching as she made it to the top, then crouched down frog-like preparing to jump over and land on the other side. “Wait!” I yelled to her. “Stand-up before you leap so that you don’t catch your pants on the fence-top.” I could have been talking to a three-year old. Over she went – of course to the unmistakable sound of tearing fabric. Where once there were nylon running shorts there was now only the same naked part of my daughter that I used to diaper, but from which I now quickly averted my gaze.

For the next few moments her brother and I alternatingly convulsed with laughter and discussed the prospects for continuing our hike with a naked teen girl as she squatted behind some bushes. He nobly offered his long-sleeve hiking shirt to tie around her waist like a skirt. She remembered that she had taken an extra t-shirt along, so that fittingly went to him. (Fittingly – because it was one of the many articles of clothing that she had pilfered from his room while he was busy serving his country in the IDF. Maybe she had missed him.) We continued our hike, no one much worse for wear (in both senses).

Having parented for over 28 years, this was hardly the only incident of what I like to call “normative teenage idiocy” that I’ve witnessed. (And I’m not old enough to have forgotten many of my own.) To paraphrase Frost: “Something there is that doesn’t love good sense.” Some part of the teenage brain that can’t – just can’t – listen to reason all of the time. Certainly not “elves” – but a pull and a push towards adulthood that simply cannot come without obstinate revolt. Lucky are the teens whose tack towards foolishness occurs with support nearby enough to cover their as*es – literally and figuratively both.

In my daughter’s case, our hike continued up the mountain. And we made it safe and sound back the next day to a second hike, followed by a visit to the wonderful Bahat Winery – where of course only those old enough to legally drink imbibed. Riiight….

About the Author
Naftali Moses, born in NYC, has lived in Israel for over 30 years. He holds a PhD in medical history from Bar-Ilan University, and teaches and writes on the nexus of medicine and Judaism. The author of "Really Dead?" and "Mourning Under Glass", he has also translated several books on Jewish thought into English, published on philosophy in the Mishna, and aggadah.
Related Topics
Related Posts