Mother Nature must have had teenagers because she knew enough to create secrets.

By Peter Carter

ALL FIVE of us were in the minivan. I was driving, my 20-year-old daughter Ev was riding shotgun. Her twin sister, Ria, brother Michel and my wife, Helena, sat behind. We were enroute to Halifax from our Toronto home and nearing the Quebec village with the best name of any place in Canada, Saint-Louis-Du-Ha! Ha! And even though it was a hot August morning, we didn’t need A/C. The van was cooled with what you might describe as the “post-argument chill.”

We still had a day’s drive ahead of us and I think we were all dreading it. The mood sucked all the joy out of what should have been an adventure. Ev to the rescue. Just telling you about Ev makes me use a word I’ve never typed before. Empath. She reads people’s feelings with the same precision that her uncle Ed deciphers the “What’s On Tap” menu. I could sense she was hard at work improving everybody’s demeanor.

Step One: Re-engineer the atmosphere. With iPod in hand, she manipulated the vehicle’s entertainment system and carefully selected music that soothed our savage selves. Grocery stores have used this technique for years to get you more receptive to spending. I could feel the tension easing. And after a few miles, she said—softly—“Mom and Dad…you know how sometimes I tell you about something I’ve done afterwards because it’s better than telling you before???”

For the first time in four hours, Helena and I agreed on something.

She continued: “Have you ever heard of the Naked Bike Ride for the Environment? I rode in it this summer.”

We suddenly weren’t thinking about whatever we’d been arguing about.

When nobody’s standing behind you, Google Naked Bike Ride. Every year, thousands of cyclists around the world strip off and somehow prove to the world by doing so that we should be less dependent on fossil fuels. I’m not sure I get the connection, but still.

In Toronto, the ride starts near the shore of Lake Ontario and winds about 4.5 clicks north through the crowded streets of Canada’s most populated city until the bikes reach Queen’s Park—Ontario’s legislative seat.

Which brings us to Helena’s immediate response: “Whose bike were you riding?” For some reason my mind went there too.

Ev: “Nick’s.” (Ewww.. We know and like Nick. I wish we hadn’t asked.)

Helena: “Suppose somebody took pictures. Might end up on Facebook.”

Ev: “Already has. But you can’t tell it’s me. I was wearing a wig.”

We are not a naked family. In fact, for some of us, it’s the opposite. I told Ria the other day—and whether she believed me or not remains to be seen—that I chose not to be a professional athlete for the simple reason that I don’t like showering with other men. I should also mention that neither do we have anything against Ev riding naked through the streets of Toronto. She’s mature, smarter and more sensible than my wife and I put together and, in fact, we’re proud of her independent spirit. I’m also very proud of her honesty. And now that the she’d successfully thawed the icy silence in the car, the talk moved along to other issues, such as whether, when I was her age, I would have told my folks that I rode my bike naked. The answer’s a loud-and-clear nope. I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school or university, for that matter, I never talked to my mom or dad about my social life unless I was trying to get something from them or out of deep trouble.

I’m grateful teens today are far more open with their parents than any generation in history. I happen to think this new open-ness is a wonderful and healthy trend. There are things about your teens—especially your dating teens—that you’ll want to keep tabs on, but there are others (and I urge you to share this list with the teenagers in your life) social-life details moms and dads will be just as happy to go to their graves not knowing. Mother Nature invented secrets for a good reason. She was, after all, a mother. She knew what she was doing. ■

Peter Carter has four brothers, four sisters, one wife, two daughters and a son, the last three of which all recently graduated from teenagehood with all their limbs and sanity intact.

PETER’S 5 NEED TO KNOWS

1. The age of anybody your teen is dating, give or take two years. More than two years either way is a red flag;
2. Where your teen’s date money came from. This just seems really relevant for some reason;
3. If, during the course of the date, your teenager had any contact with cops or school authorities that requires followup on your part;
4. Which parent had “The Talk” with the teen and if you’re sure “it took”;
5. Whether the teen’s cell will be on or not.

PETER’S 5 DON’T NEED TO KNOWS:

1. What your teen actually said or heard on the date;
2. Any interaction with police or school authorities that requires no followup on anybody’s part;
3. How much anybody had to drink so long as it didn’t involve a trip to the hospital;
4. Who barfed into what receptacle;
5. Whose bike they sat on naked.

Other than that, I think they’re good to go.