Life with Teenagers

Posts Tagged ‘first day of school

i can’t put it into words

with one comment


I can hear the low rumble of the harley starting up in the garage. It’s late morning, almost afternoon, and I’m still in my oversized pajama bottoms and a wrinkled t-shirt. I’m gathering up supplies from the kitchen to take with me to the basement. I’ve got a roll of paper towels, the antiseptic wipes, and a couple of dry dish towels in one hand and my cell phone in the other. The older teen left the house hours earlier. I watched him shuffle out to the car – barefoot and in boxers – while I quietly stood at my usual spot in front of the kitchen sink in full view of the hummingbird feeder and the driveway beyond.

“I’m worried about him,” I said to my partner who was sliding by in socks on the kitchen floor carrying her motorcycle boots in her hand. I hadn’t shifted my locked gaze from the tiny whirring wings and iridescent green hovering outside the window, my hands on the edge of the sink, my feet fidgeting around in my flip flops.

“I think he will be ok. He is the one left behind. Just give him some time,” she said, opening up the closet and grabbing the gloves from the top shelf before exiting through the kitchen door.

I’ve been walking around with my smartphone for the past 24 hours, leaving it to rest on counter tops or tables and picking it up to carry it with me from room to room. And sure enough, there’s another text.

“Did you find my calculator?” the text reads. I slide it open to the keyboard and begin to type back.

“Yes. Your father is bringing it with him tomorrow when he comes with your brother. What are you doing?” I don’t expect another text for hours but instead it’s instant.

“I’m going to look for my classrooms today.”

“Good.” I text back. “Try to have some fun too, ok?”

The dog is now barking, the harley is slowly making its way down the driveway, and I snap the smartphone shut. On my way downstairs, I grab a pile of folded laundry from the washer top and carry it with me. In the teen’s old bedroom, a shaft of light from the half window way up by the ceiling shines a small square onto the edge of the bed. I get to work stripping sheets, dusting shelves, gathering up socks from the floor, gathering up discarded soda and ice coffee plastic cups, pulling shoeboxes down from the bookshelves. On my knees, I reach way behind the headboard and pull up three empty bottles one at a time that were wedged out of view. Raspberry Bombay Sapphire. Jack Daniels. And some kind of diminutive lemon vodka thing now line up in a row on the bed. I empty the contents of the shoeboxes, too. Bubble wrapped glass blown bongs and pieces of flat colored glass fill one. Old empty cigarette boxes, clear plastic baggies, toothbrushes, and various flotsam and jetsam fill the others.

Well, at least it all was left behind at home. I say this out loud to nobody. I was there when we unpacked his dorm room. I was there when he piled his books in a neat pile on his desk, when he unpacked his toiletries in a row on his closet shelf.

The smartphone buzzes on the top of the bureau.

“I had a bag of stuff from Orientation and it had a book about the history of Lowell and I need it for my writing class.” reads the text.

“I will look for it but I think I threw it away over the summer,” I text back.

I snap the smartphone shut and get back to work vacuuming, arranging the older teen’s books and awards onto the empty shelves, hanging up movie posters, making up the bed. A large bag of trash is ready to be brought to the garage. The younger teen’s paraphernalia is boxed up and hoisted into the back room. I stand back and admire my work just as the older teen makes his way downstairs carrying a pizza box and a large drink container with a straw.

“Hey, check out the room, what do you think?” I call out from the open door. He peeks his head in and looks around quick with a blank expression.”See, I moved your film stuff and your posters too.”

“Yeah, I’ll probably move that one.” he says. “I like Daniel Craig but I don’t want to wake up every day looking at him.”

“Ahh, yes,” I reply. I catch him looking quick at the framed photograph of the two brothers on the beach that I left on the bureau. Now it’s his bureau. I see him wipe his eye with the back of his hand and turn away from me.

“You don’t like the room? Now you get the good bed,” I say trying to sound cheerful.

“It’s good mom, but… I don’t know. I can’t put it into words. My best friend left for college and I’m still here. It’s hard,” he says as his voice cracks.

“I know, honey, but its…” I stop myself before going any further. He’s already into the other room now. Headphones are on, pizza box is on the coffee table, video game joystick in hand.

“Thanks for cleaning mom but can you go now?” he says and his face is fixated on the TV screen.

Yeah. I can go now, I guess. The younger teen has gone, and the older one has yet to find his way still, but I hope that one day soon he will. And I feel like a chapter has just ended and I’m not ready for it to be over right now, or something like that.

I just can’t put it into words.


Written by kmguay

September 2, 2013 at 2:31 am

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 , , ,