Teens Do Not Come With Instructions: Lucky For Their Parents, The Brats Know Everything

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This picture was drawn by my seven-year-old about nine years ago when he thought his family was the “bee’s knees”…today, he thinks we are complete idiots…the life of a parent seems like a rollercoaster when facing the “teenage years”…I hope I come out of this stage unscathed…



Part ll

Discovering my once delightful child had taken on the personality of Pinocchio came as quite a shock.  While I’m quite certain my “last day” will most likely involve a “chest grabber” courtesy of one of my kids, I never in a million years thought this hooligan might be the responsible party.  Remember yesterday when I told you his younger brother refers to him as the “choir boy”?  Honest to God, I tell you, the kid always played by the rules. 

Teachers throughout the years let us know they wished all their students were more like him, he followed the rules, did his homework, and never rocked the boat. 

The kid spent his formative years at Our Mother Wrapped in A Blue Ribbon Catholic on the “green light”~anyone familiar with this classroom behavior method is probably gasping right now and rolling their eyes while quietly whispering to themselves, “you big show off”.

Until eighth grade, the kid always managed to fly under the radar.  That March, I fielded a call from the no-nonsense principal, Mrs. Manpants.  It was Manpants’ first year at the helm of the Blue Ribbon Palace and the lady’s main objective during her inaugural year was to stop bullying, tomfoolery, and general rule breakers dead in their tracks.  It is what Jesus, along with the executive Pastor, would want her to do.

After telling me my kid said the most vulgar thing she had ever heard in her years of dealing with children, she put him on the phone to let him bring me up to speed, as she could not repeat such “filth”.

Once on the phone, he told me of his misdeed.  Apparently, the boy told a classmate that his mother carried his and his father’s balls around in her purse.  I was furious.  Not so much that the kid said what he said, but that he said it to the kid he said it to.  I had warned my son since the third grade not to do anything to this particular kid that would cause question (including looking at JR the wrong way) in the form a phone call by the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bumbleton. 

Principal Manpants was back on the line and my kid was headed back to class.  We had arrived at the point in the conversation where we would “brainstorm” possible ideas of punishment. 

As she danced around a possible suspension for “spreading rumors”, I called her bluff by suggesting she ask JR Bumbleton’s mother in the office and inspect the contents of her pocketbook.  My kid was not “technically spreading a rumor”…I’d bet my life if she peeked in the zipped portion of that satchel, two sets of danglers would be found.  

Not surprisingly, my humor was lost on Mrs. Manpants, but I was able to settle for a write up placed in my son’s permanent file and his punishment of writing a letter of apology to Mr. and Mrs. Bumbleton, something they had already requested in their sit-down meeting earlier that morning.  Manpants also insisted this conversation was strictly confidential.  If word leaked out in the parking lot (where all the gossip in the school community spread like wildfire), my boy would be suspended.  Gulp.

Once home he was sternly warned for breaking the golden rule~causing trouble with the Bumbleton brat~I warned him if the lady herself happened to ring our landline regarding any of this, he would be grounded until high school.  No such call ever came.  And that was the last grounding I threatened to dole out for questionable behavior.

Last Saturday was the Turnabout Dance at the boy’s high school.  A cookie cake and heart shaped balloon had arrived at the sound of the doorbell over a month prior with the girl’s request for him to be her date. 

Standard black pants/black shirt “school dance uniform of every boy it seems” had been dry cleaned, tie to match dress had been purchased, wrist corsage pre-ordered, paid for and picked up, homemade cookie brownies (a double batch) baked, cooled, cut, plated, and fashionably wrapped for presentation…all courtesy of the “Big I AM”.

Plans were starting to firm up around noon.  The boy would get a ride from a friend’s mom to another boy’s house for pre-dance pictures, pizza and pop.  Driver to/from the dance would be a girl in their “eight-some”.  Following the dance they would go to another girl’s house for post-dance after party.  At eleven-thirty the boys in the group would go back to the pre-dance party hosts for an over-night.  Names of hosts and locations were asked for and provided.

We have never had a “sleep over” issue, and since it was a “special night”, who was I to question it any further?  I was most concerned with my “pre-dance” photo credentials being yanked four hours prior.  Every parent goes to take pictures, why couldn’t I??  This inquiry was of course met with an eye-roll, mumble of “jeeze, it’s not like its prom”, and hasty exit from the room.

My husband echoed the boy’s exasperation.  He wasn’t a fan of the “picture taking crowd” following our participation at the Homecoming 2010 pre-dance party…and besides, he reasoned, “we were the only parents of a boy there taking pictures”.  Enough said.  The kid’s ride arrived and he left with cookies and corsage in hand, promising me to show me posted Facebook pictures the next morning.

I spent the rest of the night with a sinking feeling in my stomach.  The boy checked in at all the appointed times (we insisted on speaking with him each time, there were NO texts allowed).  He called upon arrival and departure from pre-dance soiree and again when he arrived at the dance.  A call at 10:30 assured us he had arrived at the post party; and at midnight, he let us know he was back at the first stop of the night where he would spend the remainder of the evening and call us in the morning to let us know what time to collect him.

I still could not shake the nagging feeling.  The boy’s father was cool as a cucumber.  He had talked to our boy at each and every “check-in-time, and was comfortable with the knowledge that the boy was not drinking.  They were just kids having fun.  I was told a school dance was a big night in a boy’s life and I should “lighten up”.  He called and checked in like we had asked, why was I looking for trouble.

Red flags began popping up the next morning when the kid arrived home wearing a t-shirt, shorts and gym shoes that did not belong to him.  There was no sign of anything he wore when he left the night before.  “So-and-so must have taken my bag by mistake”, he explained nonchalantly.  Hang on a minute, So-and-so was supposed to drive him home, so I asked him how he got home~he mentioned the name of a girl who lives in the neighborhood.

As he walked away I put the brakes on this freak show–why would so-and-so drive you home from so-and-so’s house.  Wait a minute–where exactly did you sleep last night?

Long story short–one of the mothers of the group hosted a co-ed post-dance-post-party sleep over.  Following an eye roll, snort, and mumbles, he reassured me, “Chill, will ya Mom” and then continued, “so-and-so’s mother is ‘cool with it’ — she kept checking on us until like three in the morning, no big deal.”   Each of the boys had told their parents they were sleeping at another’s house.  He admitted he did not tell me the truth because, “You would have said No”.  Ya think??

Seriously, who hosts a “co-ed” sleep-over for their daughter, three of her BFF’s and four fifteen-year-old boys…seriously?  I felt a pain in my chest and was convinced this was the “grabber” I had been fearing, courtesy of the younger clown…it had just arrived four years earlier than expected, thanks to the kid that knows it all.  Oh, sweet Jesus, give me strength.

Did the kid think I was born yesterday?  Did he think I had never pulled a stunt like this?  This was a typical Saturday night back in the early eighties.  We always said we were sleeping somewhere and nine out of ten times we would end up somewhere else.  I invented the “I’m sleeping at Susie’s house and Susie is sleeping at my house game”.

Scary thing is I also remember what we were actually doing.  Here is where the “good memory” plays into the necessities of being a good parent.  And it is also where the realization that you’re raising another clown just like you scares the complete crap out of you.

I rarely spent a weekend sleeping at home during high school.  There were two usual points of destination.  One of my friends’ basements resembled a liquor store/winery.  A bottle or two was never missed from the inventory of hundreds.  The other hostess of “overnights” was blessed with a mother who worked third-shift, a father who passed out after arriving home from second-shift, and an aunt with one leg who would have slept through an explosion.

One particular night I remember like it was yesterday.  Lulu’s (our hostess) father had arrived home following his second shift and was passed out snoring like a sailor on the couch as her mom got ready to leave for her 12-8 shift at the hospital.  Auntie Mimi had been asleep since the ten o’clock news ended.

Sometime around midnight, LuLu and our other friend Maggie were sound asleep when Coleen and I had a great idea.  We would “sneak” the one-legged aunt’s car out of the driveway and take a joy ride over to her boyfriend’s house.  His parents were divorced and his father was never home; a party was always in full swing on any given Saturday night.  As a matter of fact, the second keg had just arrived as we prepared for our getaway.

We snuck into Auntie Mimi’s room at the top of the stairs, grabbed her keys from the dresser and hid her wooden leg under the bed and her crutches in the closet.  Even if she happened to wake up, without a leg and crutches, she wasn’t going anywhere fast.

After opening the garage, we put the car in neutral and pushed it out of the driveway and halfway down the block before we started it…and then we were off…until the damn thing broke down about a mile away.  After pushing it home (in reverse for some reason I can’t quite remember now), Maggie met us at the door…pissed off.  How could we go to THAT party and not wake her up.

There were many more nights just like that one…and as I raise my own teenager, the memories scare the hell out of me.  Until recently, I have always trusted my kid.  He has never given me reason not to.  After the latest revelation though, not so much anymore.

Teens today are much like teens of yesterday…they are embarrassed of their parents, mumble smart ass comments when they think we’re not listening, roll their eyes as if it were a sport, and test their boundaries.  It is our job as parents to guide them as they falter.

Well, I think I might need a GPS to guide this train wreck.  I took a deep breath and waited until I got him in a moving car to dole out lectures and punishments.

I simply explained my need to trust him.  I just wished he would feel more comfortable telling me of his intentions and asking my permission before doing something like participating in a co-ed sleep over at the tender age of fifteen.  Had he presented the facts and provided a number to the mother of this particular hare-brained idea, I might have considered it. 

And, if I vetoed the idea, it was in his best interest–which is my job as his mother.  Like it or not, kid, I am as good as it is going to get…If I can’t trade my kids up for a new model, they’re stuck with their initial purchase as well.

Finally, I arrived at the punishment.  I have found they must fit the crime or they are irrelevant.  I told the kid to get used to sleeping at home.  The next time he’d lay his head on a pillow in another place would be his first night away at college.   This is non-negotiable. 

The little punk responded with an eye roll, sigh, and then the flippin’ mumbling, “yeah, yeah, whatever–believe what you want to believe, I’m done, I’m so done.”

Done with what??  Done with someone cooking, cleaning, and hauling your lazy ass from here to there?  Are you done with putting your hand out every time you need lunch money, new sports equipment, cash for whatever t-shirt/sweatshirt is on sale in the commons?  Are you finished with clean laundry, a comfortable bed, TV, cable access, internet access, Xbox connections?  What exactly is the kid done with? 

Pinocchio thinks he knows it all; he has met his match…I knew it all before he ever dreamed of knowing anything.  Sadly, I realize I have two more years of stupidity before the kid leaves for college.  As I face the uncertainty, I realize I have to be on top of my game.  My mom’s words of advice all those years back is coming back loud and clear…”these little brats have a way of paying you back in spades”. 

My kid is no different than me; luckily I have a sense of humor and a good memory to get me through the long road ahead.


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