Sunday, November 23, 2014

Not a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Dear Teenager 1 & Teenager 2,

I want you to know this Thanksgiving season that I am thankful for you...but not all the time.

I know, I know, this is not warm and cozy and Charlie Brown Thanksgiving-y. But, to be fair, our dog doesn't sleep on top of a dog house and our lives are not underscored by jazz.

When you guys were babies other parents kept telling me "this is the best time." And then 6 months later when you were crawling and smiling, once again "this is the best time." Until eventually they'd just burst out with "every time is the best time." Their hyperbole, as is the way with hyperboles, was bullshit. Teenage years are not the best time; not as a teenager, not as a parent.

You are lazy, you are misguidedly entitled, you have a casual relationship with academic responsibility and consequence, you eat too much, want too much, think you understand what tired is (you don't), you practice gratitude as a means to an end which is frequently a trip to the video game store, you are slobs, you are myopic(look it up and use it in your next essay), you think you deserve easy, you are sometimes quite mean and you ate the last donut.

You frequently make me want to join the witness protection program.

Wait, wait, don't get offended. Yes, I love you beyond reason. Of course I would do anything to keep you safe and insure your happiness. So stop rolling your eyes convinced that you have wisdom you do not yet possess and that you've discovered a negotiating tactic you can use forevermore. Be fair. There are plenty of times when you wish I would just leave you alone and shut the fuck up. Sometimes you even tell me straight out; and, ironically, in that instant we suddenly both want the same thing.  Because, let's face it, I'm a pain in the ass.

I won't shut up about homework and how you should be doing it, I ask you to do stuff-then get frustrated when you don't do it-so I do it myself-and hold it over your head and use it as a negotiating tactic the next time you ask to go to the video game store, I forget to buy that thing at the grocery store you wanted, I'm a horrible housekeeper, I often don't serve vegetables with dinner, I overreact-frequently-about the wrong things, I expect you to work hard on things you don't care about, I say things that I think are encouraging that actually make you feel like I don't believe in you and I buy you clothes for Christmas.

This is not "the best time."

And, begrudgingly, that is what I'm thankful for.  Struggle is inevitable, it's realistic and it's essential. I'm not talking about struggling with you, I'm talking about struggling with me. To be clear the love I have for you has transformed me into a fierce self-doubting controlling terrified well-intentioned idiot. The thought of failing you makes my stomach turn. So I struggle with how much to let go and how much to interfere, when to be your friend and when to give you the mommy look, when to be firm and when to be flexible, when to show you my heart and when to give you the comfort of control, when to let you see me struggle-fail-and try something new and when to let you believe I am strong, and when to leave the last donut for you even though eating it would make me forget the struggle for a minute.

So why the hell would I be thankful for that? Because the result of the struggle is often a take your breath away moment of triumph, a moment which reveals in a blink and you'll miss me instant that you really will be okay. Struggle is essential not just so you know you can survive it but because it unlocks another part of the mystery of the universe, and your glasses just got a little more 3-D and life just got a little cooler and you just got a little more grown-up.

So I am oddly thankful for this "not the best time." And I am thankful for you both because you are extraordinary and horrible, vexing and transformative, perfectly imperfect. So Happy Thanksgiving, and I'm returning the clothes I got you for Christmas.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Parent › Teenager Dictionary

It has come to my attention that there is a bit of a language barrier between me and my kids. By all appearances we seem to be speaking the same language, yet I often find myself at a loss to understand or be understood. So, it feels like it's time to create a Parent › Teenager translation dictionary.

What I say

What I want to say

What they hear

What I actually mean

“Time to Get up”
“Get your ass out of bed”

“Get your ass out of bed”

“Put your dishes in the dishwasher”

“Please offer to do all the dishes out of your inherent kindness”

“Put your dishes near the dishwasher

“I’m not your maid.”

“The better you do in school, the more options you’ll have in the future.”

“Please bring your grades up to A’s & B’s.”

“Grades are more important than anything.”

“Don’t sell yourself short.”

“Please don’t leave your socks in the living room.”

“If I find one more dirty sock in the living room I might serve it to you as soup then watch as you don’t put the used bowl in the dishwasher.”

“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, sock, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

“Can you for one minute remember that other humans share this space with you?”

“Is your homework done”

“Turn off the Xbox and do your fucking homework!”

“I will control you. Mwhahahahaha!”

“Trust me, just do your homework first and you will still have time to do what you want. PS: I know you didn’t do your homework yet.”

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“Eventually you’re gonna want to kiss someone, trust me on this.”

“Your breath smells and you are dirty.”

“Your breath smells and you are dirty and our dental insurance does not cover gum disease.”

“Please do your chores.”

“You wanna keep living here? Get your ass off the couch and help out.”

“Your free time is not important to me.”

“Earn your keep.”

“Make sure you meet with that teacher to go over what you got wrong.”

“You should have actually studied for that test.”

“I think you are stupid.”

“I want you to take control of your learning.”

“So how was the dance”

“Did you dance with someone? Did someone ask you to dance? Are you going out with someone? Have you had your first kiss yet? Was there drinking? Did you drink? Are you drunk? How’s your self esteem?”

“I want to invade your privacy.”

“Do you know how great you are?”

“No I don’t want to play Assassin’s Creed with you.”

“I have so little free time.”

“I don’t like what you like and I don’t want to spend time doing what you like to do, but I do expect you to like going to the museum with me.”

“I love you, I don’t enjoy video games.”

“Please don’t talk to me like that.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“You upset me, I am vulnerable to further attack.”

“You upset me, but I’m still your mother and if you expect to eat again, you’ll shut up now.”

“I love you.”

“I will literally do whatever it takes to help you become who you are meant to be.”

blah, blah, blah, sock, blah, blah, blah, love, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah I Love your socks”

“I got your back, forever.”

“What do you want for breakfast.”

“I’m willing to make you cereal.”

“Kitchen’s open and I live to make you any and all things.”

“Fix me breakfast.”

Well, it's a start anyway. Stay tuned for the Teenager › Parent translation dictionary:

What they say
What they want to say
What I hear
What they mean
“Can you help me find my sweatshirt?”
“I can’t see my sweatshirt from where I’m lying on the couch.”
“I’m lazy and you live for this shit.”
“Find my sweatshirt.”