The Teenager’s Use of the Present Participle

Teenagers, or perhaps just my teenager, appear either not to have a grasp of what the present participle means or to have a far more expansive view of the present than I do. In our household, the teenager regularly proclaims “I am doing X” when she is patently not doing X nor even remotely in a position to start doing X. Thus, either the teenager does not understand what it means to “be in the process of” doing something OR, and here is where I think I may have made a breakthrough in my understanding, the teenager’s conception of time is fundamentally different from mine.

For her, the present in the present participle is an expanded horizon which clearly has concentric circles of “doingness” thus allowing her to be “doing X” even though she clearly not even considered it yet. This is the outer circle of “doingness”, the one in which the world, possibly a parental unit, has pushed an action into the awareness horizon, but it is so far away, the circle so distant, that any particular awareness is not yet triggered until the world, which may or may not be the parental unit speaking a bit more urgently now, has registered a second request — because what more can the world do but request? and it should be happy that you are even feeling receptive this fine day.

This is a fuzzy boundary to be sure, one in which an action can be considered not to have actually have an existence yet since it is available to be negated by the simple rebuttal of “I didn’t hear you.” But whether the request if the first or the second, or perhaps is now made manifest by the parental unit suddenly appearing directly in your view, perhaps even blocking your way so that, no, you cannot continue to “vibe” to your current favorite song, the incipient action has perhaps moved more centrally in that it is now something you are considering and your consideration is, in fact, a form of doing. And, really, shouldn’t the peons, and by that you mean the parental units, be grateful for that? I mean, honestly, you’ve done quite a bit and you are exhausted by this processing of the request to “do X” and so maybe now is a good time to do something else…