After hearing his sister’s menu for the evening:

“Why don’t you buy everyone’s meal tonight?” Teen Take-Out asks.
“I want to make mashed potatoes, chicken & corn.”
“Can I have a side of cereal?”
“No. You have to eat what I make,” she nyaahd at him.
Shut-Up, Sally” he muttered under his breath.

Oh yeah. He went there. And from the driver’s perspective (yes, we’re in the car!), not a wise choice of words.

“Did you just say, ‘Shut-Up’?”
“Yes.” (at least he’s honest)
“Well …. We don’t say that.” (In fact, at 44, I still have a hard time saying the words. I can almost feel my mother looking on in disapproval as they passed my lips.)
“What are you talking about? I’M 13!!!”

What is it with “I’m 13”?! Is there some secret “See & Say Whatever You Want” pass slipped to a kid on his 13th birthday? A Word/Movie/Experience-fairy who hides a “free-ride card” under the new teen’s pillow the morning after 12 hits the dust?

Needless to say, the disrespect coupled with sass won him a trip to the front yard to gather 20 of our new, un-invited, friends… nutgrass weeds. (Lucky for him the ground is damp. Those things can be a bear to get by the root.) Our yard is a breeding ground for the little saplings. Hundreds of them. A terrific job posting for willing workers and a great place for a wayward child to “think” about his/her actions.

Teen Take-Out begrudgingly pulls his weeds, still muttering that he had said nothing wrong, while the rest of our gang races out to the yard. Tom Thumb bags in hand, they speed to gather their plunder like they’re hitting the White House Easter Egg Roll. I accidentally uttered a compensation offer of 25 cents per weed. Ooops. That was instantly rescinded and replaced with a price/bag.

Within about 5 minutes my phone rang with a friendly child labor check.
“How much are you paying them?” asked my friend Katy calling from her car. She spotted my work crew as she drove her kids home from school.
“I’m busted,” I admit. She’s got our number over here.
“I’ve got a yard full myself. Send them my way.”

They each filled one bag … Slow Walker three. He may be stubborn, but the kid can work!

If only I could pull the teen weeds as easily as the seedlings in our yard. How I’d love to get my hands on those uninvited guests. You know the ones. Eye rolls, insecurity, it’s all about me’s, bad attitudes, apathy … and yank them out by the root. Clean house so other, much more beneficial, attributes can grow.

The truth is, as moms of teen/tweens, we’ll have to cultivate the wheat in the midst of the weeds and hope that, in the end, the harvest will be plentiful. I can’t ignore them, though. So, instead of Roundup, I can spray the fertile ground with a nice dose of responsibility. Hard work wards off those prolific apathy dandelions even more effectively than Ortho Weed-B-Gone. I guess, too, I need to be aggressive. Grab them right when I see them (don’t wait), making sure I get the entire root.

Is he old enough to say certain questionable phrases? He thinks I’m treating him like a baby when I jump on those things. I point out, though, that the adults he respects in his life don’t use those words. Whether he admits it or not, he likes that. I’m convinced he craves those dark black lines drawn as boundaries as much as he did as a toddler.

Truth be told, I do too.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

Ironing Board Tip on teen $ management.
Checking account opened at 13–we put money in and they managed it however they liked. This stopped asking for money and stopped us looking over their shoulders all the time at what they spent it on. We decided an amount–and from that they were to buy clothes, spending money, lunch, etc.

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