Even though we are activity minimalists, one cannot avoid the car when parenting five children. And the truth is… most conversations (at least with a teen) only occur in small, inescapable spaces. This could hurt my feelings (yes, I might take it personally) had a neighbor not shared with me the little fact of life a few years ago … when I was too pre/elementary-school-engulfed to have understood.
“Yeah, Keaton has entered the creepy teenager years,” my neighbor told me as we sat on my porch watching my little ones fly up and down the block. (I LOVE having coffee with neighbors – something that has taken a back seat now that my kids aren’t front yard flying anymore)
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh, it happens…. The day comes when a kid goes in his room and closes the door. They come out for meals (sometimes) and basically grunt instead of talk.”
“It’s just a fact of life… That’s boys. … Now the teen girl talks, but usually about how mistreated she is, how mean you are, how unfair life is – that kind of thing. She also wants to buy everything in site… and attend every function… with the “right” crowd. It can wear you out.”
“That sounds horrible.”
“Oh… it doesn’t last forever. I’ve been expecting it. The kid will check out for a few years, but he’ll come back. They always come back. The key is – don’t take it personally.”
I’ve never forgotten her “Creepy Teenager” revelation. Her son was terrific. But he really did check out for a while. He was always polite to us. But for a few years I watched him grunt around, sort of snarling as if the world was annoying him. Then… just as she said… he came back. Since my neighbor had two significantly older kids (Keaton was a bit of a bonus – like FHA), she knew what to expect…. and let it flow.
I thought I would be thankful for her wise words one day. And here I sit.
Thankful – knowing it’s normal.
That’s why most conversations with my kids occur in the car. They can’t escape me!
Driving Teen Take-Out to the movies
“Hey, look at that.” I point to the digital reading that informs passengers how many miles until we run out of gas (key for the Wymas), miles per gallon, temperature, etc. For some reason it had changed from fahrenheit to celsius and miles to kilometers. Since to old to have learned metric conversions in school, I was at a loss, wanting my readings back to normal for the metrically-challenged.
“Did you do that?!” I ever-so slightly (okay full-out) accuse him.
“Did you change it to celsius?”
“That!” I emphatically point, “The numbers … Did you do that?!”
ughhh… Whatever. … “Can you fix it?”
At this point, I decide to capitalize on the equipping opportunity and introduce him to an “Owner’s Manual”.
“Well, open the glove box and get out the big book. It explains pretty much everything about your car.”
“Just get the book. You can figure out how to get the numbers back to normal.”
“That’s okay.” – which means “no thank you.”
“Seriously. Open the glove box and get the Owner’s Manual!”
He wasn’t moving. So I decided to employ a strategy that has worked so well in the past. Reverse Psychology.
“Well… I guess that means you CAN’T do it.”
“Apparently you CAN”T do it.” I float, laughing to myself… relishing the moment when he will jump on it and “show me”.
“Okay … I guess I can’t.”
“Well, you said it. … I “can’t” do it. … Guess someone else will have to do it,” he smirks, snuggling into the passenger seat content to do absolutely nothing.
Note to self: the old reverse psychology strategy doesn’t work too well with Creepy Teenagers. Thank goodness it still flies with an 8-year-old.
After a few minutes of silence (since I had not response), TTO looks at me, sighs/rolls his eyes and reaches up to punch the “E/M” button sitting right above the readings. Low and behold, the reading changed back to fahrenheit. Apparently he knew all along how to fix the darn thing.
I’m easy pickin’ for the kid … biting every time.
He makes me laugh.
Thanks for walking the road with me.