I love my teenagers….

I love my teenagers, really I do. My daughter is trustworthy and studious and well, theatrical… and Jack is 16. I try not to go into their rooms unless forced, not because they deserve the privacy but because their rooms are scary. Periodically, I insist on a cleansing—I wish there was some way to take a fire hose through the windows on the front of the house and just turn the sucker on, but then everything would end up downstairs and I would still have to handle the mess.

I am not the tidiest person in the world so I really shouldn’t be surprised by my children’s lack of focus but it would be nice to know if Katie’s best pair of shoes is in her room somewhere before she grows out of them.

I home schooled my kids for a few years and I have always encouraged independence and experimentation as learning tools in daily life.

There was that time when Katie had several of our drinking glasses in the floor of the living room connected with string and filled with different chemical mixtures…the glasses never recovered their original color so they ended up in the garbage.

Recently, Jack took all of my candles—I thought our pug took them—he takes everything else. Then he called me at work to ask where the glue sticks were for the glue gun.

Me. I have the glue sticks in the car. Why do you need a glue gun? (Note: always ask about the need for tools. It’s a tip-off that something has gone awry.)

Jack. I need to put something back together. Nothing important.

Me. (Note: Dissembling. A teen’s favorite ploy.) What did you break?

Jack. I didn’t break anything. Something got too near to the candle.

Me. What? (Now I know and he knows that I know that the ‘something’ got too near the candle because he held it over the flame, but I am more interested in what it is, so we’re not pursuing that line of questioning. Choose your battles.)

Jack. It wasn’t anything of yours. Why do you need to know?

Me. What was it? (Note: I am not distracted by his belligerence. It’s all in staying focused.)

Jack. It was that little thumb drive. It’s not very expensive and I took it apart.

Now we’re going to skip part of the conversation because it gets repetitious on my part as I gave him a lecture about taking working things apart. And then Jack lectured me right back about how was he supposed to figure out how things worked if he couldn’t take them apart. When I asked him if he figured out how the thing worked…

Jack. (muttering uncomfortably) No, I need more information about circuitry.

Yesterday evening I was at a friend’s going away party and I noticed that Katie called. So I called Jack to see what was going on because Katie never answers the phone. Airily, Jack responded with, “Oh, probably she called because she set the rice on fire but we put the fire out and I pointed out the rice cooker by the stove right in front of her face, she couldn’t find it earlier, so she’d made more rice in that.”

I think the pan is dead. The whole house smells like burned rice. I guess there are worse things. Like vinegar. Last night I called Jack while he was studying in my room–we use the cell phones like an intercom. I was reducing balsamic vinegar and it was filling the air with fumes and I couldn’t breathe. It was in my lungs and my nose and my eyes…

So I called Jack because I didn’t want to pass the stove to open the back door. The solution? Call your teenage son, sacrifice his well-being to open a door. Jack entered the downstairs to discover that he could no longer breathe, gasping out ‘What in the hell have you done?’ holding his shirt over his nose. He couldn’t even see because he couldn’t open his eyes. I was saying ‘Just open the back door and you can leave,’ so he did. I never did explain what I was doing.



  1. rosylee said,

    January 20, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Oh, I can see I have much to look forward to!

  2. Joyce Mellstrom said,

    January 11, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I’m thinking you could write a column on this topic, but you have too much else to do, so that probably won’t happen. Anyway, thanks!

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