Life with Teenagers

Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter

with 3 comments

“Do you see them yet?” I ask my girlfriend as I shift the red cooler on the ground and whip open my cellphone to text another message. I am standing on the patch of lawn with a wide stance, shifting my weight from one hip to the other. To my left a young couple are eating slices of pizza on a multicolor yarn-dyed blanket. Behind me, five people with low folding beach chairs start setting up all in a line. I try to make my stance a little wider and shift the cooler a little further away from my girlfriend’s backpack. She is standing as well, looking around to her right for the older teen.

“Here comes one,” she says. I turn quick to see the red block letters that spell out NY Film Academy against a white t-shirt and my teen’s trademark lumber and sway making his way up the winding paved path. My cellphone buzzes in my hand and I flip it open to read:Mom, we’re here. Where are you? Dad is a grouch.

Before I can text back, I spot the two of them at the far end of the lawn way up front near the stage. My ex has a chair strapped to his back and a cooler in one hand and another chair in his other hand. My teen stands three feet in front of him, scanning the crowd and also holding a folding chair in each hand. Even from a distance I can see the scowl on my ex’s face. I wave.

“Mom, do we have enough room here? The older teen has arrived and he collapses onto his back on the lawn where we are standing.

“Dad and your brother are here now with the chairs. Are you hungry?” I ask already unzipping the cooler bag and fishing my hand inside to grab the cellophane wrapped sandwiches. Over the stage in the distance, an orange sun ball hangs like a puppet in the hazy summer evening. It is just starting to dip into the trees and disappear from view. The sky above us is that expansive twilight blue just tinged with a bit of pink.

“Wow, will you look at how beautiful it is out,” I say to my girlfriend but she has her back to me now negotiating all of us to move one row back so that the five picnic-less and short chair people behind us won’t be blocked by our family. I wave a sandwich over my teen’s outstretched body.

“Mom, I don’t want it now. I have a stomachache,” he says.

“Did you eat today? What did you eat?” I ask.

“I’m just not hungry, he says while flipping open his cellphone to text.

“I bet it’s not about hunger at all,” I say to my girlfriend under my breath and motion my head in the direction of the teen frantically texting on his phone.

“You have to eat something, just have a half sandwich,” I say and push an unwrapped roast beef and cheddar on ciabatta in front of his face.

“Mom, I don’t want it.”

“Easy now,” my girlfriend whispers while putting her hand on my arm.

“Are you hungry?” I ask my girlfriend as she starts grabbing chairs from the other two as they approach our patch of lawn. The younger teen moves as far away from his father as he can get.

“Is this enough room mom?” he asks unfolding his chair.

“Here have a sandwich,” I say throwing a tightly wrapped tuna salad in walnut cranberry bread and a bag of lightly salted kettle chips at my ex-husband just as he sits on the grass.

“Don’t you want a chair? I ask him, but I’m looking away from him at the oldest teen off to the side who is twisting his long fingers in a gnarled mess of double jointed, circus sideshow knots and staring out into the trees.

“No, I’m fine. I want the grass,” my ex says. “The traffic sucked.” He bends his body in a strained U shape, legs tucked up near his chin and leans all his weight on one rigid straight arm behind him.

“Have a sandwich,” I say, tossing one to my girlfriend on her lap and another to my younger teen as he settles in to his blue folding chair. I grab my iced green tea and unpack the container of chocolate chip cookies, the white frosted cake and spread them out in the last patch of grass just as the production begins.

For hours as the sky turns from inky blue to black, Shakespeare players take turns on the stage. My ex and both teens stare rapt ahead, and from time to time nudge each other in the arm at a familiar line or famous soliloquy from Iago. I run through my own soliloquies from the morning.

“Mom, just shut it ok?” he said to me this morning, trudging down the road in his unlaced white sneakers and holding his foil-wrapped burrito and film binder in one hand with his cellphone flipped open in the other hand. I had just finished my latest lecture on what constitutes a healthy relationship.

“Its not unfair, and its not selfish to tell her you are busy at camp for a week. You have the right. And you don’t have to take on her problems,” I said.

“You don’t get it, mom. I can’t be like that. I can’t just not care,” he said.

And he has a point. When is it caring about someone else and their problems and when is it standing up for yourself and your own needs? And if Othello can’t tell what is real and what is not, why do I expect my teen to do the same?

“Mom, really, you had to laugh in the middle of the death scene?” My youngest teen says to me as the crowd stands clapping for one more entrance of bowing actors on the stage.

“Sorry bud, at that moment it was just funny, they were all stabbing each other and then I looked over at J dog and she was motionless with her head back and her eyes closed.

“What time is it? my younger teen asks. I wipe frosting off of the knife, snap the lid back on the clear plastic cookie container, and gather up empty glass bottles of peach iced tea.

“It’s late,” I say.

We all stumble behind my ex with his lawn chair strapped to his back as he leads the way through crowds of milling people to the underground garage. The cool summer wind at 11:30 pm starts to swell and I watch in awe as it bends and sways the branches of tree canopies that dot the grey green and glowing moonlit lawn of the Boston Common. We are all teetering in sleepy single file and I’m walking the thin line in my mind between giving advice and meddling. One push too far and I lose my teen’s trust that I am someone he can talk to. Not enough pushing and I can’t sleep at night.

“Honey?” I ask him as we walk.

“What IS it mom?” he says.

This is the night. That either makes me or fordoes me quite.

“Nothing,” I say as I smile back and my girlfriend gives my hand a squeeze.


Written by kmguay

August 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Another well written slice of your life, Kris.


    August 17, 2010 at 3:08 am

  2. Hi Kris,

    A play under the moonlight sounds luscious! Fun idea to take the family to Boston Common. Haven’t been there in years.

    Neat topic to keep exploring as a parent: walking the fine line between giving advice and meddling. Do we try to steer our children or let them steer themselves? Could be a book with interlaced words from grandparents, parents and kids.

    Keep having fun …



    August 17, 2010 at 10:58 am

  3. […] Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter August 20102 comments and 1 Like on, 5 […]

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