My daughter wants to go to a party this weekend.
She’ll be 15 in a less than a month, so a Friday night party isn’t completely out of the question, nor is it an inappropriate request. But she's not going, and I'm the bad guy here. The kicker? No parents will be in the home.
She was completely honest about that, so points in the "character" column, yet she was surprised when I told her hellll no. Look, I’m no fool. (I am also 41 years old and I shouldn’t be allowed to go to parties where there aren't parents in attendance.) In this case, I'm being told the parents in question are completely on board with the party so I replied that if I could call them and confirm this I would consider letting her go. Of course the dream died right there and then with an audible eye-roll and the matter was dropped.
Here’s the thing: I believe my daughter when she said the parents know about the party — it’s the mortification of having her mother call them to confirm that stopped the good-time train in its tracks.
I know that one day soon she'll either a) lie about where she’s going or b) “forget” to tell me the owners of the home are currently floating on a cruise ship in the Pacific while she and 100 friends are floating on the homeowners couch in the family pool.
(If you don’t think this happens at house parties, we didn't run in the same circles.)
I went to house parties all the time when I was a teenager — even at her age — and this is exactly why she won't be going. IT'S BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT HAPPENS THERE. Yes, despite my being "ancient" and "out of touch" I still have enough recall in my obviously degenerative brain to remember the shit we caused. My town was small when I was a teenager; we had no bowling alley, no arcade or restaurant willing to host teenagers for more than an hour or so, and for a while we didn’t even have a movie theatre. Everyone got their driver's license the minute they turned 16 and back then if you could tell a stop sign from a speed bump you passed and were driving by the time the smoke on your birthday candles cleared. We’d load as many people as possible into the back of an old Bronco or Parisienne and we’d head out to the nearest vacant house or farmers field or abandoned quarry. We drank and we smoked and we did stuff I’d prefer to not think about in the same context as something my own children may do one day.
You could easily argue that I did all of these things and I am fine. (You could also argue that I am most definitely not fine.) But I lived, right? Yes; I did. But some didn't.
I know I can’t protect or shield my daughter from every possibility and one day she’s going to have the chance (opportunity? Ugh; I’m trying to frame this as quasi-positively as possible) to prove she has a good head on her shoulders. But having been a teenager myself, I know that even though you may think you are the smartest person in the room, you are not. You are high on Axe and pimple cream.
I don’t tell my daughter all of the things I’ve done. I give her tidbits, but not everything. I don’t need to give her any ideas, nor do I want her to think I condone semi-illegal activity had in the name of teenage debauchery, no matter how much fun we had. So if she asks, I will tell her I spent my youth growing organic vegetables at a nunnery which we sold at a roadside stand to fund schooling for blind third-world children. If you promise to keep my secret, I will tell your kids that you were with me.
Read more from Jeni on Teenagers:
This morning, my nine-year-old son left to catch his bus and I went outside to clear more of the never-ending %^&*ing snow we're dealing with this year. I can't remember a year when we had such amounts, and as much as I have begun to loathe it, my nine year-old son finds it an absolute joy. He's blown through several sets of ski-quality gloves, two pairs of snow pants, and much of my patience as he's lost more kitchen utensils in the backyard than I can count. I don't even want to know what he needs a lime reamer for in the backyard, yet somehow it's become a "super-duper-important" snow play tool. And because his sister is a teenager, most of his home-time snow play is solitary and that's the way he likes it. Being alone in the snow is calming for him. It's peaceful and it's insulating and comfortable and it is bliss.
But it's also deadly.
After I cleaned the snow today, I sat down with a coffee to catch up on the morning news, because every morning I like to give the national news weatherman the finger. I was devastated when I caught the tail end of a news story about the death of a nine year-old boy who had become trapped in a snowbank and, I assume, had suffocated. A few weeks ago, a similar situation occurred in Winnipeg, and as much as I bitch about the noise/trouble/stress nine-year-old boys provide, the loss of two of them is two too many. As the mother of a terrible/lovely/frustrating/beautiful/funny/drive-me-fucking-nuts-but-I-love-you-so-hard snow-loving nine-year-old boy myself, my heart took on one more jagged tear for these families whose histories will now be permanently stamped with tragedy.
These boys' deaths were accidental and their families need nothing but our sincere condolences, or wishes for peace, or candle-light, or sage burning, or whatever the hell you prefer to do for people who are grieving. Accidents are just that—and these deaths were the epitome of the word. No matter how I try to stop my brain from wandering to that dark corner—that corner where I'm forced to think about how scared two little boys must have been in their last moments—something pushes me there and holds me there and I have to think about it because, well, because my brain is a real asshole sometimes.
Please—PLEASE—talk to your children about snow safety today. We have talks about road safety, thunderstorm safety, water safety, and bike safety. I've even had "don't stick a fork in the toaster," and "you probably shouldn't put that there" body part talks about safety. I'm a free-range parent by nature and I allow my son unrestricted access to all of our property and its many mountains of snow, and I will continue to do so. But because he often plays alone, I will now insist on some safety precautions and intermittent check-ins during his hours (and hours, and hours . . . seriously, how the hell does he not feel cold out there?) of outdoor play. We've already talked about staying well back from the road—like 25 feet well back—in order to stay safe from plows and plow drivers who can't always spot a tiny boy in a blue snowsuit, no matter how pink and glowing his cheeks are from the freedom of solitary play and the magic of clean winter. Now I will insist he "check in" every now and then, so I know he is safe—even if that is just him throwing a snowball at my window. Maybe forts should be a "him+1" activity, or maybe I need to implement a "no roofs" restriction, or maybe I'll relent and buy him a dog, or I . . . I just don't know. But I will be considering it today, somewhere between the spaces where I am thinking of these beautiful boys and their grieving families.
For more tips on keeping your kids safe, check out: "Teaching Children How To Cross The Street Safely" and "How To Camp Safely Near Water."
I have a teenage daughter. I’ll pause here for dramatic effect, and although I know you can’t see me, take this time to visualize me hanging my head and practicing deep breathing techniques. She’s a great kid, and while she doesn’t do anything “bad” in the way I did when I was her age, she is exhausting. ALL-CAPS. FULL STOP.
Teenage girls aren’t exhausting in the same way nine-year-old boys are exhausting. Sure, nine-year-old boys require a parent to possess stealth, cunning, and an unlimited grocery budget, but fourteen-year-old girls require you to have a sympathetic friend with a similarly aged child who gets in her car as soon as you text “ERMAHGERD LIQR STORE.”
My fifteen-year-old daughter has an alarmingly low tolerance for bullshit of any kind—a trait I believe will serve her well in adult life—but it makes living peacefully with her nearly impossible. And as you can see here, you may be best served to avoid her on particularly grouchy days, especially if you’re a sexist, hairy-knuckled jogger unable to divide fractions who also enjoys guacamole. I’ll be honest and say I’m a bit of a bullshit-hater myself, so she comes by it naturally. If anything, it’s refreshing to see the things that irk a teenager, as they make me long for the days when portable classrooms and slippery hair pins were serious business.
So, here you go: (Note: I compiled this list according to her comments during the short period between waking up in the morning and serving her a crappy toast with crust and natural peanut butter breakfast.)
I cannot wait until she’s finished school and out on her own, because while I agree with a large percentage of the items on her list, I look forward to seeing how she feels about having a mortgage, student loans, and maybe, one day, a bullshit-hating teenager of her own. I posted this list with complete approval from my daughter. When I asked if I could put her “beefs” on my blog, she responded, “Whatever. I don’t care if you put it on your blog. Blogs are bullshit.” Have any to add?
Read more from Jeni on Teens:
*image courtesy WikiCommons