Life with Teenagers

first day

with 6 comments

may visit 2008 016“I’m not hungry anymore and I’m not going to eat.” This is the text from my 14-yr-old flashing across my cellphone screen. I’ve been at home exactly ten minutes. Just long enough to pour the olive oil in the pan, dredge the chicken pieces through the breadcrumb mixture, and scatter a few frozen fries across a cold cookie sheet.
“Get your butt home right now,” I text back with one hand while flopping down three placemats with the other. My 16-yr-old saunters through the kitchen wearing his baseball hat on backwards -his jeans hanging on for dear life to his jutting hipbones while flashing a generous swath of plaid boxer shorts to the world.
“Whats up mutha,” he says, fully wired up and fiddling with his ipod and his cellphone at the same time. “What’s for dinner?”
“Chicken,” I answer back, but he is already breezing past not bothering to look at anything around him. I hear the backpack hit the floor in the TV room and thud against the wall. And almost as counterpoint, there is the front door now, opening and closing, another backpack lands in the hallway with another thud against the wall. Teen number two is home quicker than I expected and already at the computer angrily banging on the keypad.
“Hey, how was your first day? I call out loudly with my head in the oven checking on the fries.
“Ok” he answers back.
“So come talk to me, I want to hear about it. Did you find your classrooms ok?”
“Did you get to school on time with dad?”
“Do you like your teachers?”
“Do you like your classes?”
“Do you like anything?” I think better about letting the actual spoken words leave my lips. Instead I call out “Dinner!” and start placing a platter of chicken, fries, and grilled zuchinni spears in the middle of the table.
My 14-yr-old sits in his spot brooding over an empty plate while his brother and I stab at the chicken with a fork and squirt ourselves puddles of ketchup.

“So tell me about your day,” I say to them both and the 16-yr-old fills the silence with stream of consciousness chatter between bites. “I hate statistics. I don’t need a tutor. I want to start drivers ed now.” I’m thankful someone is talking, but I only half listen because the 14-yr-old now is antsy in his seat with his face glowering down looking at his empty plate. I try to direct the conversation. “Hey look,” I say and point to the hummingbird now darting from the pot of red geraniums to the green bush and back again in my neighbors yard just outside my kitchen window. But there is no distracting this kid when he is in a mood. I know this because its a mood I’m used to feeling myself.

We listen as the 16-yr-old goes on and on about his license, his girlfriend, his next leaders meeting, and the upcoming weekend until he chews his last bite and deposits the plate into the sink on his way back to the TV room. Mr. gloom and I are left to stare at the remaining scraps of uneaten food on the platter and his still gleaming untouched plate.
“So what’s up? Is it your girlfriend?”
“Do you not have any friends in class?”
“I have some.”
“Is it too hard? Too much homework? Don’t like the honors math class?” We sit in silence for a few minutes as he shakes his head no in answer to all my questions. I know what the real problem is now and I have for some time but I don’t want to ask it. The unasked question looms heavy in the air, swirling around us like the heady aroma of cinnamon and butter wafting from an oven on a chilly Sunday morning. Both of us look out the window at the robin perched on a branch of the bush in my neighbor’s yard.

“Are you upset about your weight again?” I say at last. And there it is. His eyes fill up with tears. And here is the pivotal parenting moment that I have been avoiding. It means its all up to me now and I want nothing more than to sit here and cry too. My older teen doesn’t have our problem. He isn’t a fan of sweets, forgets to eat meals often, and his metabolism is freight-train fast. Not his mother and his brother. We have never met a meal we can do without, and life just doesn’t seem worth the bother if you can’t punctuate every event both good and bad with a slice of chocolate cake and a mountain of sugar frosting. Weight gain comes to us easy. And it wouldn’t even be so bad if it was just the weight. But the weight gain gives way to the dark mood, and the dark mood gives way to a feeling of hopelessness, and a feeling of hopelessness is erased all too easily by a slather of butter on a warm slice of toast.

It is now up to me to come up with an instant action plan because that’s the only thing that will help.

“Ok this is what we are going to do.” I say. “Go get a sheet of paper and post it to the refrigerator door and go weigh yourself and write down your weight. I’ll do it too. I’ll do it with you. And then don’t weigh yourself again for three more weeks. I’ll go to the grocery store and get you some things for your lunches now. You can pack a brown bag every day and skip the school lunch. ”
“Can you buy fruit?”
“Yes I can.”
“And can you buy snacks in little packages and stuff for salad?”
He knows how to do this because he’s done it before. And the knowledge of his past success is enough for his mood to lift. I watch him as he gets up and starts to clear the table and stack dishes in the dishwasher. I’m thankful that he seems more at ease, that he seems more hopeful, and I work hard to choke back my own fears about this being just another first day in a lifetime of first days. In 43 years, I have yet to find an end to this pattern of emotional eating and starting over again. One first day after another after another.

But this isn’t about me. This is my about my son on his first day of high school. On his first day of his new resolve to take care of his weight and take care of his emotions. “Ok I’m leaving now. I’ll be back in a half hour or so,” I call to him from the dining room doorway, standing with my car keys in my hand. He’s at the refrigerator door now, carefully taping a blank sheet of paper to the side and writing down his weight and the days of the week. He flashes me a quick smile, relief all over his face. “Thanks mom.”


Written by kmguay

September 7, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Posted in family, mothers

Tagged with , , ,

6 Responses

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  1. I love reading this blog of yours. Today tho…oooh boy…I felt like crying too. I feel his pain and at the same time wish he didnt have such worries. It’s different when it’s yourself going thru it and when you have to watch one you love be upset with such things. Be strong..I know it’s hard bc it probably brings you down also. It definitely is easier when someone is eating and doing the same thing you are trying to do. Cathy and I have a piece of paper on the wall in the bathroom for the same reason. Except she drinks her Coke and she is definitely an enabler. She never says no to me even when I need her to. SO, again, be strong, show him by example and you both will benefit. And you might even inspire me too! Check back with you in 3 months!!


    September 8, 2009 at 3:01 am

  2. Beautifully written K. Was right there with you.


    September 8, 2009 at 4:17 pm

  3. You’re heard me say it so many times before – you’re my role model. All you can do is, listen, love, and treat kids with respect – and you do. Keep writing – K


    September 9, 2009 at 1:28 pm

  4. Thanks everyone. I love that people are reading this. :>)


    September 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm

  5. Poor kid – high school is rough enough as it is. You handled that beautifully.


    September 14, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    • thanks for reading 🙂


      September 14, 2009 at 7:55 pm

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