Life with Teenagers

Archive for August 2009


with 4 comments

moonlightIt’s 2am and I’m awake. On my way down the hallway to the kitchen, I can see the light from the TV room outlining the bottom of the door. There is talking on the TV but the teens are eerily quiet for this early hour. Such is the cursory thought passing my mind as I enter the dark kitchen and start fumbling for a glass of water. Damn kids. I notice the empty Britta water pitcher hanging out by the stove. I open the refrigerator door and the entire case of coke cans are gone. I survey the kitchen counter. The plastic bag that held the pastry is missing. Inside the refrigerator, the foil-wrapped package of seven pizza slices leftover from dinner is gone. Come to think of it, where’s the container of fried chicken pieces? I close the door and look up to the oversized bowl above that holds the chip bags and the family size smartfood bag is also gone. For fun, I open the freezer door. The box of ice cream sandwiches is open- ok, not empty- but the box has been attacked, half of it ripped apart, one sandwich still sticking out from the top while two others lie beside the frozen hamburger.

I close the door with a sigh. And then I see that the bag of whole wheat, unsalted sesame crackers has also been pilfered and lies discarded and half open next to the toaster. My mother instinct tells me something isn’t right. Sentences spoken from my youngest teen earlier that evening fill my head now as I start to piece things together. “Mom, can you buy extra snacks and soda for tonight?” “When are you going to bed mom?” “Goodnight mom,” said to me one too many times. My youngest teen isn’t one to hold back when there is food in the house, and yet at 10pm I was wrapping up practically all the uneaten pizza and chicken that I had been instructed to buy. When I was growing up, my own mother had the uncanny ability to sniff out a lie or a poorly planned scheme. Teenage dishonesty has a distinct smell. And I apparently possess the same unique gift that my mother had. The kitchen reeks.

On a hunch, I take the back way to my oldest teen’s bedroom, cutting through the laundry room and slipping through the door. He’s not in his bed, his pants are strewn across the floor, and the mini blind to the back window is hanging askew. I can see that the window is down but the screen behind it is pushed all the way up. Something isn’t right. I tiptoe through the adjoining door to my other teen’s room. There’s skateboard shoe boxes scattered about, papers, pants on the floor, both bunkbeds unmade and towels on the bedpost. It’s the usual scene except for the large wrench on the floor, only a few feet away from a toolbox I usually keep on a shelf in the hall. Something definitely isn’t right.

Now I slowly push open the door to the TV room where all four teens sit wide awake and not saying a word. Three of them are bolt upright on the couch, the one in the middle has his eyes closed, the other at the end is zoning out into the TV screen. My youngest is across the room flopped across the overstuffed chair. I don’t even look at my oldest. “How come you are up mom?” Everything ok mom? Mom? Mom?” he says, barely a blur to me out of the corner of my eye. Paranoia from my oldest is not new and I say nothing back as I continue my way through the wreckage of the room, picking up the bowl of picked clean chicken bones and the empty cellophane popcorn bag from the floor. “You guys look baked, ” I say to no one in particular and with no inflection whatsoever in my voice as my youngest teen pulls the comforter cover over his face. “And another thing,” I say on my second pass through, this time gathering up empty coke cans, and crumpled up paper towels from the carpet, “I don’t want you climbing through the back window onto the deck. You hear me? And all of you, go to bed.”

My girlfriend hears me open the door to my room and climb back in bed beside her. “Everything allright?” she asks, her voice slightly faltering through half sleep. She rolls closer to me and drapes an arm over my side. “The kids are stoned.” I say back. “What?” she asks, a little more alertly now, “What makes you think that?” The moonlight from the bedroom window illuminates her face and I watch her expression change as I rattle off all the evidence. “You have more first-hand knowledge of this than I do, what does it sound like to you?” I ask her. She shakes her head and draws a deep breath. “Yeah, I’d say you were right.” she says back. After a long time, she asks me, “What are you going to do?” “I don’t know, I say back, “but I think I’m going to sleep on it.”

This is a new approach for me. Having been a practitioner of the instant response all my life, of the quick-tempered, “lose my mind” reaction, and a person who is more comfortable with fighting it out and cleaning up the mess of the aftermath the next day, I’m now (one divorce and one major breakup later) all too aware of the price you can pay for thoughtless bursts of anger. My girlfriend squeezes me tighter and strokes her toes on top of my foot as I lie awake staring at the ceiling.

“They have too much freedom.” I say in response to nothing. My internal working mom’s dilemma playing out in my head. I left my last relationship in part because I wanted to be the mom who was home on a friday night making pizzas and hosting the teenage sleepover party. I wanted one small tangible part of being Mrs Brady, or Mrs Huxtable, or any number of those TV moms from my childhood who had all the answers when it came to dealing with their own teenagers. I wanted even a tiny piece of the perfect parenting myth. But in reality- working moms, stay home moms, gay moms, or straight moms- the result is still the same. Teenagers sometimes make bad decisions. And all I really need to ask myself is: How am I going to handle it now?

“In your partying days, if your mom had confronted you, what would you have said?” I ask my girlfriend while propped up on one elbow in bed. “Oh I think I would have denied it vehemently,” she says back. I think about this awhile as the words hang in the dark stillness of the bedroom. I keep remembering myself at the same age. How there wasn’t any point to my continuing a lie once I had been found out. I wanted nothing more than the relief of honesty. There was nothing worse in my mind than my parents’ silence.

“But even still,” my girlfriend says to me, smoothing the hair from my forehead with her hand, “I think you should confront them.” She is right of course. I should. And I will. I’m not sure what I will say in the morning, but I take comfort in the fact that they have heard enough from me tonight to know that I know. And I take comfort, in a weird way, in knowing that at least they were at home during a sleepover when they chose to manipulate and totally deceive their mother. And I also take comfort in knowing that I have finally found the right partner to share my parenting angst with in the middle of the night. In the dark. During my own sleepover.


Written by kmguay

August 31, 2009 at 1:34 am

Posted in mothers, relationship, teenagers

Tagged with , ,

sadists and syrup

with 2 comments

I just ate my weight in waffles. And yes, there is one more in the toaster. waffles Standing in the kitchen, still in my work pants and sandals, but now in a ratty sweatshirt that leaves me plenty of room to slouch, I mindlessly inhale the mingling flavors of butter, maple syrup, and snot. I’m crying again and pacing through the quiet house with a plate in one hand and a fork in the other. The October light is new for this empty room and I’m not sure I like it much. My hanging planters are away for the winter, the view from the window above the couch is unobstructed and I can see bright orange splattering the front yard across the street. Today I don’t feel joyful about autumn leaves. And tomorrow my ex–partner will get a letter from my lawyer.

“Well, what she could do is drag this out. And getting the court involved will take a good year and it’s expensive.” says my pencil thin lawyer scribbling a few notes onto a yellow legal pad. “Of course, if yours falls in the 5% of all the situations I see like these that actually DO litigate,” she straightens out the glasses on her face for a minute, “and I don’t really see that happening- but if it does, of course we’ll try to get you more than half. We’re not talking a lot of money here so it would be a shame if this actually goes to trial.”‘

Now I feel scolded. I shouldn’t be here. If I were a better more evolved person, my ex and I would be sitting at a table over coffee discussing how and when we should do this.

“Well you read the email I forwarded, didn’t that sound like a “screw you, Kris” to you? She won’t talk to me and I’ve been trying since July so what choice do I have?” I say this to my lawyer a little too loud and with some defensiveness in my voice. I feel ridiculous now. Because of course its not that simple. Why did I think I was going to have Ms Ballbuster take my hand and say: honey, you came to the right place and this will be over in a matter of days.

“It sounded like a kiss-off to me, yes, ” she says matter-of-factly and looking me straight in the eyes, “and if you are asking me what you should do, I say we send a letter.” And then she adds as an afterthought, with a smile just barely turning up the corners of her mouth, “You know, this is why I love this job. People in these situations – and this is a divorce like any other- they know each other and they know how to make each other crazy. I never know what I’m going to see.” She laughs, “Maybe I’m a sadist.”


We agree on a small retainer. I write the check. We mention our teenagers at home. But there is nothing about this meeting that has me reassured or feeling empowered at all. Do I want a sadist lawyer? I don’t want to do any of this. But I also don’t want to continue to be told to wait quietly while my equity in the house erodes, my credit is at risk, and my heart continues to be stomped on with every day that my ex-partner smugly performs what she knows will hurt me the most. The deep freeze. The complete withdrawal. The attitude that says: Not only do you not matter to me and never have, but you don’t exist at all.

Funny, but when you don’t exist, it sometimes means filling yourself up with waffles just to feel substantial again. Hmmm I think I just heard the toaster pop.

Written by kmguay

August 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Posted in relationship

Tagged with , ,

tuesday night dinner

with 4 comments

dinnerStanding in cold kitchen with coat on, drop commuter bag on table and open refrigerator door. Feel good about the partially defrosted turkey meat on the shelf even as you notice the frostbite on the edges. Continue to thaw in microwave. Pour olive oil in big pan. Shit. Big pan is lounging in sink under grayish sudsy water. Wash pan. Dry with towel. Place on stove. Now remove coat and drape over one arm while pouring olive oil in big pan.

6:40 PM. On way to bedroom to change, still carrying coat, turn house heat on. Change clothes. Return to kitchen. Thank a god that there is red wine still on the counter from the weekend. Pour a glass halfway full. Look at it with dismay. Pour more in again to the top. Spy an onion on top of the microwave next to a lone garlic clove. Consider the ingredient list: Onion. Turkey Meat. Olive Oil. Fresh Oregano, Tomato Sauce. Whole Wheat Spaghetti. Parmesan Cheese. Crusty Bread. Garlic.

Boil the water. Take a big sip of the wine as son number one walks in the kitchen complaining.

"Spaghetti? when will it be ready?" he says.

Try not to notice the disgusted look on his face and say something snide like "Never."

Look at the clock. 6:45. Decide against the onion. Toss a frozen french bread boule in the cold oven. Crank the dial to 450. Listen for son number two and ex-husband making their entrance through the front door.

"Mom, we're home!" they say.

Notice that they've completely ignored your request to stop at Deluxe Tux in the center of town and take an even bigger sip of your wine when the grey shirt and the maroon tie spill out of the Men's Wearhouse bag and onto the table.

"I thought we decided on a simple rented tux for Sat?" you say.

Answer from ex husband, "Well this way he'll have a suit for special occassions."

Answer back from ex-wife "What special occasions? He'll grow out of it before the next occasion. I agreed to pay half of the price of a tux. What did this cost?"

And now it starts.

"You don't need to pay half"he says.

"But what did this cost?"you say.

"Just pay me whatever you were planning to pay me for the tux"he says.

"What did this cost?!"you say.

" 265 dollars"he says.

" 265 dollars!" you say.

Throw frozen turkey meat in pan of smoking olive oil and pulverize with a wooden spoon. Skip the fresh oregano. Toss pasta into boiling water while raising your voice to shrill ex-wife level.

"I'm not paying that and neither are you! We don't have it. And another thing, do we really want to reward him with a 300 dollar suit right now?! you say.

Now brace yourself for the teen to join in.

"MOM! I cant believe you! You are ruining my life!" he says.

Scream back. "Get out of the kitchen and let me be mad at your father right now!" you say.

"It was 265 dollars not 300" ex husband says.

Flash angry look at ex-husband while emptying jarred sauce into turkey meat with a splat. Ignore ex-husband as he leaves the house and the other teen starts to cry at the computer.

"And what's wrong with you now?"you say.

You are fighting with dad and I have a five paragraph essay to write and it was due Monday." says the younger teen.

"But its Tuesday." you say.

"My teacher is a bitch. She is making me do it anyway and there is no point now." he says.

Now lose your mind while brandishing a tomato-sauced wooden spoon in one hand as the sullen teen stops to text his girlfriend.


Catch whipped cellphone with your free hand before it hits you and slam it on the counter. Look at the clock. 7:00 PM. Lower heat on sauce. Dump overcooked pasta into collander. Toss pasta and sauce together in a mixing bowl and place in the middle of the table. Arrange three plates. Set out forks and one spoon. Place plastic parmesan cheese container on table. Remove crusty bread from oven and try to cut even though its still frozen in center. Say fuck it and cut off one end and apply butter. Leave the frozen splintered bread mess on the cutting board indefinitely. Scream DINNER! and heap a large pile of totally unappetizing pasta onto your plate and don't make eye contact with either one of your spoiled, ungrateful, miserable teenage children. Eat furiously while waiting for your ex-husband to call you from the road.

"Mom, it's dad on the phone" says a teen.

Take another sip of your wine while listening to the phone ring.

"Mom, that's dad calling." he says.

Keep chewing while placing the phone to your ear.

"Uh huh" you say.

"I can"t return it now because I didn't pay with a check." says ex husband.

"How did you pay for it? In blood?” you say.

"I paid with a debit card" he says.

"You can get your money back. Just return it" you say.

"It will only be store credit" he says.

"I think you're wrong, read the receipt to me. You can get your money back." you say.

Drink more wine while you listen to your ex-husband read you the return and exchange terms on the store receipt.

"Ok, I'll return it tomorrow" he says.

"Yeah, I think that is best" you say.

Now notice the teen at the table turning red. Put your hand up in front of his face before he pops a blood vessel.

"Chill out. You'll get a tux for Sat and it will be fine."you say.

Turn your attention back to the phone and twirl more pasta on your fork. Listen to ex-husband say, "I'm an idiot"

Feel bad for him and angry at yourself for losing your temper.

"No you are not, I've done it before. They are good salespeople and the store is overpriced. That's why I don't go there anymore. We'll take care of it tomorrow. Good night." you say.

Place the phone down and survey the kitchen, the two empty chairs now, an empty wine glass, a massacred loaf on the counter, the sound of the tv from the tv-room blaring, the computer keys clicking away.


1 hour and 10 minutes later and another Tuesday night dinner is complete.

Written by kmguay

August 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Posted in family, teenagers

Tagged with , , , ,

who’s the real teenager anyway?

with one comment

I have mint chocolate cookies in the cupboard above the stove.

I have a few beers still on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

I think I may have some caramels in the butter compartment.  

What can I possibly shove into my mouth and chew this very minute?” I wish I had a cold pork chop hanging out in a plastic container, or better yet, some leftover skirt steak swimming in a pool of juice. I would tear at it furiously and let the blood trickle down my chin and onto my neck.

I’m thinking all this as I lay spread out on my back on my bed. One arm draped over my eyes, the other arm still shoved down my pants. My breathing is labored and it’s hot in the bedroom. There is no airflow in this apartment.  My handbag is lying against the wall where I flung it only a moment ago. My shoes are in the middle of the hall where I stepped out of them in a hurry to get myself behind a closed door. There is absolutely no relief in my body.

And now the front door slams.

“Mom, we’re home.” Kids drop skateboards and backpacks in the front hall. I yank my hand free and leave it lying motionless by my side.

“I’m in here guys” I call out. But I don’t move. They won’t notice. In fact, they don’t even bother to reply. One of them is instantly at the computer downloading music; the other one is flopped on the couch in the TV room. I hear the familiar musical refrain from “Scrubs” playing in the background.

“I’m no superman” it singsongs.

Uh yeah, and I’m no supermom either.

It’s hard to believe at the moment that the very teenager I feel like is actually the 42-yr-old mother of two teenagers herself.  Or maybe it’s not so hard to believe. Women hit their sexual peak in their 40s right? Didn’t I read that somewhere?   And what if you are a woman in her 40s in love with another woman in her 40s and the two of you have jobs in the city and share a train ride home on weeknights and one of you has to get home to make supper for her kids and the other one has civilized plans to see a movie with her soon to be ex-husband? And what if the train ride is so electric that all you can do is grip her hand tighter and intertwine your fingers with hers and try not to jump out of your skin or remove clothing in front of a crowd of 6:15 commuters? What then?

“Mom, what’s for dinner?” 

It’s my son at the computer realizing that I haven’t emerged from my motionless posture on my bed.  

“I think its chicken and some lentil pilaf and maybe some peas and tomatoes,” I say back, my arm still covering my eyes.

“Mom I’m starving,” he whines. “Are you going to make supper now?” 

And the reality of my motherly duties start returning to my consciousness. I uncover my eyes finally, take a look around my tiny bedroom, and start to lift myself into an upright position.  Yes. Time to make supper. Time to get my two teenage boys fed.  But all I can think is thank god it’s date night on Thursday for the teenage girl in the house. Thank god.

Written by kmguay

August 21, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Posted in mothers

Tagged with , , ,


with 3 comments

I just texted my son from my bed at 7am. It went like this. “Hey I’m trying this foolishness.” And instantly, to the tune of one very annoying sound bite from a “Panic in the Disco” song that goes like, OOOOOOOH well imagine… as Im pacing…, my winged text is here. Here it is flying around on my cell phone screen. I open the envelope and it reads: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA  

I try again, painfully scrolling through the letters one at a time to form a tiny little word with my thumb. And while I’m doing this from the comfort of my bed, here comes “Panic in the Disco” yet again. OOOOOOOH well imagine… as Im pacing… Another little envelope with wings dances across my cellphone screen. My son, from the TV room, has expertly and instantly texted me again. It reads,  “Do u mean texting?” 

Now I’m sweating. I have to finish my sentence before noon. My answer reads. Yes (and then a space because I can’t find the comma) I cant find any punctuation. And can I just mention how long it took me to type the word punctuation? I’m a Web professional. I work with young hipsters on such marvels as UX interfaces and wireframes and I sit in meetings where we discuss CSS and the latest CMS. But I just can’t do this texting thing. It’s maddening. OOOOOOOH well imagine… as Im pacing… My son’s next text reads, “It’s ok, where are you?”

It should be obvious where I am on a Saturday morning at 7am when he has several teenage boys strewn across the floor of the TV room right now still in their jeans from last night’s sleepover. But one’s whereabouts are truly irrelevant in the brave new teenage world of text messaging and virtual family time. I concentrate fully and whip out a three word instant reply, “I’m in bed.” OOOOOOOH well imagine…as Im pacing…

And the next text back reads, “O haha, can we have breakfast?” 

That sums it up. I’m restored. Can we have breakfast? Now that I can do. I whip the cellphone on the bed, put on my flannel pajamas, and walk seven steps to the door of the TV room and peek my head in. My son is sitting on the overstuffed chair with the TV blaring and a cellphone in his hands in the text keyboard mode, headphones on, feet on the table, three other sleepy boys of all sizes lounging on every surface. He grins at me.  “How about cinnamon buns?” I ask in a real voice looking at my real son. Yep. There he is. He’s still a kid, but just barely. He’s still mine. I still have another morning. 

Cinnamon rolls coming right up.

Written by kmguay

August 21, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Posted in technology

Tagged with , ,

what’s this?

with one comment

For the past year, I have been writing short takes on my life with my two teenage boys. This started pretty soon after I left a relationship of 8 years and began living on my own. For the first time! Crazy that I never lived alone before. But I hadn’t. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Now rather than continue to spam my friends with emails, I’m writing in a blog.   Some older stuff will start things off.

Written by kmguay

August 21, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized