I truly felt for my son. He was sitting on the back deck at our house with his friends, the ones with whom he will be very soon making the leap to the hyperspace that is college. They had spent an afternoon hanging around in the living room, dusting off Nintendo classics like Smash Bros. and Wii Sports. When I showed up, after a hard day of elementary school kid wrangling, it was refreshing to see a knot of teenagers hanging out together in a spirited but low-key fashion. I took a turn myself on Guitar Hero, reliving my own glory days on medium. Part of me wanted to play on, and hang with the kids in the living room, but I knew that my wife had just finished making dinner for everyone and I didn't want to be the one who kept us all from eating. I got a plate and headed to the deck, where there was no TV and it was ten degrees cooler than the video game hot zone.
Eventually, my son and his pals finished off their virtual manipulations of reality and got their own chicken, pasta and broccoli. They made their way outside to join my wife and I in a very pleasant and familiar way. It felt good to be sharing a meal with this group of kids we had seen grow up and graduate together, on the verge of the next great adventure.
At some point during the meal, conversation drifted from Wii to current events. Suddenly I was in the midst of a full blown, emerging adult discussion of the upcoming and ongoing presidential race. Somewhere in the flurry of opinions espoused by these incipient voters, one voice began to ring out against the generally left leaning views of the rest of the group. One of my son's friends, whether through commitment to the ideas or simply playing devil's advocate, was taking a modified libertarian stance. With courage and conviction, since his girlfriend was sitting squarely on the opposite side of the ideological fence, he worked himself and the rest of the group into a mildly tumultuous frenzy.
That is when my son's wheels fell off. It was reminiscent of many years gone by, at birthday parties where his fabulous plans for gatherings of his friends turned into the chaos that childhood allows. He could feel his job as cruise director slipping away. "Can't we all just go back inside and play Mario Kart?" Try as he might, there was no way for him to break through the rhetoric being tossed about our back yard that evening. He was stuck with these opinionated, newly-minted adults. Play time would have to wait until gun control and the Republican nomination strategy could be ironed out. My son finally retreated by himself to the living room where he took solace in the brightly colored images of his youth. Eventually, his proto-libertarian friend came and joined him, while the other two ideologues remained outside to hammer out the direction of their generation's plans for world reclamation.
I look forward to hearing stories about my son's first late-night bull session where he and his suite mates hammer out their feelings bout global warming and dorm food, but I hope there's a place he can go: a retreat. Something with lights and sound that reminds him of days gone by.