Life with Teenagers

Archive for the ‘mothers’ Category

mixed medley

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Custom_Frozen_Veggies

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“Is this done mom?” asks my youngest teen standing bent over in front of the oven with his finger poking into the tops of two small chicken pot pies. I look at the clock and notice it’s getting close to 8pm.

“Yes, they’re done. Take them out,” I answer.

“They don’t look done,” he says.

“They’re done,” I say, as I empty boiling water from a pan into the sink and a block of bloated pasta falls into the colander with a thwap.

“What do I do with them?” he asks.

I’m engrossed in the act of trying to pry apart individual raviolis and arrange the white swollen packets on a white plate and present them to the older teen sitting at the table and texting into the cellphone on his lap. On the table are three placemats, a jar of tomato sauce, and a plastic container of grated parmesan cheese.

“Umm, just turn them upside down over the mixed vegetables on those two plates,” I say, motioning to the counter.

“Mom, they already had vegetables in them,” he says, carrying over a plate at a time of mounded broken crust and gelatinous chicken gravy jiggling over a layer of tiny multicolor squares, circles, and triangles.

“I thought we needed more,” I say.

“I’m not eating mine,” says the older teen. He grabs the jar from the table and empties a large amount of blood red sauce onto his plate with a splat.

The table laid out before us is gruesome.

“So your brother says he is quitting the leaders group,” I say to both teens.

“Yeah it’s not his thing, dog,” says the older teen.

“Well then, why don’t you suggest some other clubs he can join as a freshman, dog,” I say back. I look at the younger teen. “Or maybe you are going to need a job. You can’t just skateboard all the time.” The younger teen doesn’t look up and continues stretching the uncooked taffy-like center of his chicken pie crust with his fork.

“He can’t get a job at 15 mom. He’s not old enough,” says the older one between mouthfuls of ravioli.

“But you worked at the Y at 15, remember?” I ask.

Now the younger teen chimes in.

“That’s because he is the best one there, mom,” he says.

“Dude, I’m not that good. I wouldn’t leave my own kid alone with me. I mean, I would, I know what I’m doing, I’m not going to lie, but I still have a lot more to learn from the older counselors,” says the older teen. “And when I get married,” he looks at his brother across the table,”to a woman,” he says, and gives him a long exaggerated stare. “But you can do whatever you want…”

“Hey, why do you always look at me and say stuff like that?” says the younger teen.

“Guys, I think you mean when you get married to whoever you want” I say interrupting.

The older teen has lost his train of thought now and looks at me.

“Mom, you knew you were gay in high school right?” he asks.

“I’m not gay,” I answer.

“Come on mom, you were just holding it back,” he says.

“It’s not that simple, dog,” I say. “I like men. I had you guys with your dad didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but that just makes you bisexual,” he replies.

“Some people know right away, others don’t until they are older. Some people just change their minds. All I’m trying to say is that you have options,” I reply.

“Not if I want to have a family I don’t,” he says while pouring water from the jug into his glass.

The younger teen looks at my plate and motions to his massacred crust on his plate.

“This isn’t done, mom,” he says.

I cut around the gooey center of my own crust and hand him the cooked portions from my plate.

“What do you mean? I say back to the older teen. “Of course you can have a family! Most of the same-sex couples I know are having their own kids.”

“Well adoption,” he says.

“Yes, and lots of other things too. One of my friends had all three of his little girls by using his husband’s sperm, one of his sisters’ eggs, and a surrogate mother who lives in another state to carry the babies to term.” I say.

“So wait,” says the younger teen who stops eating to join in the conversation. “So that means their mother is also their aunt?! That’s weird, mom.”

“Or it’s pretty great,” I say. “Think about it. How lucky for those kids to have so many family members that love them.”

“You have friends that picked how their kids were going to look from a book. That’s not right,” says the older teen again.

“Why not?” I say back. “If you had the option to choose some characteristics ahead of time, you wouldn’t?”

“Yeah, dude, wouldn’t you want your kids to have the best?” asks the younger teen. “Not your ugly face.”

“Hey, cut it out, now guys,” I say.

The room gets quiet for a few minutes.

“I know someone with tendencies towards asbergers,” the older teen says changing the subject.

“Yeah, and what do you have tendencies toward?” I ask back.

“I have tendencies toward ADD mom,” he laughs. “Remember all that testing you put me through?”

“And what do you have tendencies toward,” I say looking at the younger teen. He grows thoughtful and thinks about it a minute.

“I’d have to say I have tendencies toward an authority complex.”

“Ahh,” I say back.

And the room gets quiet again.

“This is a terrible dinner,” I say finally while reaching for some of the overcooked french fries the older teen has added next to his plate as a second course.

“It’s not so bad, mom. You’ve made worse,” he says with a smirk.

“You’re right, dog,” I reply.

But in moments like this one, I have to remind myself just why I bother to make a frantic dinner for all three of us several times a week after 7pm.

Sometimes, the best dinners yield no conversation at all. All of us preoccupied with our meal, silently taking in the smells and textures of expertly prepared food, savoring each bite, and listening only to our thoughts and the sounds of silverware clinking against plates.

And the worst dinners can offer up pure magic, when the bad food forces us all to engage in real conversation with each other at the table. Before we know it an hour has passed, we’ve asked some tough questions, and we’ve brought up a whole assortment of colorful topics that matter, some real food for thought.

A regular mixed medley.

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Written by kmguay

October 24, 2009 at 7:40 pm

the hard way

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It’s Sunday morning and I’m still in pajamas at my girlfriend’s kitchen table, flipping through the Sunday paper. I take a last sip from my oversized pottery coffee mug and watch my cellphone vibrate itself across the glass-top surface of the table.
“Morning hon,” I say as I flip it open against my ear. It’s my 16-yr-old calling from his dad’s house.
“Mom, we have to go to the mall today. I have money. I want to get this before Saturday,” he says.
“But you have all week. And I don’t want to go to the mall. Can’t we just go to TJ Maxx later? I ask.
“I already picked the locket out!” he says, his voice rising now. It has to be Zales, mom.”
And now the stream of consciousness ranting starts.
“Hey wait a minute, hold on, slow down. What do you mean you don’t want to screw up with her anymore? Is she being demanding with you? Did you have a fight about something?” I ask.
“Forget it mom, I’m sorry I’m ruining your day. I’ll figure something else out. Go back to reading the paper,” he says.

And there it is. A heaping dose of guilt to go with my second cup of morning coffee.

“So what’s up?” my girlfriend asks from the sink, her hands gloved in yellow rubber and holding the coffee pot upside down over the kitchen compost pail. She has been methodically scraping used grounds from the bottom for the past few minutes and stealing a look at me, now frowning and sliding the closed cellphone back and forth on the kitchen table.
“Which creature was it?
“Teen number one,” I reply. “Demanding his turn at the mall this time so he can spend all his hard-earned money on his girlfriend for their one-year anniversary present. And mind you, this is all on top of the play tickets, the commuter rail fare into Boston, dinner.”
“Kris, just the Boston part alone could cost him around a hundred dollars,” she says over the sound of the water spray she is aiming into the upturned pot in the sink.
“I know this. I think it’s too much. And what’s worse is that he seems to be taking it all on himself like its something he is expected to do. Like it is some penance he needs to pay for being a bad boyfriend.”
“Hold on,” she says while grinding the beans.

I gaze out the window to watch a cardinal hop around under the japanese cousa tree just starting to change color. The morning dew on the grass is evaporating, a glint or two of wet still rim the edges of curling leaves on the ground, and the sun is beginning to shine from behind white puffy clouds in a bright blue sky. The morning is just now threatening to burst into one of those gloriously crisp fall days.
“Great and I’m going to be at the mall,” I say outloud.

My girlfriend walks over to the table holding a small white plate displaying two square bites of raspberry apple strudle. She places it in front of me and sits in the chair beside me, picking up up both of my feet to rest them on her lap.
“Don’t let him guilt you, Kris,” she says.
“I know. It’s not that. It’s just that… Well, he knows what I did for your birthday. He knows about the plane tickets, the costume, the special breakfast. How can I tell him he is doing too much, he is going overboard, when his mother pulls out all the stops for birthdays and anniversaries? I ask.
“He’s only sixteen. I don’t think it is the same thing,” she says.

And it’s not the same thing, but it might be worse. It has taken me years to finally grasp what constitutes giving yourself away and what is staying true to yourself in a relationship. I worry about this teen because he never hurts anyone’s feelings except his own. And I worry about him feeling obligated to do more and be more to please someone else. I want to tell him how I know all about this, how I’ve lived it, how I’ve suffered with it. And yet I’m also almost certain it’s not the kind of wisdom you can impart to a 16-yr-old during a 15-minute drive on the highway. I think it has to be experienced. It has to be learned over time and maybe over painful mistakes. I think it has to be learned the hard way.

“You need to go to the mall, don’t you?” my girlfriend asks while getting up to pour the second cup of coffee.
“I just think I’ll be able to get more information, maybe he’ll hear something I say if I share my own stories, and I can hopefully talk his jewelry purchase down to something more reasonably priced. You’ll be ok with this, right?
“You know I will,” she says while handing me my mug. “I have things I can do today and I’ll see you for Sunday dinner later. Go take your son to the mall.”

Written by kmguay

October 8, 2009 at 1:37 am

statistically speaking

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n541933000_820157_846My 16-yr-old and his girlfriend sit side by side at the computer desk. She holds a paperback book in front of her face and he leans in front of her to grab and click around with the mouse on the opposite side. “Facebook isn’t homework,” I say on my way by, passing through the dining room still dragging the vacuum cleaner by the handle behind me. He flips the screen off and opens up a word doc. In the top right hand corner he has typed his name, the date, and the words “statistics paper”.

“I see you have made great progress in the last hour,” I say, pausing to grab the pile of paperwork on the dining table with my free hand.
The screen flips off and on again showcasing the drivers ed website.
“We’ve finished the schedule you wanted me to make,” he says, motioning to the papers on the desk “Take a look, mom.”

“The schedule?” I try not to sound as amazed and tense as I feel. Only days earlier, my girlfriend put her hand on my knee under the table in one of her “easy now” gestures as mom and teen both started to raise their voices. “No drivers ed until I see a detailed schedule of all of your commitments!” was my decree to a scowling overwrought teen sitting in front of a half eaten plate of food.

And then again the next night, I wailed in the darkness of the bedroom “He is overextended, It’s going to be like last year, He won’t finish homework, He will fail out of high school.”
“Shhhhh okay, okay,” she said. “But Kris, you are going to have to help him with this schedule, you know that right? He is going to need your help.”

“Mom, can you look at the schedule?” he asks again and from across the room I start firing questions.
“Did you fit in the three nights I need you home for dinner?
“Yep.”
“How about your leaders meetings?”
“Thursday nights.”
“And your job?”
“Three afternoons from three to six.”
“And is there time for homework?”
“Yep.”
“And what about your girlfriend, did you save some time for her?” His girlfriend gives him a playful nudge on his arm and he smiles back at me.
“Yeah she’s in there too.”

I don’t have a comeback for all this forethought and organization.
“Just get that paper done and I’ll look closely at it later,” I call out from the kitchen now while starting to clear off the cutting board. The front door opens and closes and I hear my girlfriend adressing the teens in the other room. I lean over to search under the cabinet for the metal mixing bowl as she turns the corner ranting about her exasperating day.
“And I get all the way there and I realize that I forgot the cleaning so I have to turn back again. Oh and then!”
I pull out the container of olives from the fridge, the block of parmesan cheese, a lemon, and the container of mesclun greens and start piling them on the counter. She stands directly in front of me for a moment, catching my eyes. “Enough about me, how was your day?”
“My son did his schedule” I whisper.
“What!? Oh my god, that’s great!” she whispers back. “God damn!”
I dump the greens into the bowl and douse them with a squeeze of the lemon and juice runs down my hand and arm.
“Wow! I’m really proud of that boy. Kris, that is great,” she says again handing me a towel.
“I know I know, but…” I say and the “I know buts” start to pour out of my mouth as easily as the olive oil that slides out of the overturned bottle I shake onto the greens.
“Kris,” she says again, “Really, it is great.”

And it IS great. So why am I so skeptical? Why is my first reaction so often a critical doubting one? I’m not like this with his brother.
“That’s because you have no faith in me, mom!” These words have often assaulted me, spraying forth from my oldest son’s mouth in the kitchen while both of us yell back and forth at each other. And he is right. I have a very hard time having faith in him.

He is a lot like his father and not much like his brother. He has his father’s easy loving way, his fast-talking storytelling ease, his humor. They both can light up a room, shine in the spotlight at a party, go out of their way to help a stranger. But I didn’t have any faith in his father either. For reasons I couldn’t even explain at the time, I wanted more from my marriage and I was sure he couldn’t give it to me. I wanted out.

We carry the plates of salad through the dining room and over to the living room couch, passing by the teen who is now rapidly typing away at his paper.
“So why are you writing a paper on statistics anyway?” my girlfriend asks taking a stab at the lettuce on her plate with a fork, “I thought this class was more about numbers and word problems?”

“Mr Fahazad wants us to write about why statistics matter, how they make a difference in the world, how they relate to me, “he says. He rattles off talk of how they are important to coaches, how you rely on them when you check the weather, etc…. and my girlfriend listens and nods in approval back at him while eating her salad. And as they talk, my mind starts to wander. What do I know about statistics that I can add to the conversation except that I am one? A divorced woman who just left another long term relationship only a year ago. I have read the statistics that say that pretty much half of all marriages end in divorce. And if you are foolish enough to even attempt to test fate again and choose to get remarried, according to the statistics, almost 70% of us hopeless humans will file for divorce again.

But in love and parenting, should you follow the statistical evidence? Or should you just follow your heart? What do I really care about what the statistics say when I look over and see my girlfriend patting my slacker teen on the back for his great job of thinking through the assignment and doing the work? No, my odds are on my third and last attempt to find the right partner. And I’d put all my money on my teen’s ability to surprise me despite what appears to be an overwhelming mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Now, just don’t anybody tell Mr. Fahazad.

Written by kmguay

September 16, 2009 at 1:26 am

mamas got a big butt

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“What’s for dinner mom?” says one of the teens passing me on his way through the kitchen.

I’m standing at the cutting board chopping lettuce, tomatoes, and yellow pepper and tossing them in my big metal mixing bowl. I motion to the bowl of pasta I just removed from the microwave and slid over to the side on the counter.

“Sweet! mac and cheese,” he says.

“Yep,” I answer back, “Just a little. And you and I can split this small piece of meatball calzone.”

I lean over to the oven and open the door to reveal two bread wrapped meat, cheese, and sauce wedges bubbling at the edges. I grab one and slice it in half into two tiny squares. I fill up more than half of our two plates with salad, the rest with two small spoonfuls of pasta and a postage-size piece of calzone. I fill the 16-yr-old’s plate full with a huge wedge, a pile of macaroni and not so much as a hint of a lettuce leaf and place all three plates on the table.

“Mom this is awesome,” says the 16-yr-old barely sitting and already with his mouth full of meat. “Hey listen.”

He motions to his brother and starts to rap.

I like big butts and I cannot lie”

The other teen chimes right in and they both sing in unison.

“You other brothers can’t deny”

Now they tap their hands together on the side of the table.

“When a girl walks in with that itty bitty waist, and that round thing all up in your face. You get sprung.”

The two of them break into laughter.

“That’s nice guys,” I say while taking a sip from my wine glass and shaking my head.

But ironically, my own butt has been on my mind all day. I have a wedding to attend on the weekend and a limited wardrobe these days. I take another sip of my wine and start contemplating my clothing options.

“So mom,” says the 16-yr-old sitting directly across from me, “I don’t understand why you don’t go for those really hot girly girl types.”

He stabs a forkful of noodles and jams them in his mouth. I’m way too weary for this tonight and so I try to change the subject.

“Are you wearing your brother’s shirt?” I say.

The other teen speaks up, “You bought him that shirt remember? And it had a long sleeve one too that went-”

“Yeah but I like it alone just as a t-shirt” his brother interrupts.

“And you bought him those skinny jeans. I like my skinny jeans too.” He stands up and backs away from the table to show me the full length of his jean-clad lower body.

“I think they look good on you,” I say back offering encouragement where its needed. And then I add, “Ugh. I don’t know when I’m going to feel good in a pair of jeans again.”

“You are not fat, mom,” says the 14-yr-old.

“Oh my god, I just let out the biggest fart,” says the 16-yr-old.

Ok, now the meal is officially over. I get up and take my wine glass with me into the other room. One teen heads straight for the bathroom, flipping on the fan and closing the door. The other teen sits himself down at the computer and starts instantly clicking away at the keyboard. And I catch a glimpse of myself in the wall-sized mirror on my way through the dining room to the living room. Even though I know better, I can’t resist the urge to turn my body sideways and try to look over one shoulder to get a good view of my backside.

“Does my butt look big?” I ask.

“Mom! that is like, so wrong on eight different levels, he says shaking his head at me now.

And I have to laugh because of course it is. It is so wrong. There is absolutely no right way to answer that question. My ex-husband doesn’t even try anymore and instead will look directly at me and say, “Oh no. I’m not touching that.” And my patient, thoughtful girlfriend will listen to me endlessly bemoan the the state of my body with its extra pounds of late and when I’m finally finished will pause and say something wonderful such as: “You are beautiful and I love your body and you know that I will support you with whatever you need.”

Smile.

Wince.

You know that I will support you with whatever you need?

Oh my god she thinks I AM fat. This is the thought that storms through my mind in a rush of panic. But I would never say anything back. I wouldn’t set her up for a game she can’t win.

No, there is no right way to answer the, “Does my butt look fat?” question. Unless, of course, you live with two teenage boys who honestly don’t have an opinion about the size of their mother’s behind. I contemplate all this while I turn my body in the other direction in front of the mirror, craning my neck to get another glimpse.

“Mom! for the last time you are not fat. You do not have a big butt,” says the teen at the computer who sees me do this a second time.

And he actually means it.

Ok, I’ll stop now. I’ll take it. I’ll take it and let up on myself for the rest of the night. I’ll consider it my reward. My reward and retribution for what just happened in the bathroom.

Written by kmguay

September 10, 2009 at 3:55 am

Posted in family, mothers, teenagers

Tagged with , , ,

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?”
“Yes.”
“Did you get to school on time with dad?”
“Yes.”
“Do you like your teachers?”
“No.”
“Do you like your classes?”
“No.”
“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?”
“No.”
“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?”
“Yes.”
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 , , ,

sleepover

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 , ,

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 , , ,