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Archive for September, 2008

EDITING FOR PLEASURE…

The toddler is in that phase, The Fucking Threes (c) as I referred to it last week, and although still bubbling with the life, love and levity which threatens to overflow at times, she is also stuck in a place where negative language can be fun. Sometimes saying ‘no’ can be a lot more amusing than ‘yes’ because it gives you an array of rubber-faced adult reactions and equally bizarre guttural emissions to experience. Obviously we’re trying to curb this particular enthusiasm, but sometimes you just have to accept that it happens. That whether it be them, you or a combination, you just can’t fight every single little, tiny crumb of problem that falls at your feet. That you have to choose your battles.

But how do you cope in those moments when the ‘N’ word is flying at you with attitude and verve, when the ‘don’t want tos’ refuse to quit? Here’s MY trick. Simply replace the question/comment you asked/made with a question DESERVING of such a defiantly negative response. Do it in your head, keep the smile inside and don’t let on. Below are some examples. The question asked comes first, the question the answer deserved comes in parenthesis and italics right after it…oh, and maturity is neither guaranteed or even offered. 

 

ME: Could you please not run your hand along the wall because it’s dirty? (Is it right that someone like Sarah Palin should get a legitimate shot at being the VICE-FUCKING-PRESIDENT-OF-THE-UNITED-STATES?)

TODDLER: NO!

ME: I really need you to eat more of your dinner if you’d like dessert. (I want you to right now grab a large spoonful of mud, followed by some twigs, leaves, slugs plus a pellet of bird poo and improve your nourishment by ingesting these fine items!)

TODDLER: But I don’t want to…

ME: Could you please put that pair of scissors down? (When it comes the the territorial battles between quantum physics and math, many scholars agree that neither is more important than the concept of gravity itself.)

TODDLER: But why?

ME: Enough TV for now, it’s time to get out and do something! (That complete turd David Blaine is going to do another of his poxy stunts which could very well end in failure but will at least leave him  open for ridicule by us!)

TODDLER: I WANNA WAAAAAAAATCH…

ME: LISTEN TO ME RIGHT NOW! (I have just been sent, via the internet, some disturbingly photo-shopped pictures of Sarah Palin’s head on a Victoria Secret model’s body!)

TODDLER: I WANT TO SEE MAMA!!!!!

ME: FINISH – YOUR-DINNER-NOW!!! (MCCAIN-COULD-BE-PRESIDENT-SOON!!!)

TODDLER: WAAAAAUUUUGGGHHHHHH!!!

ME: I really need your help right now. (Do you still love Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane? Even though the pair of traitorous BASTARDS have helped land Spurs squarely in a big pile of steaming SHIT right now which can leave L’il ol’ Dada a tad grumpy once in a while.)

TODDLER: Nooooooooooooooooo!

ME: For the umpteenth time, if you throw something on the floor you need to PICK IT UP please! (If I told you that those giant bogies which grow and crust up in your nose are actually tiny little ideas that form, harden and end up being picked and flicked across the room on a daily basis, would you try to crawl around and find them in case you threw a good one away?!!!!!!!)

TODDLER: PLEASE don’t talk to me like THAT!

ME: Can I have a kissy? (Can I send the contents of your porta-potty to the President as a statement on how I feel his foreign policy has worked during the past 8 years?)

TODDLER: Eeeeeeeuuwww that’s GROSS!

ME: Can I have a squeezy? (Can I send the contents of MY potty to the President as a statement on how I feel his entire policy has worked during the past 8 years?)

TODDLER: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuuwwwwwwwwww NO!

ME: Would you PLEASE eat your carrots? (I don’t REALLY have to AVOID any alcohol whatsoever in the next 24 hours do I?)

TODDLER: NO!

ME: No you cannot put lipstick on, you’re only 3 years old!!! Dress-up time only!!! (Can I show you this photo of me when I was 17 with long, curly black hair, thick glasses, a white puffa coat and a moustache? My Weird Al look as I refer to it!)

TODDLER: I don’t like you Dada!

ME: Can I please ask you to put your PJs in your room? (Can I please run up the main street in Prada sunglasses, tiger-stripe speedos and combat boots singing Tom Jones’ ‘She’s A Lady’ through a megaphone?)

TODDLER: No you can’t Dada.

Judging by that last one, perhaps the word ‘no’ is sometimes a positive force in our lives…as I suggested at the start, it’s all about context…

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Who was the idiot who spoke of the ‘terrible twos?’

Was it Dr.Spock? Was it Terry Brazelton? It might as well have been Terry Bradshaw because I’ve had two kids, each breezed through their first 24 months like it was a magic carpet ride in fairy land, and now the toddler of the duo has (as gently hinted at last week) decided that she should channel Satan whenever the fancy tickles. Because let me either announce to, or find empathy with, you, and announce that the ‘terrible twos’ should be the The Fucking Threes (c) because quite how we’re meant to survive this for another 8 months or so is fast becoming beyond me.

And how to deal…how to deal, how to do-dah-do-dah-fucking DEAL with it!!!! Adopt a santa-like shape and laugh it off? Let it all go and risk them becoming champion brats? Spend much time carefully explaining what has to happen in terms of behavior? This is the best option, but sadly it just isn’t always possible, often due to circumstance, schedule and also the fact that you’re yay close to having three of the largest cocktails in your adult life, all to be slammed within 10 minute. Sometimes I feel like one of those saddos trawling the early morning tide with a 1970s metal detector and a bucket, desperately hoping to find cash and instead finding nothing but rusty cans. I keep on looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, but half the time, just when I see a glimmer a whole other stretch of tunnel emerges to put more distance between us.

Of course, another problem here is that I have realized, all of a sudden (and perhaps it was always obvious to you, in which case thanks so very much for letting me know), that my toddler and I on parallel lines when it comes to wanting full control of our lives. She wants to do everything, have everything, be everything and dictate the pace of everything. And I want to do everything, have everything, be everything and dictate the pace of everything as well as be shorn of responsibilities, go out and get hammered once a week, watch professional sports all weekend with other hairy toed members of my clan and collapse in bed after several hours hammering cocktails at 3 or 4 KNOWING I WON’T BE UP ‘TIL NOON. I have been reliably informed that this is a form of mid-life crisis. The informant is one of those people who also believes in ‘the terrible twos’, so really, I don’t know if they’re worth trusting.

But whatever it is, crisis, no crisis, the depth of it’s reality on a daily basis does not escape me, indeed, I have had to initiate a whole new level of zen-thinking to extrapolate myself from it’s furiously glorious and immature clutches. And, to be fair, if I can actually dwell on this reality at those moments when the toddler is actively (and I mean ACTIVELY) defying me, I can understand her perspective. She wants to jump on the furniture. She wants to try climb anything taller than her (thus nearly everything). And she wants sweets whenever she can get them. Translation in early-mid-life-crisis mode? I want to jump on the sofa and watch the Premiership. I want to climb the skies on my way to a one-week, no cellphone-no-humanity, all expenses paid trip to Kaui. And I want cocktails whenever I could reasonably enjoy them (which means I rarely drink any of the fucking things anymore as otherwise how could I operate the family taxi, who’d pick them up from school, who’d go swimming with them, who’d be coherent enough to spend time with them). So the toddler and I, we’re in the same business, the business of Love & Tolerance, Inc, proudly loving and tolerating children and adults since 1992 in the case of my franchise.

And so apart from all that crap, apart from all the deep down love etc, etc, etc, blah blah blah, one resounding truth hurtled it’s way into my embattled skull a month or so ago, and it was CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES. This has recently been followed up by GIVE THEM A DELIVERANCE FROM THEIR SEEMING-EVIL. These are simple premises. The first one is obvious only when you haven’t actually registered it. 10 am, Sunday morning. They pull a newspaper to the floor. You tell them to pick it up. They say ‘no’. You say ‘yes’. They go silent. You do not. They go even more silent and give you that shitty little sideways glance. You threaten a direct reprisal. They remain silent. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s important to make them tow the line, but perhaps it’s important to do so on bigger issues, as otherwise you will set yourself up for a day of defiance with a toddler hurtling their way through The Fucking Threes (c) while your cocktail GPS starts twitching rather too uncomfortably. Thus y’know what? I try try TRY to leave those ones alone now. Because unless it’s a direct act of insubordination, it’s really not worth the fight. Especially when meted against the fact that she generally does respond quickly to instructions, albeit with more drama than an Italian opera. The next time I’ll just make sure the paper isn’t somewhere it can be tipped over, on purpose, by accident, whatever, the next time I’ll just take the situation out of her hands before she’s had a sniff.

The ‘deliverance’ bit? That’s easy. With my toddler, her nature is such that if she gets tired she gets even more wired (much like her father) yet with that grows a steely stubbornness that refuses to bend if there’s a perceived stand to be taken  (much like her Mum).  Thus we have a wired, stubborn and gleefully cheeky toddler. And sometimes, for reasons of which I have no clear idea, at bedtime she will shut me down and turn me off. Ignore me. Blank me. Not look at me. Now, I cannot claim to be a model of consistency here, because sometimes reprisals have been meted out (no books in bed, no dessert the next evening and so on) but occasionally I catch a breath and get the calculator out. And I do the math. And the math says that tired toddler + wired toddler + stubborn toddler + something else I don’t have a goddam clue about toddler + increasingly agitated and octave-rising parent = disaster. Thus how can I let her off the hook without letting her off the hook? 

“Will you be talking to me in 5 minutes?”

(head buried in arms, looking from under her armpit at me) “Yeah.”

“OK, how about we just fast forward those 5 minutes?”

Silence.

“NEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHDIAPERTOILETDESSERTMIMOMIMOSLEEEEEEP…”

“…are you talking to me yet? We fast-forwarded through 5 minutes.”

“A little bit.”

“Well rather than give me a goodnight kiss, would you like to know about an old-fashioned

goodnight hand-shake and bow?”

“Yeah!”

“OK then. Stand up. Shake hands…and bow like this (I bow, she follows). Thank you and good night my dear!”

“(grinning) Goodnight Dada.”

And everyone is happy again with no petty little bits of ‘face’ lost. Of course it isn’t always that easy, but as I navigate The Fucking Threes (c) I realize that if I am to have any hope of reaching The FABULOUS Fours (hopeful copyright, don’t hold me to it) then I will need to keep on knuckling down, with the promise of a cocktail blow out next June 2nd…

 

p.s. If regular readers are wondering about the teenager, there’s not much going on. Of course he suffers from the teenage brainfarting and comatose behavior on a semi-regular basis, but compared to the horror stories I’ve heard from these goddam child ‘experts’ he is cruise-control, friendly, easy and congenial to boot. And as I wrap this column up, why oh why do I sense that those words, and this entire ‘p.s.’ will be back to laugh in my face before he’s 18? I’ll put it down to pessimism…

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Possessed as the Dark Lord is with the gift of stealth and full morphing capabilities , I was nonetheless surprised when he arrived two weeks ago in my living room. Insolent, rude and with a seemingly endless flow of insubordinate words and phrases, Satan had decided to use my 3 year old as his vehicle. It came as a shock. One day we had a bright, sunny little girl for whom flowers and the color yellow and The Berenstain Bears were sprinkles of delight in endless sunny days filled with mirth and jollity. The next, she was shoving and punching any child she felt she might get away with, whining like a fleet of Morris Minors with transmission issues, and throwing looks like Linda Blair from The Exorcist. In fact, she was behaving like a complete and utter dick. 

Add that to previously documented issues like not liking people because they were too tall, and indeed, not liking her brother for some bizarre reason which however much I think I can rationalize makes little sense to me in ‘non-deep-thinker’ ode, and it was all becoming a little over-bearing. Voices were being raised, battlegrounds staked out, and I was forgetting a prime piece of my own advice…choose your battles. Indeed, I was beginning to feel like a cross between Pavarotti belting out his worst and Danny Aiello’s character from “Do The Right Thing”, i.e. some crazed high-decibel Italian nutter. Actually, I began to just feel like a nutter. 

And then came this…

“I don’t like ‘this boy.’ ”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t like him.”

“Why don’t you like him?”

“Because I don’t.”

“Did he do something to make you not like him?”

“No. I just don’t like him.”

“Are you sure it isn’t because he did something, maybe by accident?”

“No. I just don’t like him…”

…and then this one…

“I strangled someone today at pre-school.”

(Knowing that this wasn’t the actual story having spoken to the teacher, I probed further)

“That’s poor behavior. Don’t you agree?”

“No. I like it.”

“What? I SAID THAT STRANGLING SOMEONE IS POOR BEHAVIOR!”

“I know, and I said I like it!”

“WELL YOU’D BETTER BLOODY WELL LIKE NO DESSERT AND NO BOOKS IN BED AS WELL THEN BECAUSE THIS BEHAVIOR IS APPALLING!”

“Oooooo Kaaaaayyyyy Dada!”

I’l spare you the further, extended highlights of this engaging exchange, needless to say that by the end of it I realized three things. A) Getting completely hammered was not the answer B) It was not going to get us anywhere. And C) I needed new tools.  So I called my baldie Mum back at home.

“She’s feisty of course,” she said, “but just do what you’ve always done and really reinforce the love, reinforce loving behavior. I would be more concerned if she saw hitting and whatnot in your home, but she doesn’t, so this is definitely just a phase.”

“The teenager didn’t do this.”

“Different child isn’t he! Don’t worry, just stick to the task and it will work itself out…”

 

So I took a deep breath. And I put on my ‘clever parent’ cap (which meant I had to take off my ‘dim parent’ cap, which is the one I seem to wear with increasing impunity on a daily basis) and I watched the steam coil out of my ears as the gears started clunking and grinding. And it suddenly came to me…this wasn’t my toddler. This wasn’t my daughter. This was Satan, and as such, I had to fight a small battle of good and evil within my daughter’s frame, but disguised as just a few casual comments.

“What you told me about strangling that boy, that isn’t you! That isn’t the lovely, nice, friendly and sociable little girl I know is it?”

No reply. Eyes point down.

“Because the girl I know has always welcomed people and played with them and been happy, and if she hasn’t liked someone, she’s just stayed out of their way, which is what you do if you don’t like someone.”

“Well, I didn’t strangle him, I was just trying to rub some water off his neck because he’d got his neck wet with water from the tap…”

The battle was being won. And then…

“As for ‘the boy,’ I found out from the teacher that he accidently hit you last week with a giant hoop in the playground. The teacher told me ‘the boy’ was really sad that he’d done that by accident because he really likes you and is sad tht because of that accident you now don’t like him…”

“Well…”

“The thing is, you are such a nice girl and such a positive, happy person, why let an accident stop you from being friends with someone you like?”

No answer.

Well, I say no answer because at the time, Satan realized that his time of using my daughter as his vehicle was ‘up’ for now, that it was time to toddle off and invade some other poor small bugger and their family, because the words were resonating in my daughters ears and I knew which way the cookie would end up crumbling.

And so it proved to be. She and ‘the boy’ have played together ever since, and she said she wants to play with the lad she ‘strangled’ as well. She’s stopped churning out a veil of tears when she doesn’t get exactly what she wants, and the fleet of Morris Minors appears to have had most of their trannies fixed (though the odd one still seems to rattle, piss and whine a little bit from time to time, but ’tis expected given the age of the vehicle in question). She’s back to her happy, ebullient, laughter-stuffed sunny-faced self.

Of course the sense of relief is palpable in our house. We’re all much happier. Including my daughter. But late at night, my wife and I still find ourselves trying to anticipate the next ‘invasion’ by he-who-is-known-as The Dark Lord. Because both of us know there will be plenty of visits to come, that our daughter is the sort of lively conduit who invites such habitation. But at least now we have a better set of tools and understanding to quickly prise her away such behavior…so we think, anyway…

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There are moments when the joy is hard to find. Of course you love them both, and of course you remain dedicated primarily to their cause and their needs.

Which can occasionally be the problem.

Especially when one is a teenager, the other is a toddler, and you are 41…sometimes you find your mind drifting and doing the math, usually during a particularly trying bout of whining or a small and odious burst of teenage ‘muuwuuurrgghh-dom’, and it hits you. Like a 2 x 4. That for the majority of your responsible, adult life, and for the foreseeable future of your responsible, adult life, you will be in servitude to other before yourself. It’s a choice, of COURSE its a choice and no-one’s saying it isn’t…but what remains undeniable is that as great as the choice has been, there are still very real, very human moments of bear-despair at the fact you cannot do EXACTLY WTF it is you might want to do.

As they whine and moan and ask for something to which the answer remains a firm ‘NO’, you think about what it would be like to saunter off to a sidewalk bistro with a book and enjoy a casual lunch. Then maybe aimlessly amble around (THERE’S a word that’s remained unemployed in your life for, oh, 16 years) looking at not much and thinking about even less. Perhaps there’d be that most delicious of evil treats, the matinee, followed by an early dinner and then maybe ANOTHER movie. Followed by a few casual drinks with friends. Followed by a cab home, a piping hot bath and a night’s sleep which will last until the following late morning. Or perhaps it’s about dropping everything for 7 days in Rome. Or perhaps it’s just about being able to drop whatever whenever you want and do whatever else it is you like. There was a time, right?

These days, it’s about carving out little pockets of time. A quick spin in the car to pick up groceries alone can result in 30 zen-like moments of tranquility, whilst the downstairs loo is a coveted sanctuary, a haven of calm and peace and quiet. The previous paragraph? Movies and all that? Of COURSE that’s just a flickering dream, but this stuff just above, ah yes, THAT’S the real thing if we want to talk reality. 

And the frustration of much more often than not getting neither instead of even either is enough to test the patience and blood pressure of anyone with a pulse. Sometimes it just builds, slowly percolating like a stove-top coffee maker, slowly, ever so slowly brewing until a thin fog obscures all vision and things just feel like they’re getting away. Perhaps a voice is raised in anger, perhaps a cross word or 14 is said hurriedly, and when either is being displayed as a default expression by  you, you just feel so horribly, nakedly guilty. Like you’re the only person who ever feels that way.

Because whenever you peruse the faces of friends, neighbors and even total strangers with their kids, more often than not they wear expressions of those never, ever shout at their own. They seem so happy. Are they really the all patient, all loving omnipitent doting nuclear clusters they purport to be, or are they poseurs and bit-players in the great game of life, characters in a David Lynch sequel to “Blue Velvet” where things get weirder once they know no-one can see them? You comfort yourself with the knowledge that you do, at least, hold up your hands and cop to it when it’s been unreasonable behavior, that you explain to your kids that it’s as much about you as anyone else, that they aren’t necessarily at fault, that fatigue and slivers of stress and shreds of unfinished work and shards of unfulfilled indulgences are also to blame (you never phrase it like that of course, you simply say you’re grumpy and that you’re sorry and that you love them).

And then you perhaps realize that  the night before you got waylaid by a project which kept you up beyond the witching hour,  into the zone where a stroll in the backyard brings you face-to-face with opossums and skunks and raccoons. That when you did hit the hay you were disturbed by the toddler crying loudly wondering why her toy kitchen cookers started to ‘bubble’ a saucepan. That when it was time to get up again it was literally only a couple of hours after the cooker explanations. And that you’re just really

really

tired.

So much so that as you sat to describe all these emotions (which about 4 hours ago, during dinnertime, seemed far far stronger and far far louder) you found yourself in a train in Moscow before juddering awake realizing you’d nodded off. And that the only way you can complete the day’s tasks before hitting the hay at the slightly more reasonable hour of 11.30pm, is to trawl the fridge for those bits of 2 day old french toast, nuke them and shove them down your neck, one last desperately poor energy burst to carry you across the finishing line and into a night’s sleep which will either see you confirm that this was all down to being tired, or all down to being 41 and not 25 anymore…

…whatever the reason, you’ll sit for a moment longer before shutting down your computer, and you’ll enjoy the cool, crisp quiet as it massages your ears, allowing you to drift and wander off on a small mental vacation…

…until morning then, when for sure things will be brighter and better. Not to say there won’t be days like his again, ha ha, how foolish would that be? There will, of course, be more. Only bare-faced liars would deny it. But hopefully they will remain far more rare than common…if it’s anything else, then matters lie far deeper than that which a column can explain…

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6.47 am…

All is calm. 

“She’s up,” mumbles my wife, and given that it’s my turn to take first-call, I promptly say thanks but it’s too early and she’ll survive for another 10 or 15 minutes (I do not recognize servitude before 7 am).

“Why isn’t the fan on?” she asks. I sleepily peruse the fan. It starts up again.

“It’s on again.”

“Oh…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…”

 

6.49 am

“WAAAAAAA WAAAAAAA WUAAAAA WUAAAAAA DADDY DADDY DADDY NOOOOOOOOOOOO WUAAAAHHHHH (etc, etc).”

My eyes are wide open but my brian isn’t on yet. A Pavlovian response bounces me from the bed, and I run into the toddlers room expecting a scene of some discomfort and prepared for anything (best case scenario = a little bit of vomit and a dicky tum, worst case scenario, a limb twisted against it’s natural order/a dead animal in the room/ an attack bird dive-bombing the bed)…I burst across the threshold and see her, standing in her bed, screaming. My head whips around the room, eyes scouring the scene, and I see absolutely 100% nothing.

“What what what’s wrong?” I ask, “what’s the reason for this uproar?”

“MY LIGHTS, MY BUTTERFLY LIGHTS TURNED OFF AND ON AND THEY TURNED OFF AND, AND, WUUUAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!”

“They’re on now. Stop panicking, it might never happen…”

“Whh whhuu what?”

“IT’S ALRIGHT NOW HONEY, ALL’S RIGHT WITH THE WORLD, LIGHTS ARE ON AND WE’RE ALL AT HOME, SEE, EVERYTHING INTACT, ALL IN ONE PIECE…it was a POWER OUTAGE SWEETIE!”

“Why?”

“Oh I don’t know. These things happen. A momentary hiccup, maybe some kids tried to stab the transformer but likely it was a small burp in the system…”

“Why did the system burp and turn the lights out?”

It is too early for this. I am a disgrace in the morning and I need coffee before I can reasonably claim to be a homo sapien.

“Because it had indigestion, but don’t worry, it’s all gone now so let’s move on.”

“But why?”

“Because honey I am a grumpy man in the morning and if we don’t, I will get grumpier, so can we? Just? Move on? Please?”

“OK…”

And so we do just that, move on, and it’s all OK until a little while later, the toddler wants something from her Mum and doesn’t get it. Immediately she starts to whine and force tears from her eyes. Incessantly. An ongoing river of tears and an ongoing cacophony of whines and pleas. It is not a pretty sight or sound, and appears to calibrated to ensure maximum impact on the senses. Why can’t they understand that all it does in shove blood-pressure through the roof and increase parental voice-volume by about 100db? It’s frankly an absurd design-fault on the part of human engineering (everything else seems to work, including that baby smell which lulls you back into ‘ooh-ahh’ land just as sleep deprivation/your wife’s sleep deprivation threatens to render you a raging alcoholic) which only results in either extreme aggravation, capitulation or 2 weeks of hell as you stand your ground against any such behavior. I know my choice, but it comes down to having the right priorities I suppose, which I recently found out is a phrase that defies the majority of the teenage species. Wandering into Sunset Soccer Supply, I was met with this.

“Can we buy some new soccer boots, my old ones ($200 value) are falling apart.” A slight exaggeration. There is a tear in the lining and they do stink as he has worn them for 4 practices a week and games since December.

“I have to discuss with your mother.”

“Can’t you call her now and sort it out and get them now?”

“We only came in here for a pair of shorts.”

“So?”

“So there’s a PRINCIPLE in place here, i.e., I am not a cash cow. Wait and see, I’ll let you know!”

“Muurrrraauuugghhh humph!”

 

And later on came this.

“Can I get my hair done?”

“Sure. I’l give you $10 bucks for a box.”

“Can we just go to Supercuts and…”

“…pay $60? No. Go to bloody Walgreens and buy a box of the stuff and do it yourself you cheeky tart!”

“OK, can we do it soon because I want it ready for practice.”

“Ha ha, no! You’ll have to do it this evening!”

“Murrraahhhffffhumph!”

Later that night, old blondie wanders upstairs and into the main part of the house. To be fair, it looks pretty good.

“To be fair it looks pretty good mate.”

“Thanks. Oh, there are a few forms you need to sign for school.”

I take them. I look at them. And I see a school supplies list.

“Why am I just seeing this now?”

“Seeing what?”

“This school supplies list.”

“Uh?”

“THE SUPPLIES LIST ON THIS BLOODY FORM I’M SIGNING!!!!!!!”

“I only got it on Thursday or Friday.”

“But today’s Monday and we had Saturday and Sunday.”

“I guess I didn’t think about it.”

“Well you should be thinking about this stuff because it’s important you get this stuff right.”

“Well, its not my fault they gave it to me late.”

“But it’s your responsibility to know it’s there.”

“But I told you about it.”

“WHEN?”

“I left it on your computer.”

“But leaving a PIECE OF PAPER on my computer means you need to QUALIFY what it means. I am not a mind reader!”

“Well, I left it there and I told you about it earlier.”

“YES! EARLIER! HOW AM I MEANT TO KNOW WHAT PIECE OF PAPER PERTAINS TO WHICH TOPIC?”

“Uh, well, maybe by listening earlier…”

These are the moments when your mental checklist pops up, like a security blanket, to hopefully prevent a vocal decibel response of 126db. You remind yourself that he doesn’t go out and get hammered. That he doesn’t do drugs. That he doesn’t hang around with bad guys. That he doesn’t deal crack or smack. That he doesn’t stay out all night. That he isn’t shagging anything that moves. That he is polite most of the time. That he is talked of by friends and family as a good guy. That he is talked of by strangers who meet him for the first time as a really good fella.

And once you’ve run that list through, once you’ve vetted it for truth and it’s come through clean, you remember that you’re a little tired and a little grumpy anyway, that perhaps it’s best to choose the battles, and that there was a time when you yourself were (unbelievably) as short-sighted, un-prioritized and self-centered. You take a deep breath and explain the importance of responsibility in these areas and outline the reprisals that will come should there be a failure to digest those responsibilities (you’ll pull said-reprisal from somewhere between your hat and your arse).

And then, the next day, you’ll get a call during lunch from him. He’ll explain that he’s double-checked the specifics of everything he’ll need for his classes and would it be OK if we could go and get this stuff after soccer training. He’ll be polite, he’ll sound responsible and he’ll also tell you about some extra prep work for the SAT’s which is taking place on Saturday and that he feels he will need.

And you’ll realize that there will be many more ups and downs like this, but that if these are as ‘down’ as it gets, then your teenager is actually one big, fat ‘up’…and that will make you sigh, roll your eyes and smile very deeply.

Until the next skewed priority then…

 

p.s. I should mention that I did actually scream at him, and it topped out at about 128db. Trust me, he and his cheeky blond bloody head earned it!

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