There are many things I am good at and there are many things I like. These two ideals do not always come together in the middle section of a Venn diagram because life doesn’t work that way and if in your case it does then you probably have no debt, a roof that doesn't need repair, and a full tank of gas in your recently vacuumed minivan. Please take your rescue dog on a 20 km run; there's nothing for you to see here.
The same talent/ability conflation applies to my children, my 15 year-old daughter especially. She does many things well — very well, even — and some things not-so-well. But her joy does not necessarily come from the things she excels at, and one thing is for sure: she is not domestic. This girl has the ability to perform many duties in our household, and has an extensive list of chores I expect she do which she is fully capable yet seldom completes properly and never with a smile. She’s been in charge of washing her own laundry since she was 11, she can vacuum and dust, and when called upon to do so, she can prepare a simple meal if starvation seems imminent. But the girl has no appreciation or love for the domestic arts, and in fact she hates it all. There is no glory to be found in these tasks, she feels. She feels a lot of things; because “feeling things” is 98% of being a teenager.
Her ambivalence towards domestic chores pleases me to no end, although would it kill her stop scowling when she unloads the dishwasher?
She knows enough about cooking and cleaning to see her through, and at least enough to keep her off future episodes of Hoarders. She is young and looking forward to moving away somewhere to University and then on to full independence after that. I’m not worried about her eating only take-out pizza or being restricted to wash and wear clothing for the rest of her life. My daughter is savvy and will no doubt find a roommate or friend who will cook or iron in some sort of barter exchange. My daughter rocks at math, science, and hair straightening, so it’s not like I’m sending her out into the world unprepared.
I’m also happy that she doesn’t have to like domestic pursuits. She won’t hesitate to tell you that no, I don’t want to bake cookies, and why would I, seeing as there is a bakery on the corner?
When I was first married, my husband and I both worked full time, with similar hours and commute times. But I did 100% of the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, and the shopping. At first I even enjoyed it. It was my first vestige into adulthood and I loved “playing” house. But by time the non-scratch coating wore off our wedding-gift pots and pans, I was ready to forgo health insurance for a cook and maid service. My husband did his share of work around the house, but it was fun stuff like mowing the lawn or raking the lawn or staring at the lawn, or drinking beer with friends while talking about the lawn. No one ever came over to drink beer with me while we discussed vacuum cleaner models.
The domestic jobs fell to me because I was the one who knew how to do them. My partner had many skills, but because I was the one who knew what a vegetable was, and how to press the start button on a dryer, those tasks fell to me. My daughter can keep herself alive (and possibly others) with her limited ability in the kitchen. As long as someone continues to make dried pasta, she’s not going to starve. I realize that not everything in life has to be as fun as spending time on the lawn, but the burden of domestic chores shouldn’t go completely unshared, either. If both partners enter a relationship equally clueless in the domestic realm, things will sort themselves out. Water eventually finds it’s own level, as will the pile of dishes covering her future counter top.
I don’t want my daughter finding herself in a relationship where the domestic chores automatically fall to her because a) she’s female; and b) she knows how to do them more aptly than her partner. At least with her visible distaste for housework she has a fighting chance. I’m glad our world is changing even just a little to become a place where “darns socks” and “roasts a mean garlic chicken” aren’t on the mandatory list when searching out a life partner.
If they are on her list, she had better look for someone who can do those things, because she’d rather spend her time eating bakery cookies on the lawn.
I drink. I guess that makes me a “drinker” but not in the “cannot function without it” way, rather the “I enjoy the flavour and it goes well with meals and okay, sometimes it helps me function” way. There is alcohol in this home. Alcohol not currently under lock and key, but out of the way with the exception of what is in my wine glass after 5pm. So far my teenager has shown no desire to drink. I know that by her age — 15 — I had been drunk several times, primarily on homemade Italian wine which flowed like a river in my town. That river system also connected beer lakes and a vodka ocean. It was never a problem to get our underage hands on it. If our home supply ran dry, it was easy to swing a six-pack from a stranger in the Beer Store parking lot.
I imagine my daughter will one day get drunk. I’d prefer she does it legally and she’s mature enough to know her limits, arrange for a proper ride or accommodations, and to stay away from any neon-coloured vodka coolers spelt with a “K.” But that’s not likely.
Most of us got drunk a time or two before maturity. I have some pretty good blackmail material should any one of my high school circle decide to run for office, but no one ever drank to the point of needing medical care and no one died from alcohol poisoning. And thankfully the only cameras available to us took film and money to develop and no one had any, having spent it on beer and cigarettes. Looking back, it was (mostly) harmless fun.
Binge drinking is an entirely different matter because consuming massive amounts of alcohol in a short period of time can cause serious health risks and often results in death. When you’re young and you’re drunk, well, you’re double stupid. Your brain is swimming uphill many days, and while intoxicated it’s swimming uphill with rubber boots on. Making rational choices after a few drinks is hard enough as an adult, as evidence by my recent failed wine pairing of “Shiraz” and “home haircut."
Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook — a post shared by 307, 000 people at the time I write this. A mom posted a picture of her daughter lying in a hospital bed with tubes and ventilator hoses which were necessary as a result of the daughter’s binge drinking. She and a cousin raided a liquor cabinet and shit got real very quickly. This girl almost died and her mother was frantic and there is absolutely nothing I give this woman and her daughter but my best wishes for a full recovery. The photo was not shared to shame her daughter, but rather as a warning for other parents to be aware and perhaps as a catalyst for discussion. Good points, all of them.
So while I absolutely agree with the message, I didn’t share the post because the daughter’s face and name are featured. We all make mistakes but we don't all have them shared with the world. This message could have posted without names or images and ask yourself if it could have been delivered without personal information. Yes; it could. Perhaps less dramatically, but how does it make sense that we teach our kids to be careful about posting intimate private moments online and then we do it? How do we rally against kids posting drunken neknomination photos and then turn around and do something similar? I only have access to one teenager, and here is her unfiltered reply to this situation: (I have her permission to post this.)
This will blow over. In the vast chasm of rage that is the internet, this will soon be forgotten and few people will recall this girl’s name or the details of her medical emergency. But when she recovers (and thankfully it appears she will) she will still be a 16 year-old girl who — with her 16-year-old brain — will believe the entire world knows what a stupid mistake her teenager brain allowed her to make. I was a teenager. And I have a teenager — a teenager who is now getting yet another talk about alcohol and privacy and I’ll probably need a glass of wine to get through it.
I've only been the parent to a teenager for a few years, but I was a teenager from ages 13 through 25, so I think I've got a pretty good handle on teens and teenage behaviour. Sure, teenagers today face a unique and different set of challenges than we the previous generation did, but that's how it goes. We didn't have to worry about Facebook pictures and cell phone privacy issues, but our kids don't have to worry about their parents picking up the extension line on the rumpus room rotary phone and over-hearing our plans to totally ditch third period science to stand in a line-up for Def Leppard concert tickets. Kids nowadays can do that shit online.
I just said "nowadays," so maybe I should just move on to my larger point. Or maybe I should just avoid using words entirely, so here's a handy infographic for you. If your kids aren't yet teenagers, maybe print it out for future references, but print it out now because when your daughter is 11 years old she is going to use all of your printer ink on One Direction iron-on transfers.