Jennifer Kolari: 13 To Life


Loving your Human Couch Potatoes

When your teenager spends all his spare time on the couch

Coming home from an early power walk, I can almost taste the cool, fragrant air of relaxation as the spring break, well, springs upon me.

 Wait.  That fragrant air I mentioned?  It actually smells a little bit funky, sort of like old pizza crusts crossed with mouldy gym socks.  Like a good hound, I follow my nose, up some stairs, through the hall and into the kitchen where I discover the foul lingering odour plus a variety of open jars and containers that ought to be refrigerated. I continue to the family room where I am faced with a tableau of such multi-sensory repugnance that I shudder in my slippers.  There, on my newish, classically modern, modernly classic, sofa, lounges a dirty, stinky, super-sized spud shovelling potato chips into its maw as if eating its young in some perverse potato ritual.

No, this is not a scene from “Scream 77,” it’s my teenage son, Lazyboy, living up to his nickname on the weekend before our nine-day siesta.

At the onset of a vacation, some people, especially adults, take a while to wind down from their daily routines.  But, Lazyboy, behaves as if he has been practising his relaxed routine for months now.  The potato comparison is apt.  My son appears to have been recently pulled from the ground, the dirt clinging to his feet and inside his fingernails, the ground around him littered with his personal mulch: granola bar wrappers, empty milk cartons and a plate so calcified with egg yolk and ketchup, it will probably take one of us two hours to get it off—guess who that will be?  I feel compelled to drag him into the shower, over to the washing machine and back up to the kitchen sink, but instead I stoically smile and wish him a good morning.  “Everything good, Lazyboy?” I say.

“Yep it’s all good, Mom.”  He smiles.

When Lazyboy first embarked on his adolescent journey of slothfulness and general disregard for the environment he shares with his family, I went slightly nuts.  Even while on a break, there was no reason to lounge around the house all day doing absolutely nothing of value.  There were drawers to first find and then clean out, yards to tidy up, larger clothes and shoes to shop for and younger siblings to entertain. One morning, after my husband had taken our other two kids out for the day, I became so incensed that I decided to give Lazyboy a taste of his own medicine.

“Mom,” said my son, bursting in to my bedroom in the late morning.  “We’re out of milk and there’s only one egg.”

I was sitting on my chaise-lounge reading.  Calmly, I looked up and smiled, “That’s unfortunate, Lazyboy,” I said.  “Maybe you want to walk to the store and buy some.”

“But, don’t you usually go shopping in the morning?” he asked with a quaver. “How come you’re still in your pyjamas, Mom? Are you sick?”

“I feel terrific,” I said, stretching.  “I’ve simply decided to try being a couch potato for the day—like you.”

Lazyboy furrowed his unkempt brow.  “You? The Type A Queen?”

“Yep,” I said.

“Cool.” He smiled. “You chill.  I’ll have Lucky Charms with chocolate milk.”

He left before I could protest and when I came downstairs, I found my son, splayed on the sofa, munching his breakfast and watching cartoons.  After making myself a bowl of yoghurt and fruit, I returned to the family room and asked Lazyboy to shove over.  He did so, happily, and we happily spent the morning watching Bugs Bunny out-manoeuvre his various nemeses. After a couple of hours, Lazyboy grabbed a deck of cards and we played “Crazy Eights” and “Texas Hold’em”. After a couple more, we ordered pizza.  As the day progressed, I began to realize that I felt as delicious as the gooey cheese crust I had eaten for lunch. There was a good reason to lounge around the house all day.  There was plenty of value in vegetation.  Both my son and I were letting go of our regular stressors, resting our minds and souls.

As hard as it is to accept a messy, somewhat unclean teenager laying around your home this break, make a commitment to try, and make a promise to join him.  Often, kids have the right idea and they are definitely more plugged in than we are to exactly what they need.  Hanging out with your teenager also allows you to get close again and maybe engage in some baby play like tickling.  Even adolescents sometimes need to be loved like they are little, precious children. And releasing one’s inner spud allows us all to reconnect with the very roots of our foundations.

Enjoy your holidays.  Enjoy your kids.