October 25, 2011 No Comments
September 16, 2011 3 Comments
I have recently started to understand some of the nuances in the language my teen is speaking. Thought I’d share…
Giving them the benefit of your wisdom translates as: Lecturing
Gently proposing an organized approach to spending time translates as: Lecturing
Suggesting they take a couple Advil translates as: Lecturing
Recommending a food group: Lecturing.
Not even speaking: Lecturing.
I am unbearable to live with. Probably so are you.
August 28, 2011 No Comments
When any teenager goes away to camp, the hope is that the experience will help them become a little more sure of themselves. A little more independent. When my son went to a tech camp recently, I made him pack himself… (one pair of underwear, 9 hats), I made him fill out all the forms (Emergency Contact: Jeff at Pinkberry) and I dropped him off knowing full well he’d forgotten his bathing suit. They have to learn sometime, right?
For two weeks (all the while keeping in constant contact with Jeff at Pinkberry) I waited to see who he would be when he came home. More argumentative? More mature? More grateful? (Kidding.) We drove home, I sent him upstairs with his suitcase, started dinner and went up to find that he’d taken a shower, cut his nails and was on his computer. In the middle of the room was his empty suitcase.
Watch what happens.
“Did you have a great time at camp?”
“Yeah I did. What did you do while I was gone?” he asked.
(Searched your room, ate your Easter candy… ) “Not much.”
But Oh My God, he’d asked what I did while he was gone. This was really encouraging. I kept going.
Where are your clothes?”
“In the laundry.”
He put his clothes in the laundry! I kept going.
“Is that where you plan to leave that suitcase?”
“No. I’ll put it away.”
He’s planning on putting his suitcase away! I kept going.
“Did you put your shoes downstairs?”
“Well I see your shoes everywhere, that you’ve left your cut fingernails all over the desk and your towel on the floor.”
“Well, yeah but…”
“And you lost your pillowcase, right?
“I switched rooms and the maintenance guy…”
“Forget it. I’ll take care of everything. Go back to your game.” (Oooooh. Martyr-Mom. An exquisite role and I was born for it.) I picked up his towel, threw out the fingernails, put his suitcase away and feeling way too satisfied, shook my head at him and walked out.
When I was 16, my parents went on a vacation and left me in charge of my three younger sisters. I drove, cooked, did laundry, checked homework and slept with my boyfriend in my parents bed. (Oh give me a break, I was sixteen!) A few days later, my parents came home. My mother didn’t even take off her coat. She walked directly to the laundry room, pulled the lint trap out of the dryer (which I must tell you I didn’t even know existed) and scraped out a kitten sized wad of grey. “Look what you did,” she said, “you almost broke the dryer.” I remember feeling frustrated and angry. I remember I’d been really proud of myself for all the work I’d done and in one simple move it was gone.
Of course, that’s exactly what I’d just done to my son. And now I’m sure he’ll look back on this for years and resent me for not recognizing and celebrating his maturity. He had managed to grow up a little and I took it away from him. I had angered him on a deep and basic level.
Which occurs to me might be exactly how I begin the process of getting him the hell out of the house.
July 13, 2011 No Comments
Because I work, I only have about two hours a day to ruin my son’s life. Even that is barely enough time. From the time I walk in the door until I start screaming for him to go to bed, pretty much everything that comes out of my mouth are things he does not want to hear, pretends not to hear or has become skilled enough to actually not hear.
“How much homework do you still have?”
“Have you put your clothes in the laundry?”
“Dear God, cut your nails. You look like a coke-dealer.”
The woman who watches over him while I’m at work is from El Salvador. As far as I’ve been able to gather, in El Salvador men are Gods. You just can’t do enough for them. You certainly don’t follow them around telling them what they haven’t done. You applaud what they have done. You bring them food and lay it discreetly in front of them as they watch TV. You don’t run the vacuum while they are sleeping. As you can imagine, this is not exactly the plan I have for my son.
So I gave him some chores. Nothing outrageous. Feed the dogs. Pick up the dog poop in the backyard. Take the garbage out.
The expression on his face as I listed these chores was what I imagine people look like when they are being buried alive. Stunned. Desperate. Panicked.
“When does this start?”
His hand flew to his face. He took a couple steps backward, turned and staggered toward his room. On the up side, it’s the first thing I haven’t had to repeat in six months.
On Monday, I informed the babysitter of Danny’s new jobs. I told her if it became necessary she could remind him of these and I went to work.
What a maroon.
For two, maybe three weeks I actually believed that my son was doing his chores. (But for the record, I also believe that someday I will get back into the jeans I still keep from when I was 20.)
I came home early on a Friday. Danny was home. Typical conversation… how was your day? What did you have for lunch? And then… have you fed the dogs yet? I glanced over to him. He looked sharply to the El Salvadorean babysitter who gave an almost imperceptible nod. He looked back to me. “Yes,” he said.
My heart sank. Clearly he was doing FREAKING NOTHING and she was totally enabling him. Then cleverly I asked him, “And do we need more dog food?” “Yes,” the sitter jumped in quickly. She’s smarter than he is. She knows if he looks to her again it’s all over. “We need more food,” she said.
“Boy, do we,” my son chimed in.
That was it. I read them the riot act. I explained to my son that if he wants the benefits of living in this house, he needs to participate in it. I explained furiously to the babysitter that it is not her job to decide HOW to raise the kid, it is her job to make sure that the kid is raised the way I’VE DECIDED. Did they understand this? Did they understand that it is DANNY’S job to take out the trash, feed the dogs and clean up the yard?
I then made it clear that if my wishes were not respected, there would be no allowance, and that every time the sitter did one of Danny’s jobs, I would deduct $50.00 from her paycheck. Was everyone clear on this?
“But Mom, what about the next three weeks while I’m at camp?”
Shit, shit, shit.
It was now my turn to look over to the Queen of El Salvador. You know, the one I’d just completely reamed out for what now suddenly seemed like such a kind gesture… so generously doing all these jobs. I smiled. My eyes said, “Please. Help me. I’m working 12 hour days.” Her eyes said, “Fuck you.”
“Well,” I said, “for the next three weeks… Uh… I will be taking out the trash, feeding the dogs and cleaning up the yard.”
It appears everyone is satisfied with this arrangement.
June 26, 2011 No Comments