Tag Archives: teens

Say again?

I’ve been doing this whole parenting thing for close to 15 years. Some things with children seem Sisyphean, like insisting my socks don’t disappear into their room, or requesting they NOT leave dishes all over the house. One particular battle that drives me nuts involves their dirty clothes. If they want to carpet their room with them, fine, but the bathroom is a shared space.

I have put various laundry baskets in the bathroom with instructions to put their dirty clothes on there. Somehow they would end up everywhere BUT the basket. Floor? Check. Sink? Check. Litter box? Check. (Yes, I am just as grossed out as you are by that.)

I had taken the last basket out awhile back to haul clothes to the laundry room. It wasn’t as if they noticed it was gone.

The other day Miss Diva says as she cleans the bathroom. “We should have a basket in here!”

I responded, “Y’all have had one.”


“Countless times. Somehow you never use it.”

She didn’t believe me. Now that SHE out one in there, it is magically being utilized.

I am clearly doing this all wrong. I should just toss them into the wilds and see if they survive. I figure they would. I’m not sure I would stay sane through their trial and error though.

Safe Haven

It’s summer and once again, more often than not, there’s an extra child in the house. For at least three years this has been a thing. At first it was Mr. Smarty-pant’s friend, K. He lived down the street, but spent nearly every day here and frequently spent the night. I fed him. I took him to the park, the zoo, to movies. He lived his whole life in Memphis and had only been to the zoo once in pre-k on a class trip, and had never been to the river or to Shelby Farms.

He had a good relationship, from what I heard, with his dad, but his dad lived in MS and he didn’t get to see him that often. In all the years he lived on our street, his mother never more than waved at me. His ex-con, gang-member step-dad was more courteous. The relationship between K’s mom and his step-dad was apparently tumultuous, which is why K spent as much time as possible at our house. That, and I serve some really awesome food, even if soup is on the menu more often than a teenage boy would prefer.

At the end of last summer K moved to a townhouse a mile or two away. He still visits frequently, but it’s just far enough that he can’t slip out of the house and just wander over whenever he likes.

So, this summer Mr. Smarty-pants has another friend who is a regular fixture in his room, J. J is a smart kid, polite, and treated like the red-headed stepchild at home. His sister is spoiled and her behavior was such that both Miss Drama and Miss Diva quit trying to be friends with her. To be honest, she’s just plain mean. Meanwhile, J’s mom has had a stint of unemployment and hospitalization due to illness. Even on nights where he went home, I’ve fed him, because Mr. Smarty-Pants quietly informed me that J didn’t have any food at home. This morning I quietly asked if J’s mom knew where he was. Mr. Smarty-pants replied, “That’s part of the problem. She doesn’t really care.”

Mr. Smarty-pants may complain and whine about how mean I am. He’ll sulk when I don’t let him wander the neighborhood at 9pm at night. It might chafe his, “I’m totally almost grown” mentality, until his inner little boy pops up and reminds him that I make him waffles, and let him have some of my coffee, and care enough to demand he get his butt home when I say so. He thanked me for the waffles and bacon this morning. He has his moments.

Going on six years ago, Mr. Smarty-pant’s dad and I split up and he moved to his own place. Before that, neighborhood kids never came in the house unless he was out. They avoided him like the plague. Animals didn’t like him either. I know, I should have taken note. Anyways, it didn’t take long for the children to congregate once he left. I certainly didn’t pull out my pied pipe. At the time I projected a bit of a “Mean Mom” aura so that none were tempted to misbehave, but then JD fell down and got a gash on his head and I fixed him up.  My cover was blown.

There were occasional Popsicles offered and fresh-baked homemade cookies. I would talk to them when they asked about my garden. I’d teach them little things and they’d listen. I, in turn listened when they talked, something I suspect few adults they knew did. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that all of Mr. Smarty-pants’ friends realized that when they needed a safe place to cry, to get some food, or just to have a place to laugh and be happy, his house was the place to go.

I accuse Mr. Smarty-pants of being conniving because his friends will help him with chores. After all, he has a chronic case of lazy. Some of it is his charm, but I think some of it is quiet gratitude from his friends. One of them, JQ maybe, JD, heck it may even have been D…I forget which, once scolded Mr. Smarty-pants in front of their whole little gang of friends, because he gave me attitude when I read him the riot act for doing such a crappy job with the yard that I had to essentially redo it.

I didn’t plan on being the safe haven, exactly. It sort of just happened. I suspect it had to do with my own mom sending me outside to “play” AKA “keep an eye on” the little pre-k kids that lived on our street when I was about Mr. Smarty-pants’ age. For the record, “playing” with half a dozen kids between the ages of three and six was exhausting, even for a fourteen year-old. I’d tag my brother to take a turn and catch a breather, and he’d have the kids laughing and giggling, and the little ones used him as a jungle gym. Even at fourteen, I knew a three year old had no business outside without an older sibling or a parent watching. When my mom felt it was time for us to come in we’d walk the little kids home, making sure each one was delivered to their parents.

In two or three decades, I imagine Mr. Smarty-Pants will be sitting in his recliner as a small mob of kids parade through his house. Much like me, part of him will pine for that thing parents rarely get….silence, but not for long. Laughter is far more satisfying and infectious than silence. Besides, they do eventually sleep.

Black Hole in Residence

The upside of kids being out of school is that I can sleep an hour later. Ah, sleep, how I love thee. Seriously, I could wax poetic about sleep for awhile. I’ll stop now, though.

The downside? Fourteen year old boy, at home, with ready access to the refrigerator.

Granted, his sisters can eat a healthy amount too, but Mr. Smarty-pants has officially entered the phase of puberty known as the “black hole”. What? That isn’t a term? Pft. I’m a scientist. It is now.

In an effort to save money I got a membership to Costco. The problem with buying in bulk, is that he eats in bulk.

  • 54 single serving bags of chips? DEVOURED!
  • Gallon of milk? GUZZLED!
  • Gallon of ice cream? OBLITERATED!
  • Giant box of gogurt? SQUISHED OUT OF EXISTENCE!

That’s just the beginning of his food destruction. It doesn’t even touch on the 2 entire packages of hot dogs he ate in 2 days the week before. Oddly, all the frozen vegetables appear safe from his carnage.

Fifty Shades: Parenting Edition

Miss Music, my sister, sent me a text discussing her son. He’d proactively asked for a math tutor. She was very pleased at this evidence of growing maturity. “It almost makes up for the porn I found on his phone.”

Ah the joys of parenting teens (or almost teens, as my nephew doesn’t turn 13 until April).

Her approach and mine differ somewhat. Sure, I aimed to keep all of that away from my kids for as long as possible, but once they are exposed (via friends no doubt) it’s a losing battle to attempt to ban it. Nonetheless, she brought up a salient point in our discussion. Many sites have some really sick stuff, and I don’t mean sick as in the new cool sort of way.

With that in mind, I called Mr. Smarty-Pants in to have a bit of a discussion.

“So, your cousin got in trouble for downloading porn onto his phone.”

“Downloading? Pft. I stream it.”

And that, dear internet, is my son. His cousin, not only went counter to his mother’s wishes, but hid his activities. My son, on the other hand, is perfectly chill with informing me that he streams porn. This is one of those times where I’m both horrified and proud of our communication.

Soup King and I asked him his opinion of said porn, to which he agreed it was totally not realistic, after all it’s a movie and movies fake everything (smart kid). Then we reminded him to avoid certain types as not only are they gross, but illegal. I also reiterated that people can develop addictions, to which he replied, “No problem. I won’t want that when I’m older and get a girl.”

Somehow that thought doesn’t comfort me in the least.

Groundhog Day

On February 2nd, Mr. Smarty Pants awoke and saw his shadow.  You know what that means folks. Yep, six more years of teens for him. Of course, even if he hadn’t seen his shadow the same would be true.

Mr. Fourteen tortured my bank account for his birthday by buying a pair of shoes. Yes, you read correctly. A PAIR of shoes. My monetary contribution didn’t even cover it. He had to toss in some birthday money to cover the remaining cost as the sales clerk and I shook our heads at the unfathomable concept of blowing money on a single pair of shoes. I know some folks think nothing of dropping a hundred plus on shoes, but they aren’t at the apex of teen growth, outgrowing things faster than weeds in my garden– and I have some seriously vigorous weeds. A day later he has a pair of shoes just like the ones he chose, but in a different color. I’m informed that he and one (or two?) of his friends who happen to wear the same size rotate their shoes so it looks like they have multiple pairs. I warned him that I’ll have no sympathy if they all get athletes’ foot.

Being an old fogey, and clearly far removed from the ways of the “cool people” I of course asked what the point of all this was.

“To impress girls.”

Well, silly me, of course. I mean, shoes are exactly what I always went by when crushing on a boy. I asked what happened to liking a boy because he was nice and looks good.

Mr. Smarty Pants grinned. “I already got that down.”

No ego problems here.

Middle Mania

So, the past few months has had me in the middle of a lot of chaos. My advisor changed schools, the announcement of which happened right when I was about to take my oral candidacy exams and there was a slight debate about the timeline of my dissertation.  That was resolved, finally.

Then, the school year started. While I hunted for data and filled tables and wrote really boring science stuff, my middle child started middle school.

In all her years of school so far, she’s been my independent child. Suddenly my low-maintenance child is requesting help with EVERYTHING. My sister, who teaches middle school, assures me it is a common phase which will pass, but it drives me nuts. While things appear to be waning, for awhile every night it felt as if I had middle school homework.

For full disclosure, I hated, loathed, and despised middle school. In all three years, the only thing I really liked was choir and the fact that I finally made a few friends. I did my time, so to speak, and having to muddle through pre-algebra again is not my idea of fun. It isn’t the math that is tedious, so much as explaining things over, and over, and over, because Miss Diva has misplaced her confidence.

I sympathize. I do. Twelve is a tough age, but it is tough for her while it was hell for me. She’s pretty, popular, and an excellent student. I was gawky, a social outcast, and criticized for that excellent student status. Everything I did was wrong, so in many ways, it gave me a freedom I didn’t know I had. She’s a sweet child, but at times I see the girls I went to school with– the ones that treated me like less than dirt. She worries about her hair and nails, about looking cute and not making mistakes. For me the challenge is teaching her to find confidence and independence that will last a lifetime while learning to share some of her interest, even if I’m only doing so for her sake.

So, I let her do my nails, even if they are totally not my style. I take her shopping, even though clothes shopping ranks pretty low on my “List of ways to have fun”. I also check her math homework when requested, but there may be a glass of wine or a mohito involved. I got through three semesters of calculus, differential equations, and statistics. I can do pre-algebra even when buzzed.  I can even do math while I write or inform Miss Drama that baths really ought to be a habit and tell Mr. Smarty-Pants that no, he cannot be online until he’s passing ALL his classes.

Have I mentioned Mr. Smarty-Pants is ALSO in middle school? Yes. 8th grade. This is his last chance before high school for him to get his act together. He’s trying–mostly. He had all A’s, aside from the big fat F in literature and a D in Science. He’s nearly brought the D to a B. I’m not sure much can be done with the F. If he’s passing by the end of the quarter, that’ll be a miracle. On the bright side, he finally has a teacher that gets it. He’s lazy if it isn’t something he likes.

I think he was Tom Sawyer in a former life.

The silver lining in all of this? Mr. Smarty-Pants will be in High School before Miss Drama gets to Middle School.  Then again, Miss Diva will still be in Middle School, so maybe that’s more like a brass lining.

Mom Called It

So, I’m not this kind of doctor:

Dr. Who

Or this kind:

Dr House

And I’m still working on being this kind:

Not me

Even so, I correctly diagnosed my son. His close encounter of the concrete kind broke his finger.

Mr. Smarty Pants: 0

Concrete: 1

Since it is summer, and he’s officially a teen, he’s staying up rather late, so when I dragged him out of bed at eight a.m. this morning to go to the doctor, he was surly and sullen and insisted that “he was fine”.

Nevertheless, having had a brother that got in a couple of fights and then sported the broken knuckles to prove it, I knew a fracture when I saw one. Mr. Smarty-Pants decided maybe I was not being an over-reacting mother when the pediatrician took one look, poked at it a bit and referred us to an orthopedic doctor.

Unfortunately, said orthopedic doctor works in slow motion on Saturdays– at least it felt like that. We sat in a waiting room, were ushered to another waiting area, got x-rayed, went back to the same waiting area, were escorted to a room to wait, sent to yet another waiting area, and then finally got a cast. What took them two and a half hours to diagnose and “treat”, I called in thirty seconds of observation, and well, I suppose I could have duct-taped it.

Mr. Smarty-pants had to miss a paintball outing with his friends. I missed my karate class. We both missed sleeping in, but hey he has a nice black cast to show off. When I got his hair cut today, my stylist said he was the coolest thirteen year old she’d ever seen and that he looked kind of bad-ass with the cast. We shan’t tell him what she said. His ego is large enough as it is. However, it isn’t so large that he doesn’t cuddle with Mom.

Me, sans makeup and way too early for all this waiting.