Archive for September, 2010

I have, as the three eagle-eyed regular readers who’s attention I enjoy will attest, been alarmingly inconsistent with this column in recent months. That’s largely because suddenly things weren’t as trite or whimsical as they used to be; the metaphoric ‘heat’ in this father’s literal kitchen seemed to be getting turned up at a rate of knots (and before you start, sigh, YES, when writing stream-of-conscience, heat CAN be and IS turned up a rate of knots because it SOUNDS BETTER THAN SAYING ‘UP’) and as the teenager’s countdown to college got faster, well, you’ve been reading about it’s affect on this-here father. Sporadically I’ll grant you, but you have been catching the drift.

The weirdest thing has been that the kindergartener enjoyed a summer stuffed to the gills with camp activities at the almighty Steve & Kate’s, where she ran herself gleefully ragged every single day. And now she’s back in school, yes, she’s been pushing some buttons but they just seem…I don’t know…not as critically long-term as perhaps they once were? I don’t know. Maybe I just can’t be arsed to take them any more seriously than a gruff and grumble when she stretches the boundaries, because these past few weeks I’ve been dealing with a whole other level of family weirdness.

It’s not just that the teenager has gone. Truth be told, for us all it’s a relief. It’s more the way it happened as well as the way it continues sort of happening…

Teenager in sullen rudeness shocker might not appear to be the most original or unique headline in the world, and I’m sure that right now some of you (OK, two of you three!) are tut-tutting at my naivety. But I have to confess that I was shocked at the consistency of general ‘fuck-you-dom’ which has maintained itself with regards to attitudes and answers. Everything is a struggle in discussion, and furthermore, he is so high on his independence hog that I fear he’ll break his neck if he falls the 50ft it would be from top to bottom. Example. I tried to politely tell him he needs to grocery shop for the two weekend days his meal plan doesn’t kick in, something I’ve been suggesting for a few weeks.
“I know can I go to Costco?”
“Costco? No. Why? Are you feeding the campus?”
“No. I just want to get a few things.”
“Like what? 500 pita pockets?A palate of water?”
“Then what?”
“It’s alright, you don’t get what I need.”

Or this gem.
“I’m going to need to get some more boxers…”
“Why? We just got a bunch.”
“Well I’ve only got ten pairs and I only get to the laundry once a week.”
“TEN PAIRS? How many balls do you have? Two right? Good for one pair a day I’d imagine.”
“(sighing loudly) I shower twice a day because sometimes I go to the gym…”
And I haven’t een mentioned the new student necessity that is Red Bull Light…

Still, we engineer the time we can without wanting to dump all the advice and ask all the questions parents want to. And so I took the opportunity to drive and pick him up one Friday for a weekend back in the city. This gave me the opportunity to see his living quarters (pretty goddamn swish it must be said) and to invite myself for lunch on his meal-ticket (literally) at the food hall. ‘Whuddya want?’ he grunted at me, and having chosen a small burrito, he mumbled something about getting drinks around the corner.

I waited and surveyed the scene. There was American food, pizza and pasta, a huge salad bar, sushi (sushi? SUSHI? IN FUCKING COLLEGE?) make no mistake, this was not roughing it whatsoever. My mind scoped the area; youths wandering around in varying degrees of comotoseness, dopey-eyed sullen faced youths with trays of sushi and mexican food, a rather well-fed middle class Village Of The Damned if you will. I had a lot of time to survey it, as the college boy had disappeared. A quick scan due North spotted him at one o’clock talking to a few girls. I was about to get angry about being left like an aging pickle, before I realized this is exactly what the script called for, and furthermore, I should probably accept that I was lucky he had agreed to take me to lunch here in the first place. Positives man, think of the POSITIVES. And so I did. I mean, the food was great and the girls he was blowing me off for weren’t ugly…and I didn’t look totally out of place…

But as I looked around the zombiefest, I started to wonder what this college generation were going to bring to the table? With their creature comforts and easy schedules? I mean, on the surface I can’t imagine this lot standing up to the tyranny of, say, a George Bush. As long as there’s another plate of sushi to be had and Tully’s stays open, well, it would doubtless be OK bro.

The truth is, however, that I am older and they are younger, I behaved differently at their age and, well, my life was different. This lot are doing whatever it is they do and they’ll be just fine. I also realized that despite the damn fine lunch I had, my visits to this particular dining facility would need to be few and far between, because my visits to his living quarters and his college generally would need to be just as few and just as far between in order for everyone to breathe easy and walk tall.

Independance day had come and gone and somewhere my GPS had lost it’s location. All good. reboot and reload. But let me assure you, all of you who have kids that will make this passage…it ain’t easy to come to grips with. It ain’t easy to realize that no, you did not become a personna non grata overnight, that this is simply the passage of youth-to-man, and that even though they (we?) think they’re already young men, they’re not quite there yet.

Between friends, babysitting gigs (one for us!) and whatnot, we didn’t really hang out much. Spurs weren’t playing this weekend either, so that crunched the time further. Which was fine. Until I was asked if I could drive him back down to college on Sunday night.
“Er. No. You’re babysitting for Rich.”
“I know but he said he might be done around 9.”
“The answer is still no.”
“But why?”
“Because you have a job to do and I have a life to live. Get the train.”
“It doesn’t run otherwise I would.”
“Sorry about that.”
“So will you give me a ride? Please?”
” (sigh-grunt) Whatever!”
” ‘Whatever’ indeed…that, my friend, is the other side of independence, that what you want doesn’t always happen and you have to deal with it.”

Rich didn’t get in until just after 10 and he paid the college boy handsomely because that’s the kind of good guy he is.
“That was very cool of him,” the college boy smiled, “really cool.”
I smiled and made arrangements to cook salmon and scrambled eggs in the morning before his mum dropped him off and saw the set-up for herself.

p.s. A funny footnote story. The kindergartener and I were driving along, listening to a mix Lady Gaga’s ‘Disco Stick’. Now, as the K-girl gets older, her penchant for lyrics appears to get acutely stronger. So I should not have been surprised when she asked what a disco stick was.
“It’s like a magic party wand that can be waved all round a room to start a party!’ i conjured triumphantly, thinking I had easily navigated the pitfall.
“So how do you ride a disco stick then?”
I managed to cobble together some semi-convincing guff about it being a metaphor for riding the wave and fun spirit of the party. It worked this time. But already I can see the breakdown of her innocence on the horizon; it’s still a ways away I’ll grant you, but it’s nearer than I thought it would be too…

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