Tag Archives: teens

A Tale of Woe?

The only thing more disorienting than the activity of taking your life and loading it into boxes is the affiliated activity of deciding which parts of your life merit “box real estate”. My strategy has been not to look too closely at things, and try not to touch any one thing for very long. Inevitably there will be the wrong call here or there, but it is not to be helped….the countdown is on and it is ticking down FAST.

One lesson that Matt and I have learned from our experience with this house is that the decision to move out is often paired with the necessity for major home repairs and renovations, which upsets me not only because it is expensive, but also because as home sellers we by definition do not get to enjoy the fruits of our investments.

That in mind, yesterday I had  the pleasure of sharing my day with a swarm of contractors who were only quiet when it came time to answer questions (each of which was greeted with a noncommittal shrug and a finger pointed at someone else). And I learned that the dirt underneath my basement floor, which I have never before seen (thankfully) has a rather nasty odor and that in general, the percussive song of jackhammers is about as soothing as having a death-metal band playing a lullaby.

Needless to say the constant noise and fetid aroma wafting from the nether reaches of my home was quite enough to drive me out of what is left of my mind, which is why when it came time to go to gymnastics I was READY to go. Three hours sitting in my quiet car waiting for practice to be over was infinitely preferable to another moment of staying in my chaotic, loud, increasingly box -filled house.

It was lovely and relaxing. Thursday is actually the one day a week that all three children have practice at the same time, so I do not have to entertain or listen to bored whining (or garbage pick for that matter). It is also an opportunity for some adult conversation, which I often take advantage of, but today I only craved silence. So after I ran a few necessary errands, I pushed my seat all the way back, opened the windows to admit the sweet (non-basement smelling) breeze, crossed my legs, plugged in my audiobook and got out my stitching. I spent the rest of my time happily listening to my story and blissfully stitching the tabby-striped foot of Frederick the cat who is whimsically sleeping between the (partially stitched) books on a bookcase.

As 8:15 rolled around, I packed up my stuff and prepared to gather my kids and head home. Owen practices at a different facility than his sisters, so I drove over there to pick him up and then returned to the main facility to get Ana and Frances.

Everyone dutifully filed out and piled into the car, and descended upon the bag of grapes and some cereal that I had for them to eat as a snack. I left the keys in the ignition so Ana and Owen could watch their movie in the car and ran over to have a quick chat with Victoria the girls’ coach (as well as a friend of mine). Our conversation lasted about 10 minutes, and would have lasted longer, but when Frances texted me to remind me that she had homework that still needed finishing I regretfully headed for the door.

I got into the car and turned the key…and nothing happened.

At first I could not believe that this could happen.  After all, my car may not be a fancy luxury car, but it is fairly new and kept in good repair…so I tried again with the same result. I do not know much about cars, but this situation I knew how to diagnose because the Honda Pilot, of which I was a proud owner, is very prone to this particular issue.

The battery was dead.

I think I can chalk this one up to losing track of things, which is easy to do on a regular day but with my life upside down I think the risk is even higher.  In any case, as far as I can reconstruct, the battery was killed by a combination of lights left on and DVD player in use with the car engine off for a grand total of about 10 minutes. I could go on about how ridiculous it is that the battery should die in such a short period even under such conditions, but that would not change the fact that it did, nor will it change the fact that I do NOT have jumper cables in my car.

A helpful stranger came and lifted the hood of the car, but since he did not have jumper cables either, and I have no idea what I am looking at, this did not help very much, no matter how well intentioned. In the end, I knew there was only one thing I could do that would be productive and that was to call Matt to come and rescue me.

For some obscure reason I can not  fathom, the fact that the car would not start also made it utterly uninhabitable to the point that none of us even considered sitting in the car as we waited for Matt to arrive. So it was that I found myself standing in the cold, dark parking lot with my three shivering kids and Victoria, who decided to keep us company as we waited.

We stood huddled in a circle talking quietly about not much in particular except to wonder why Ana refused to put her sweatpants on over her leotard (which would have gone a long way towards helping her warm up). After about 20 minutes we suddenly realized how silly it was for us to stand around outside when we had the KEY TO THE GYM and could just as easily (and much more comfortably) wait inside.

So Victoria let us in, flicked on a light and I suddenly realized that I was in the gym, complete with trampolines, trapeze swings and all sorts of fun stuff, and we had it all to ourselves.

It was about a second before I processed that we were all by ourselves, and there was nobody watching to enforce the normal rules of gymnastics-parent conduct.

In a flash I was ecstatically bouncing on the bright yellow mesh trampoline that I have spent years jealously watching my kids enjoy but have never been able to use myself.  I can definitively say that it was well worth the wait…I have been on trampolines, but this one totally takes the cake for sheer bounciness and fun. I went sailing up into the air, landed on my rear only to bounce back up to my feet….over and over, laughing harder each time I did it.

In short order, all three kids were squealing with laughter,  not only at Mom’s antics, but also with the joy of playing together in this, the ultimate gymnast’s playground. Victoria and I sat and watched them, laughing together as we watched them.

The highlight of the interlude was when Frances buckled Owen into the tumbling harness over the trampoline, and hauled him up into the air where he howled with mirth and executed 5 very noisy backflips in a row. Frances was laughing so hard she could hardly hold him up, which made ME laugh because she was so busy having fun she forgot that she was a teenager and that her brother is a pest.

Matt arrived in due time, and got my car started (as I knew  he would). Traditionally, a story of being stranded by a dead car should be a tale of woe, but I can say that this time I am glad that it happened because I got the chance to bounce.


So there is this Boy…..

One day, as we drove to gymnastics together, I made innocent conversation with Frances by suggesting that The Boy who had sent her roughly 3000 texts in a single month, might just “like her” in that that special way.

This backfired terribly, as she vehemently denied such terrible slander, sniffed derisively at my shoddy parental detective work and defective intuition, and continued to tap frantically at her phone with her thumbs composing yet another text.

Already knowing the answer, but somehow not able to stop myself, I asked her who she was texting with. She looks at me sideways, and rolls her eyes at me in a way that lets me know that I have done it again.

The Boy.

Of course.

I nodded, and returned my attention to the road, chanting one of the commandments of parenthood to myself to keep from breaking out in gales of laughter:


Over the course of the ensuing year, Frances did finally admit that not only had The Boy “liked her” in that special way, but also that they had “gone out” for a while.

Of course, they never actually went anywhere, so I have to conclude that the modern translation of “going out” is that they spend their time texting, facebooking, and video chatting.  I think roller-skating would be more fun, but what do I know….after all, I can’t even tell when a boy likes a girl.

In any case, she insisted that this part of the relationship was old news now, although this assertion was somewhat undercut by the simple fact that the frequency of text messages had not appreciably slackened. When I dared to share this simple observation with her and she became adamant: The Boy is simply her best friend who she tells everything to, and needs to speak to constantly.

Granted, I am old, and everybody knows that once you pass the teenage boundary your brains turn to mush, but I do remember a time in the distant mists of antiquity that I once had a best friend of the opposite gender who I needed to speak to constantly and tell my deepest secrets.  I am also pretty sure that I had those kinds of feelings for that person.

I bit my lip to keep back the autobiographical information which she would more than likely view as completely unrelated to the current situation. I still felt the need to say something, despite my certain knowledge that she was not going to go along with any of my ideas and that she would be very likely detonate if I did not immediately cease this line of discussion.  So it was that over my own internal voice screaming at me to stop I heard myself wondering out loud  that perhaps The Boy might still like her.

I guess I had to say it, but true to my prediction, she goes off like a roman candle.

NO WAY, she insisted…That is just gross!!!! The Boy is my friend and I do NOT like him that way! The denials continued along that vein for quite some time, but even though I managed to silence myself, I had more than a glimmering of the truth now.

As the last sultry heat of August beat down on us, heralding the start of school, Frances became increasingly moody and withdrawn.  This in itself is not such a strange thing in a teenager, but it was accompanied by a dramatic decrease in the density of text messages from The Boy, so I was a bit suspicious and a little concerned.

Finally came the day when the dam broke.  In a staccato torrent of emotional declarations, the story emerged.

Apparently The Boy has had a long standing crush on That Girl, who apparently possesses just about every negative characteristic it is possible for a teenage girl to possess without actually being the spawn of satan.   Now, at long last, The Boy has succeeded in winning the hand of That Girl, and they are now “going out”. Of course, since Frances is not interested in The Boy that way, it does not particularly bother her that he is going out with someone in the abstract sense, she patiently explained to me. It is more that he is going out with this particular someone that bothers her. After all, she continued with profound sadness in her eyes, she has been warning The Boy about That Girl for quite some time, sharing with him her sure knowledge that That Girl was not right for him, and would bring him nothing but heartache.  She is upset and mad at him, she concluded with a tearful sniffle, because he did not trust her and failed to follow her advice to stay away from That Girl, therefore demonstrating that he is not as good a friend as she previously thought.

I nodded knowingly and suppressed the impulse to question the emotions underlying her pique.

I do NOT like him!!!! She cried, obviously seeing past my façade and hearing my unsaid comment.

This morning was the first day of school.

As went about her morning routine, taking quite a bit longer than usual,  I noticed that she had really put together quite a ”first day of school” look for herself. Gone was the carefree preteen athlete in her baggy sweats and faded t-shirt. She has done away with the messy bun and no longer wishes to rely on her dazzling smile alone to enhance her face.

Today, my teenage daughter is chic and put together.

Her clothing is simple and flattering in shades of black and grey set off by carefully layered bright necklaces. Her lightly freckled face is framed by her painstakingly straightened hair and she has lightly lined her eyes with a bit of black eyeliner (parentally sanctioned, of course) to accent her thick lashes and the pale blue of her eyes.  She is not overdone, and she is devastating.  I know I should have snapped a picture, but I suspect she would have regarded the lens of the camera as akin to the face of the gorgon and run.

She glided out the door, heading for the bus stop, yellow binder in hand, too cool for a backpack. I mentally fumbled with the idea of a photograph again, and in my hesitation the moment slipped away.

If asked, she would probably insist that her sudden interest in fashion and makeup has nothing at all to do with boys in general or The Boy in particular (that she most definitely does not like). In fact, she recently told me that she was so disgusted with The Boy and That Girl that she has decided that she is done with boys until they regain their collective IQ points.

I translate “boys” roughly as The Boy….who I think is in for an interesting time.