We share the Thanksgiving holiday with the entire Wills family. This year has been no different. Except for one major thing… we’re missing a few family members. Our patriarch, my dad, needed a knee replacement just a few short weeks ago. Needless to say, navigating the airport and airplane aisles was not on his top ten list of ways to celebrate Turkey Day. So they stayed home.

When my sister and her husband heard that Mom and Dad weren’t coming, they opted for a more “quiet” holiday. Rather than sharing a house with 21 people, 15 under the age of 17, they opted to carve a bird at their lovely Arlington, Virginia home. Alone. In peace and quiet. Sans chaos.

We aren’t taking it personally.

Within our group of 17 kids, we have several teens. Suffice it to say, they have been a blast to be with. They’ve also been true to form. For the last week, we’ve been living with 5 teens. Close quarters has helped reveal something I think can only be called “Teen Strategery.”

What might that be? Here are few of the strategery tactics:

1) Never ask before doing something. Apologize after. (Hmmmm… I might have been known to have employed this strategy at different points in my own adult life. Let’s just say, by the time you hit 30 you have a bit more wisdom as to the when and the where to employ this approach — not a strength of our budding strategists.)

No need to go into specifics.

Little do they know that we know.
2) Always be aware of laundry status, careful to be sure that you have exited the premises (even if hiding in your room) at the time the dryer buzzes in order to avoid the tasks of folding and putting away any clean items. You can also try your hand at the oh, so taxing task of putting the wash “in” the machine so you can push the folding function to another sibling or cousin.
3) Ask and ask and ask and ask and ask … until the answer is exactly for which you were fishing.

“Mom, can I have a Coke?”


“Just this once… I won’t ask again.”

“No. They cost $2.”

“I haven’t had one in sooooo long.”

“No.” … “And you had one yesterday.”

“One coke?”


“Oh… pleeeeeezzz. 1 measly coke?”

“NO … and stop asking.”

“one coke??”

“I heard you.”

(pause… position change)

“Aunt Paula… Can I have a coke?”


4)  When cornered in the midst of an offense, blame any younger sibling (cousin, whoever) as long as the blamee is clearly outside of earshot. When said offender is rebuked by governerning parent, and appropriately denies said offense, make sure you’ve left the scene… preferably with a different body to take the fall for your blaming.

Parent walks into room.

“Hey … Who did “Offense A”?

“Not me,” innocently replies Cart Boy.

“Well, who did it?!”

“Innocent Bystander.”

Parent leaves room and missile seeks Innocent Bystander.”

“Why would you commit Offense A?!!”


“Don’t act innocent. I know you did it!”

“No… I didn’t!”

“Well… because you did… you can’t blah, blah blah for the rest of the day.”

Innocent Bystander schlurks away.

Indignant, he heads to the scene of the crime.

Cart Boy is no where to be found.

Innocent Bystander spews frustration at Teen Take Out.
“Cart Boy blamed me for Offense A.”
“I know. That’s not really fair.” replies TTO
“No, it’s not fair. And by the way, I heard you blame me earlier.”
“Oh,” mumbles TTO.
“Not cool, TTO. Not Cool!”
pan class=”Apple-style-span” style=”color: #274e13;”>

Come to find out, no one had committed Offense A. 
The article in question was like that when we got here.  
5)  If there’s something you really want… be sure to act on any opportunity to help. For example, if the car arrives back to the house full of groceries, leap up and volunteer to bring the groceries into the house. Even better… unload them. Then, wait for about thirty minutes and go in for the ask. You’re sure to get a positive reaction after your selfless act of kindness and hard work.
6)  If you’d like something (especially an item normally denied) only ask when you know the person you’re asking is otherwise occupied.

Ring. Ring.

“Hello.” huff…huff…puff


“Yes. What (huff… gasp..) can I do for you?”

“Did y’all leave us?”


“Uhhh. (huff…puff..huff). Maybe. 

(We did, in fact, forget that two of them had been tooling around on the tennis court.)

But they’ll be right back to grab you.”

“What are you doing?!” inquires the teen.

“I (huff … puff.. huff..) -“

“Are you on that bike?!”

“Yes.” I reply, wondering why in the world I agreed to ride a bike two miles uphill back to the house in the freezing rain while a nice fine car was headed the same direction. So, it wasn’t raining when we started, but we knew..

“Okay. Bye.” he quickly retorts.

1 minute later.

Ring. Ring.

“Hello?” huff … puff… huff.. 

“Can I have a Coke?”

“What?!! (huff… huff.. gasp..)

“Just one Coke.”

“Stop with the Cokes!”

“Oh… come, on… just one – “

“FINE!!! Get the Coke. Just quit asking!”

(huff…gasp.. huff)

“Okay, thanks! Have fun on your ride.” sings the victorious teen.

7)  NEVER throw a fellow teen under the bus. No matter how heated the Jack Bauer questioning… stick to the standard, “I don’t know.” … even if you do know.

“Who left their food there?!” Mom tired of cleaning up after everyone inquires.

“I don’t know.”

“And that drink! Whose is it?!”

“Don’t know.”

“Well, it sure is close to YOU!”

“Still don’t know.”

“I think it’s yours’. Clean it up.”

“Nope. Not mine.”

“Then whose is it?!!!”

“Uhhh… Let’s see… ummmm. No, I don’t know.”

Mom grabs the drink and plate in disgust and carries it to the sink.

(Oh, that wasn’t a teen pulling that strategy, that was my 48-year-old brother. Hmmmm… does a teen ever grow out of Teen Strategery?  Apparently not.  Ooohhhh…. and is it a coincidence that most of these approaches stem from guys?!!!  I think not!)

Teen Strategery. It keeps you on your toes. Nothing like living in the petrie dish with a few teens to get a good birds’-eye view of the schnookers and their sneaky little tactics. It seems like it was yesterday when my siblings and I were pulling the same things on our folks.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

Cart-Boy says to give a “Hey” shout out to the MOAT fans and readers. (click here for Cart Boy’s contribution: “J is for June … and Jobs“) The kid cracks me up.

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