Posted in Fragile Life, Takes a Village, Teens

The Balls It Takes to Parent Teens

I sit in the parking lot of the 7’Eleven and bang my head on the steering wheel, wishing, for once, that I had a cell phone so that I could call for back up.

“Help, help, help,” I say to no one– hoping that someone will magically pull up beside me in this parking lot and tell me what to do. Maybe my doctor.

“Help, help, help,”  I repeat, until a truck pulls up beside me and the driver stares at me strangely.  I worry that he saw me banging my head and then I stare right back at him, wondering if there’s any chance that he could be helpful.  (If only I had a flat tire.)

I want to restart the car because I’m shivering from the stress, but I don’t want to pollute the environment for 5 minutes of comfort.

“Breathe, breathe, breathe,” I tell myself, and I try.

The boys are in line at the check out so I don’t have much time to figure out what to say next.   “Remain present, remain present, ” I say–trying to be present–while simultaneously  freaking out.

I think about pulling my teen aside and consulting him before they both get back into the car.  But that would be bad parenting form, right?   I have to be the grown up, right?  (I don’t want to be. This is a stupid job.)

Instead I tell my son that Pepsi and cheap chocolate aren’t  great choices right before bed, let alone any other time.  (This customary commentary on food choices seems out of place–even for me– given the topic at hand.)

“TMI!” I wanted to shout on the ride home from the game when his buddy unraveled his life before me.

I hadn’t expected a detailed confession, let alone extraneous ones.

“What do I say, what do I say?” I asked myself over and over again. But I had used up all my courage with the original prompt that had launched me into this deep end of parenting.

It was my own fault.  Actually, it was my nose’s fault.  I have incredibly strong olfactory senses–and that’s what I told this friend of my son’s when he got into my car.

“Did I ever tell you that I can smell just about anything– on anybody?”  I say.

The car gets quiet.  And then it just spills out of him–so softly– that I have to tilt my head toward the back seat to catch what he’s saying.

After the stop at 7’Eleven, we turn toward small talk but it just feels flat and forced.  Mostly we sit without talking–which is a surreal experience with two teens in the car. What are they thinking? I wonder.

“You know I care about you, right?”  I finally say aloud to this boy I have known– since he was a boy.  Now he looks more like a man.  “You know this puts you at risk. You’re too young,” I tell him.

He isn’t apologetic or dismissive or anything that would give me something to push back on.   He is simply transparent, just like me–and we fall silent again.

It seems like everyone in the car has aged in the twenty minutes since I picked them up at the school.

“Talk to your parents,” I say as we pull up to his house. “I’ll  follow up with them this weekend.”

I can tell that I’ve just dropped a bomb on him with this request.  Actually, it feels like the weight of a hundred years is on his spirit as he gets out of the car and drags himself toward his front door.  I wonder if I should have gone in with him.  He seems so tender.

As we back out of the driveway, my son launches into weekend plans and I put up my hand.  “I can’t talk about anything, right now,” I say, and he uncharacteristically silences himself without another word.

At the bottom of the road, I pull over and flop my head onto the steering wheel, finally taking a deep breath.  “I want to quit,” I say. “This is too hard.”

I’m not sure if this confession of mine evokes compassion or concern or something worse so I start driving again.  You can do this, I tell myself.

You just did.

Kelly Salasin

Posted in Books 2 Read, Teens

A Twist on Teens

Kelly Salasin

You don’t even have to open this book to reap the benefits.  The title itself shifts the possibility of perception:

The Good Teen~Rescuing Adolescence from the Myths of the Storm and Stress Years.  Groundbreaking research reveals everything you think you know about teens is wrong!

This book, written by the Director of  the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development from Tufts University, is a beckoning read.

Author, Richard M. Lerner, PH. D., draws on his decades of experience working with teens to say that, “Teens are not problems to be fixed, but resources to be developed.”

Now that’s a revolutionary idea for our woe is me culture of parenting teens.

To read some of my own positive experience with my teen, click here.

Posted in Holidays, Teens

The Thanksgiving Miracle (a.k.a. the teen who stole Thanksgiving)

A few years ago, our Thanksgiving was completely swiped–the likes of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Only our villian–or should I say, “our hero,” was an unlikely teenage boy.

Here’s the story:

After we got the turkey in the oven that morning, we went for a family walk.  Our reluctant teenager even joined us.  We circled the pond and tested the ice and watched tiny flakes fall from the sky; then crunched our way home through the as the boys threw snow at each other.

Before leaving for my sister’s for pre-Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres, we prepared our dinner table, only to discover that we didn’t have eight of anything! Worse of all was the realization that there were only 4 forks left from our silverware collection.

In response to this crisis, the reluctant teenager created a new tradition: setting the table in half blues and half greens (placemats and dishes) with matching silver on one side and a pot-luck assortment on the other.

My husband, a strong Virgo, had to leave the room, but our eight-year old was inspired to contribute an interesting tradition of his own:  filling a piñata that he had scored at the second-hand store the day before.

The day was filled with many, many happy moments and a few “mommy dearest” ones–like when I arrived home from sister’s to find that the turkey was done an hour early… while my teenager moved in slow motion to each desperate request for help.

Our youngest shined in this hour of need, asking eagerly, “Is there anything else I can do?”  At 8, he was naturally helpful, relishing in any moment where he could outshine his big brother.  Plus he had a vested interest in the dinner meal as he had peer arriving to join us, while his brother, dejectedly, did not.

In true adolescent fashion, he was sullen during dinner and dramatically opted out of the post-turkey walk with our guests, plugging himself into his ipod and plopping down on the couch instead.  “At least start putting some dishes in the dishwasher,” I called before leaving.  I dreaded coming back to that mess, but the sun was getting low in the sky, and it was now or never to enjoy what was left of this day.

Our guests laughed at my suggestion that our teen begin the clean up, promising that we would all tackle it together when we returned. We enjoyed a nice long walk up MacArthur Road and arrived back home as the sun dropped behind the mountain.

When we walked in the door, I gasped, as if our house had been robbed. I looked around, confused, bewildered, concerned even.  My teenager was no longer on the couch. He was at the sink. I suspected he jumped up just in time to start loading the dishes when he heard us come up the drive.  And yet something was different…

The wood stove was still there in the middle of the room, but everything else… There was absolutely no evidence of our Thanksgiving Party left behind–not in the living room or the dining room or in the sink. In fact, the kitchen was eerily spotless.  Not a dish or a crumb, not a pot or a pan. Nothing but the smell of turkey and a single glass of chardonnay.

Beguiled and giddy, we put our coats back on and headed down to our neighbors for the pumpkin pie and the piñata… while continuing to marveling over what was sure to be forever called, The Thanksgiving Miracle.

Kelly Salasin

(To read more about the suprises of parenting a teen, click here.)