I saw this at the parent teacher conference I went to yesterday for my daughter, who is just beginning fourth grade:
WHAT? She didn’t find her dad’s “politic book” The Ethics of Lobbying gripping stuff?!
The thing I find most disconcerting about being the parent of a teenage boy is our sudden inability to communicate with each other in any sort of meaningful way. Last night, for example, we had this heart to heart exchange:
“How was school today?”
“What did you do?”
“Science, Math, History…”
“But I mean, what did you actually do? For example, what did you do in Science today?”
“We wrote things down on paper.”
“What KINDS of things? What are you learning about?”
“What living things are.”
Overnight, he’s become a covert CIA operative, trained to take his highly-classified top secrets about what he did in Biology class to the grave.
He recently spent a week away in Vermont with his friend’s family. Having had so little contact with him when he spent a week away at the beach earlier in the summer, I laid down some rules before he left for this second trip.
“Keep your phone charged. I expect you to make contact with us at least twice a day. Once by text and once by calling home.”
The boy kept his phone charged, but never once followed through on the making contact part. On the days that I didn’t initiate contact myself, I didn’t hear from him at all. When I did hear from him, our conversations were entirely unsatisfactory:
The week he was in Vermont, one of his closest friends, who moved away a few years ago, happened to be visiting Charlottesville with his family. The rest of us went to meet up with them for frozen yogurt one evening. Shortly before setting out, I tried and failed to contact my son. I knew he should be arriving in Vermont after two days of travel, and I wanted both to make sure that he’d arrived safely and to give him a chance to talk to his friend over the phone. The first time I called, I could tell he picked up the phone and hung up on me. When I called him a second time just moments later, he didn’t even bother to pick up.
You can bet my panties were in a twist…
I resorted to texting the boy:
Oh really? He “couldb’t” spare two minutes to talk to the woman who was responsible for his existence on this planet? It was time to pull out the oldest trick in the book…the old bait and switch.
How to convey to you how I felt when he agreed to talk to his friend with such alacrity? So many emotions…a whole gallery of feels:
There just HAD to be a reason that he spurned me, but was now perfectly happy to talk to his friend…I mean: a reason other than the fact that I’m his mother and had been neurotically stalking him all the way to Vermont. I just had to get to the bottom of this mystery:
It seemed as if there was no way the poor boy could wriggle his way out of this one. And then he texted the magic words that cleared up everything. The sun shone again, a rainbow arched across the blue, blue sky, the birds started singing their sweet songs, and all was right with the world:
Of course! I giggled, giddy with relief and explained to my husband that the reason our dearly beloved firstborn hadn’t wanted to talk to me was that he’d been sitting on the toilet!
My husband very gently suggested an alternative explanation, generously assigning his hypothesis no more validity than my own conclusion: “Ooooor, is it possible that he was helping unload suitcases from the car?”
Ummm, yeah, OK, whatever. But the point is: all of this Stürm und Drang could have been so easily averted with a little communication.
Everyone needs a Best Friend For Life…even hermit crabs.
After the grisly murders that took place in our “Crabitat,” the last thing I wanted in my life was another hermit crab. But no sooner had we buried the second victim than my son began his campaign for a friend for my namesake: Adrienne, the hermit crab murderess.
“Are you kidding me?!” I asked him, “Have we learned nothing from the events of the past few weeks? Do we really want to send another hermit crab to its certain death?”
Yes. Yes, we did.
Apparently, hermit crabs are sociable creatures. They live in huge colonies.
“They can die of loneliness, Mom,” my son informed me with big, sorrowful eyes. He looked kind of like this:
I ask you: How could I possibly say no?
We went to four different pet stores, looking for a hermit crab big enough to fight off the murderess if it came to it. The largest one we could find was only about half the size of Adrienne.
With great trepidation we put the little crab into the tank. We compulsively checked on the two crabs every few minutes, ready to break up a fight if we needed to. The crabs avoided each other for a few tense days.
We finally relaxed when we saw them perched side by side on the little stick in their tank:
Here’s the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth…
TRUTH: I am overly concerned with capturing moments for posterity. It’s probably an illness.
TRUTH: In my ruthless pursuit of this goal, I can be extremely annoying and unkind to the people I love the most in the world.
TRUTH: I wanted to have a “First Day of School” photo for 2014.
TRUTH: As usual, we were running behind. (As I was driving my daughter to school post-photo, I said, “We wouldn’t want to set their expectations too high by actually being on time on the first day of school, right?” She concurred out of politeness).
TRUTH: Even though we were running late, I was going to have my photo, come hell or high water.
TRUTH: Hell and high water came…in the form of an unhinged lunatic wielding a grin-enforcing camera like a cudgel.
TRUTH: I made my daughter change her skirt for the photo, thereby delaying our departure for school even further.
TRUTH: I made my oldest son “put on a nice shirt” for the sake of the photo. He gamely put on a hot, itchy flannel shirt in the middle of steamy August to please his crazy mother.
TRUTH: I made my younger son, who wanted to get himself packed and ready to go, extremely anxious by forcing him to pose for a photo…”SMILE! Come on, SMILE! NO, try to look natural. Pretend you’re happy!”
TRUTH: The photo IS the truth. My son is about to lose it.
TRUTH: I was so dissatisfied with my annual “Back to School” photo that I seriously considered forcing the children to do another fake first day of school photo session.
So help me, God. I obviously need it!
No joke – my family has been busily preparing for Christmas since July. We’ve already decided who’s hosting. This wasn’t so much a decision as a confirmation, since we always descend upon the only sibling with a house big enough to contain our supersized family. We’ve already discussed the number and type of presents each child should receive. Most importantly, we’ve reminded everyone of their duties with regard to keeping our family’s most cherished Christmas traditions alive. My sister sent my brother a note saying how thrilled she was that he was going to be able to come with his entire family this year, which now includes Dandelion’s adorable baby sister. She sent him this photo as a reminder of the last time we saw him at Christmas:
My second sister said she thought Dandelion should be added to the Noogie List this year too.
“And you can’t leave out the baby – she gets a baby boogie!” I added in my own contribution to the Christmas email thread.
In response, my brother emailed us a photo of his own with this message: “Show this to the kids so they won’t forget…”:
I’m already feeling the love…
Summer is winding down. The kids start school this week. Our last summer weekend was all about hellos and goodbyes.
We were glad to welcome our fourteen-year old son back after he spent a whole week away in Vermont.
We squeezed in visits with old friends:
We went to a BBQ in Free Union to bid a fond farewell to another friend, who is off on a new adventure on the other side of the world. We had fun discovering a new part of the world in our own backyard:
We revisited favorite places:
and had one last visit to Chiles Peach Orchard:
We appreciated the last flowers of the season:
and even the delicate beauty of our eight-legged friends:
Life is pretty damn scary. News headlines read like horror movie synopses these days. You could be going for a casual stroll around the block, when a knife falls out of the sky and into your head. Even our day to day social interactions can be fraught with peril. Given the inherently risky, unpredictable, and often frightening nature of our everyday reality, I have always been utterly mystified by the fact that crazy people (such as myself) pay lots of money to deliberately put themselves into uncomfortable, and even terrifying situations at “amusement” parks.
It’s not as if they don’t warn you about what you’re getting yourself into. When rides are given names like The Apocalypse, Mind Eraser, Piranha Pandemonium, Shark Attack Hammerhead, No Way Out, and Tower of Terror, you only have yourself to blame for the suffering you endure when you elect to go on them.
Inspired by these names, my husband started gleefully tossing out ideas for other names of rides that had a similarly masochistic ring to them…Rides like: Do It Yourself Circumcision, Pass-a-Kidney-Stone-o-Rama, Red Hot Poker Up Your Ass, or Sulphuric Enema.
I duly noted these ideas down in the “Notes” app on my iPhone. A few days later a new Note appeared on my phone from my fourteen year old.
“Do It Yourself Circumcision, Mom? You know I can totally read your notes on my computer, right?”
Talk about uncomfortable experiences…