Posts Tagged ‘teenagers’

Herding Cats

October 9, 2015 Leave a comment

I am now the mother of two teenagers.  I can scarcely believe it myself.  It all happened so fast and now I’m keenly aware of how little time I have left to parent these people.  And by parent, I mean the daily influences and guidance, because I know the give me money and buy me things part of parenting will never, ever end.  But when I look at these two, I see this:


Not this:


Back then, I was new.  I was struggling, I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep.  But I kept the faith.  I knew it would get easier.  When the baby sleeps through the night, it will get easier.  When they can bathe themselves, it will get easier.  When I can leave the house without juice cups and pull ups, it will get easier.  Sooner or later, I will catch on to this mom thing and it will get easier.

Well, all things in perspective.  It is easier in that I don’t have to lean over a bathtub and wash little people’s hair.  If I don’t feel like cooking, they are old enough to feed themselves.  I did catch on to the mom thing, at least a little.  I know what to do about teething.  I can handle nightmares, loose teeth and learning how to read.  The problem is that I don’t need to know any of those things anymore.  Parenting is chasing a moving target.  As soon as I get a handle on a thing, I don’t need that thing anymore.  And bonus points for me for having a two children who have not one thing in common and have required a completely different mommy skill set since the day my sweet girl laid eyes on her fresh baby brother and then refused to so much as look at me, so great was the betrayal.

So, teenagers.  We have passed that stage of me telling them what to do and how to live.  (I do ask that no one ever share that with my daughter, who is well-known for demanding that I stop telling her how to live her life.  The only reasonable response to that is, “That’s literally my job.”)  The way I see it, the foundation has already been laid.  Now it’s my job to guide rather than to issue orders.  Please don’t misunderstand, I will not hesitate to issue orders should it become necessary,  It’s just that at the ages they are now, specifically my daughter, who is a mere two years away from leaving my home and going out into the world by herself, they should be, and need to be, capable of making responsible decisions for themselves.  This requires me to relinquish a certain amount of control.  That is not in my wheelhouse.  This is hard.

My son lacks a certain amount of self motivation.  He will do what is asked of him, and do it well, but he’s not putting anything extra out there.  Example.  He recently finished a research paper and got an outstanding grade on it.  Then, each student was asked to do an oral presentation on that paper.  It could be as simple as reading the paper or as elaborate and creative as they desired.  But, here’s the rub.  It’s not graded.  Little guy (sorry, I know he’s not little anymore, but he has always been, and shall always remain, my little guy) decided to just read the paper.  Because it’s not graded.  I recommended that he put forth a little effort.  He resisted.  I backed off.  After all, there’s no grade.  However, I heartily disapproved and I had a long talk about forming habits and striving for excellence and how an average effort produces an average life.  And he still declined to put forth more effort.  And I backed off.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt me to do that.  Every fiber of me wanted to force that boy to sit down and get to work.  But I’m not always going to be there to push him that extra step.  He has to be capable of making that decision for himself.  He has to choose to be exceptional.   I walked away from that conversation pretty confident that my feelings on the topic had fallen on deaf ears, but hey, I’m nothing if not persistent.  I can voice my opinions as many times as necessary.

That being the case, I could not have been more shocked and proud the next day when he reported to me that not only had he decided to do a PowerPoint for his presentation, but also while he was at school that day he had taken tests in five subjects, then completed twenty-five extra pages of math work.  Now, THAT is what I call striving for excellence.  He was listening, after all.  And he made a smart and responsible decision.  Most importantly, he did what I wanted him to do and if there’s a greater accomplishment for a mom, I just don’t know what it is.

Look, I’m bossy.  That’s a great quality when the kids are little.  It’s much harder now that I have to parent with restraint and subtlety.  But I might be starting to get a handle on it.  In the next couple years, I might even become an expert at it.  Just in time for them to go to college and need a whole new kind of mom.



Too Hot (call the po-lice and the fire-man)

August 9, 2015 Leave a comment

On one average day last week, I came home from work, as I am wont to do, exhausted, irritable and starving.  I opened the door expecting to be greeted by all the enthusiasm you would expect from two teenagers who have been lounging around the house hoarding sleep like squirrels gathering nuts on a crisp fall day.  What I expected was an evening much like any other.  The big difference, or so I thought, was the Hubs was working late and I didn’t expect him until 8pm or so.  I had planned to shed my work clothes, fix a quick dinner and prop up my tired feet for the night.

What I got was somewhat different.  When I walked into the house, I was met with two things immediately.  First, a pug-shaped missile with the wiggliest happy butt you’ve ever seen, relieved to discover once again that I did not leave forever when I went to work.  The second was a wave of oppressive heat.  I asked Cutie, “Oh my God.  Why is it so HOT?”  She replied, “I dunno.  Hot day, I guess.”  What?!  Hot DAY?  I go hunting the boy.  “Aren’t you HOT?  Why is it so hot in here?”  I got his usual response, “I dunno.  I was just playing a computer game.”  Big help, these kids.

So naturally, I make a beeline for the thermostat, because something has clearly gone wrong in this house today.  It’s eighty-three degrees, friends.  Eighty-freaking-three degrees.  Better yet, the A/C fan is merrily running, just like everything is fine.  Well.  Everything is decidedly NOT fine.  Because, you know, eighty-three degrees inside my home.  So I checked all the things I know to check.  I turned off the A/C.  I checked the breakers.  I checked the outside unit, to the extent that I could see it wasn’t doing what it’s supposed to do.  Look, I’m not a technical girl.  Then I remembered Hubs was working late.  And I did what I always do in hopeless situations such as these.

I called my Daddy.

Let me explain.  My dad can fix anything.  ANYthing.  And between his own home and cars, my sister’s and mine, I’m pretty sure he has fixed pretty much everything over the years.  And not only CAN he fix anything, but he will drop everything and come fix our stuff RIGHT NOW.  If you’re wondering if this was a RIGHT NOW kind of situation….eighty-three and rising.

So I made the call I always make.  “Hey Mom, is Daddy home?”  She sees right through me when I do this.  No time for conversation, just put my father on the phone cause I have a situation here.  Well, as luck would have it, he wasn’t home then, but he arrived while I was sharing my sob story with my mom.

I’m going to pause in my story now to point out something that was painfully obvious to me even in the throes of my A/C despair.  My two children were home all day.  They clearly noticed that it was growing warm in the house.  They are both in contact with me throughout the day.  At no point did it occur to either of these teenagers, who are old enough to know better, by the by, to say, “Hey Mom, it’s hot in the house.  Could something be wrong?”  I mean, there’s oblivious, then there’s a whole new level of living on a whole other planet.  They were apparently perfectly content to sit here and sweat it out until someone told them that it was hot.  Once I started shrieking and wailing and gnashing my teeth, they both quickly rose to the occasion for the crisis we were facing.  I mean, the boy had to finish his game first, but he got into the mix, wrangling our many pets during the diagnosis and repair process.  And Cutie quickly came to the rescue when it became apparent that I would not be cooking dinner in the foreseeable future, so she cooked dinner.  See, they will cook if give them a chance.  And if they picked the wrong day to skip lunch.

But I’ve digressed.  Long story short, my dad came over, found the problem and determined that there was one likely place to get a replacement, which had already closed for the day.  So, okay, we can live one night without A/C.  Sure, no biggie.  Of course, by now, it’s eighty-six, the dog has melted into the floor and Cutie has convinced herself that she’s going to faint from heat. (that delicate flower)  Happily, my sister was quick to offer up a spare portable A/C unit, we got it in place, strategically place fans around the house and tried to settle in for the night.

Oh, the Humanity!!

Oh, the Humanity!!

Let me tell you what, we are some spoiled folks.  None of us slept well that night, most notably the dog, who barked at me all night, trying to get me to sleep in a cooler room with her.  A normal dog might just go sleep where it’s cool, but not Penny.  She’ll have things her way or she will make her displeasure known to us and all our neighbors.  Anyway, blessedly, the local shop had the part in stock and the whole entire repair job cost less than $35.  (Would have been even less if my dad hadn’t seen the atrocious state of my air filter, which I mostly remember to replace, but apparently not recently.)  And, of course, my dad came to the rescue twice in as many days, putting in the new part while Hubs and I were at work.

The moral of the story is that you can’t rely on teenagers to pay attention to their surroundings.  I still question what would happen if there were a fire.  Would they just look around, think, “huh, smoky day,” and carry on with their business?  When I think of how few years there are between now and when they will be out in the world on their own, I shudder.  The other moral is when the chips are down, you can always rely on your family. Well, I mean, I can.  I don’t presume to know your family, but I would like to think that you can, too.  My whole family jumped to the rescue when we needed it.  I’m tremendously thankful for them, and I’m completely sure that I don’t say that often enough.

So, hey.  Thank you guys.  I love you.

Top Ten Ways Teenagers are like Babies

February 25, 2013 15 comments

I admit, once my children got to a certain age, I relaxed a little.  Once they were old enough to bathe themselves, get dressed and get their own food, I thought I had the mommy thing pretty well licked.  Well, you know what happens to mommies who get overconfident, right?  Yep, they get a teenager.

My daughter turned thirteen last fall, and I must commend her on the enthusiasm with which she has embraced the teen years.  She’s taking this seriously, and I find myself plunged into a bizarre parenting loop.  Just when I allowed all the distant memories of babyhood to fade into my memory, I find myself repeating the whole process, only this time it’s with a kid who can back sass. (yay)



  1.  They don’t sleep when you want them to.  In a shocking twist, teenagers seem determined to make up for all the sleep they missed in babyhood by sleeping well into the afternoon at every opportunity.
  2. Time spent in the bathroom primping is roughly equivalent to the time spent changing diapers the first year.
  3. They require special bath soaps and shampoos.  Sadly, Johnson & Johnson comes much cheaper than a vast array of Bath & Body Works soaps, lotions and sprays. (Or Axe, if you’ve got the male variety of teen.)
  4. You are always buying them new clothes.  Not because they’ve outgrown them, but because the $100 coat you bought six months ago isn’t in style as much as the $200 coat they need now.
  5. They lie around a lot.  It’s exciting to help your baby learn to walk, but it gets old quick when you’re nagging encouraging your teenager to get outside and get some exercise.
  6. It’s a battle to feed them right.  Days of breastfeeding and introducing solid foods may be far behind you, but the battle of pizza and Cheetos rages on.
  7. When they’re cranky and irritable, you don’t understand why and there is nothing that you can do to fix it.
  8. You have to protect them from danger.  You’ll long for the days of baby-proofing the house when you send them out into a world full of predators, drugs and irresponsible drivers.  You will have nightmares of letting them drive long before that day actually comes.
  9. You can’t leave the house in a hurry.  You might not need to pack a diaper bag anymore, but you still have to wait for them to find the right shoes, a matching jacket, find their cell phone and text their friends the latest life update.
  10. Most of the time, you are completely clueless and sure that you’re doing everything wrong.

Lest I become too relaxed as I decipher this new role, I am reminded that in two short years, I will have another new teenager, and it will undoubtedly be a whole new ballgame.  Remember when you had your second baby and you thought you had it all figured out?  Yeah, I learned the hard way that kids don’t make it that easy on you.  But maybe, just maybe, the next one will be easier.  I have, at least, learned one hard lesson in parenting.  Never, ever let your guard down.  And buy lots of Cheetos.

Sometimes you just have to keep the peace.

A Word About Grief

April 11, 2012 8 comments

What I’m about to write isn’t easy for me.  It won’t be easy for some of you to read.  I’ve been putting it off, but now the time has come to let it out of my heart.

Saturday night, our community lost one of our teenagers to a car accident.  While we all mourn, one girl in particular, whom I happen to love very dearly, has lost a friend.  You can see the grief in her blank stare and her half-hearted smile.  She’s mourning a friend and facing her own mortality and it’s hard and it hurts and there’s absolutely nothing any of us can do to make it any better or any easier for her.

Next month marks the sixteenth anniversary of the day that I wore her shoes and my heart still hurts.

I was twenty when I got the call.  You know, the call.  My new husband had a car accident and was in the emergency room.  Whoever drew the unpleasant task of calling me not only had the sense to dramatically downplay his injuries, but also failed to mention one thing.  He was not alone in the car.  When I rushed to his side, I discovered that his ankle was “bothering him” because the bone was pulverized and his hand was hurt because it had been crushed.  In the midst of all his pain and shock and my rush to sign consent forms to get him to surgery, he told me, “Find Matthew.”  Our very dearest friend, the best man in our wedding, the person that we both loved with all of our being, was his passenger.  I was like a crazed woman in the ER.  I peeked behind curtains, I begged nurses for information.  I wandered around like the lost soul that I was until I found a police officer who minced no words and permanently broke a part of me.  I know now that my husband knew it, and I knew it somewhere under all the denial.  We lost our friend that day.

Loss of anyone at any time is never easy.  I don’t intend to address here the loss of a family member, a sibling, or, God forbid, a child.  What I want to talk about is specifically the loss of a friend.  In doing so, I don’t wish to disregard anyone else’s turmoil or in any way suggest that I was hurting worse than anyone else.  There’s something unique about losing a friend at a relatively young age.  For many of us, it’s our first exposure to the reality that anything really can happen to any of us at any time.  Youth does not make you invincible.  It’s a smack in the face to the natural order of things.  When you’re just getting started in life, you don’t expect to have to say goodbyes and it knocks the wind out of you when you do.  I don’t claim to know how everyone handles it.  I can only tell you my experience and maybe in the telling I will heal a little bit more.

To say I was crushed was an understatement.  I literally did not know what to do or where to go.  I stood alone in the ER until someone came.  I can’t remember those moments clearly even now.  My husband was in surgery, doctors were talking to me, at some point my family came to support me.  I remember sitting in a quiet room somewhere until my husband was moved to a room.  Then I had to tell him what his heart already knew.  He was properly dosed with morphine, which is probably the only thing that got him through those first days, as all hell broke loose.  The hospital phone rang off the hook as our friends called to confirm the horrible news.  Our pastor came to pray with us, and I’m ashamed to say that I was so wounded and angry that I left the room.  I stepped outside for a smoke and was confronted with a front page article of the accident, including a picture of the wreckage.  I was twenty years old and I thought I had a lifetime with my friend.  I was not adult enough to know how to deal with the loss and I wasn’t child enough to be protected from it.  It was a full-blown wake up call from reality.  There is no permanence in the world.  No matter how much you love someone, you can still lose them.  And no matter how much it hurts and how much you might wish it, it won’t kill you.  You have to learn how to pick yourself up and move on with that empty space in your heart.

I learned how to do it, through trial and error, but I can’t say that I healed.  If pressed, I might go so far as to say I never recovered.  The experience broke me in a very real way.  I started putting up walls.  The more people I care about, the more I have to lose.  The more I let into my life, the more I will hurt if I lose it.  I don’t mean to suggest that I’m a lonely old hermit.  I am married and I have children and I have a number of acquaintances.  Friends?  Real, true lifetime friends like Matthew?  No.  My heart can’t bear any more.  I know all the reasons that’s wrong, but I can’t overcome it and so I’m at peace with it.  I bear scars and they may not make me beautiful, but they make me real.  They remind me that I can be strong if I have to and they make me feel like I always have to.  To this day I have the most lovely dreams about him and I pray that they represent a spiritual visit from him.  I miss him so much that it hurts to breathe sometimes.

To the girl that I love, I say this.  Be strong, do what you need to do to get through this part.  The next will be a little bit easier and the next will get even a little easier.  It might never stop hurting, but there will come a day when you realize you no longer relive the worst moments again and again.  Keep breathing and hold tight to the memories, but don’t lose sight of tomorrow for too long.  Don’t let it break you.  You are not alone.