One of the most frightening parts of being a parent comes when you remember all the stupid things you did as a child and, especially, as a teenager. I can’t help but wonder how I survived. During the normal course of growing up, we all take chances that, in retrospect, seem daft.
Of course I don’t mean climbing trees, pelting down a hillside of dried grass on a piece of cardboard, or braving the blackberry patch. That’s all normal, and relatively unlikely to result in actual death or dismemberment. Those don’t count. I mean the really stupid stuff.
Abandoning my year abroad midway through.
Because I missed my boyfriend, of all stupid reasons. There I was, enrolled in a program through the college I attended. A year in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. A chance to experience college life in Europe. Who could ask for more? I could, apparently.
Letting a friend move in “temporarily” with a pregnant dog.
Needless to say, we ended up with 12 puppies. We had no money to spare, and were forced to panhandle for money to feed them. Never again. Not that anyone I know now would ask me.
Listening to a backseat driver.
I was nineteen. I’d been driving for three years, so I wasn’t a total novice. But the hitchhiker first pointed to the right side of the coastal highway to show me where his house was, then told me to turn into a parking lot on the immediate left. Can you guess? I just reacted to his directions, without looking, and wrecked my little VW bug. Lucky we weren’t all killed. Stranded out in the boonies, but not killed.
Going backpacking alone.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. I wanted solitude. I wanted to test myself. I failed. I hiked thirteen miles up the side of a mountain with a 45-pound pack. When I got to a good campsite, I took off the pack and had the most welcome and wonderful sensation of floating. I knew from the map that a spring flowed nearby. I certainly did NOT want to put the pack back on, and I figured I could keep track of the camp easily enough. Turns out that was not the case. I found the spring, but then spent the next anxious 45 minutes trying to find my way back. During the night I heard rustlings that I was convinced were produced by a bear. The next morning, I descended the same trail I’d painfully climbed the previous day. So much for lone backpacking.
Hitchhiking by myself.
This is really a whole category of stupid. Somehow, the first bad experience didn’t dissuade me from trying again. You’d think that after the time I opened the car door to a lovely view of a man with his pants unzipped, I’d have taken the hint. But no. Probably the most danger I was in from this rash activity occurred when I took the notion to hitchhike on a backwoods highway in Northern California. The two nice men who picked me up told me they had a great place where I could camp. They helped me set up camp, build a fire, and start dinner. Then they asked how I felt about Free Love. I told them I was more the monogamous type. I think the fact that they didn’t understand the word kind of put them off. Thank goodness.
Yikes. By luck alone did I make it through those years and manage to procreate and pass on my innocence and stupidity genes.
My children are both in their thirties now. Somehow they survived as well. Not that my experiences of stupidity kept them for creating their own, you understand. But they managed to live through the Tenuous Teens and Twenties.
Now, for the grandchildren…
Come on, we all want to know how dumb you were, too. Got some good stories? Share!