Archives for category: parenting teenagers

In the movie series Lethal Weapon, Danny Glover’s character, Roger Murtaugh always delivers the line “I’m too old for this (insert what you know he said here)…” with great aplomb whenever certain situations arise which only exist in Hollywood action flicks. Sometimes those situations revolve around one of his onscreen children who inevitable cause another uttering of that line. There have been a couple of times in the past couple of years when I find myself uttering a cleaned up version of that line and I think about my age in relation to my children’s ages.
Being the mom to twin toddlers requires energy that I do not always seem to possess yet which they always assume I have in spades. They love piggyback rides and the “upside down” game. That is the process by which I swing them upside down for a couple of seconds and then gently toss them on the couch. They always yell “My turn” or “More” if I do not do this fast enough. Another invented physical fun activity is “Firm Embrace.” If you were (or still are) a fan of the TV show “Mad About You,” you will remember Mel Brooks’ hilarious performance as Uncle Phil who always demanded a firm embrace from Paul and Jamie. This vignette was in my mind one day when Kath was little and we started the firm embrace game which has continued through all four children during toddlerhood. They lay on me and I roll them from side to side while chanting “Firm embrace, firm embrace, I need me a firm embrace.” As I am doing this to toddlers, they love it and do not mind the grammatical incorrectness. All of these physical fun times, however, seem to be causing me to feel my age a little more now than when Kath was little. The day following an intensive session of “upside down,” I feel the muscles in my shoulders and neck more prominently than the morning before. Still Cupckae and Chunk love this and I try to give it my best effort. When I’m a little too stiff, I take them to a neighborhood park to run around and get rid of some of that excess energy.
Nevertheless, I far prefer feeling a little stiff in the joints to another new feeling that I have started to experience lately: the feeling that I am way too young for certain life changes. No, I’m not talking about the M word; I’m writing about being the mother of a teenager and all that entails. Kath turned fourteen this year. Up to this point, boys had been “icky” and “gross.” That was absolutely fine with me. I could handle that; in fact, I loved it because it meant my daughter who is two inches taller than me was still my little girl. Then came a phone call a couple of weeks ago. My wonderful hubby had called me to ask to see if I had found his wallet in his car which I had borrowed to go to the library to write. I instantly run out to the car to search frantically for his wallet. I look under the seats, in the console, in nooks and crannies to no avail. I call home to ask him whether we need to start cancelling credit cards when Kath answers the phone and yells the immortal words, “I have a boyfriend.” Wait a minute. What happened to boys are “gross” and “yucky?” All of a sudden, she has a boyfriend? So goodbye to boys being disgusting and hello to the dating world. For the first two and a half weeks, I especially loved this new dating world. There was no going out on what I perceive as an actual date; instead, there were phone calls and an occasional Facebook message, but no coming to the door and taking to a restaurant or movie. All was going well until Labor Day when Kath asked if we wanted to meet her boyfriend. While I would have preferred to do my income taxes or run a marathon, I smiled and nodded. Ben (not his real name) came over to watch Back to the Future. Instead, MJ had strict orders not to leave their sides. MJ ingratiated himself well and taught him how to play a computer game. Instead of learning the value of 1.21 jigawatts, Ben had to endure MJ’s explanation of how to play Heroes of Might and Magic. Then came dinner. Spencer Tracy was not more surprised to have Sidney Poitier as a dinner guest than I was when Ben stayed to dinner that night. I am definitely too young for my daughter to be dating.
Sometimes I ask myself what is the happy medium. I feel old when I play roughhouse with Cupcake and Chunk but feel too young to have a daughter that is actually dating. Then I come to MJ who has discovered he likes watching movies with me. He loved Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, but he didn’t like The Pink Panther with David Niven and Peter Sellers as MJ has a definite sense of right and wrong and (spoiler alert) for Inspector Closeau to get framed for Sir Charles’ crimes is a little too hard for him to accept. As the Oreo cream filling between the cookies that are his twin siblings and his older sister, MJ bridges the gap for me between the three different age groups I have running around my house. Although there are days when I feel old and days when I feel too young for some parental activity, I smile knowing I’m in the right spot for right now. Then I reach for the ThermaCare patch and know I can make it another day.

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What was the last song to which you listened in your car? Music and cars seem to go hand in hand. I remember very well growing up excited at the thought of driving a car not to get from point A to point B but because the driver controlled the airwaves or cassette choice. I’ve watched cars’ stereo systems transition over the years from radio to cassette players to CD players to the present array of systems including satellite radio and iPod links. I’ve listened to all sorts of music in the car over the years. I started out listening to the music of whomever was driving the car. Thanks to this, I heard a variety of music. When my grandfather took me for long drives, I listened to big band music. When my dad controlled the wheel, Hotel California or a Clapton tune would inevitably hit the airwaves. My mother was fond of cassette compilations featuring Barbra Streisand and Roberta Flack. Inevitably my music tastes are rather eclectic. U2’s “A Beautiful Day” will follow Doris Day’s “Pillow Talk.” Muse will follow Louis Armstrong which, to me, is great.
I’ve been more lenient, however, about sharing the radio system in the car with my offspring. Before I had children, I daydreamed that I would expose them to all sorts of music, but I especially daydreamed that they would listen to sonatas and symphonies, Beethoven and Bach. I was excited at the thought of little minds being exposed to masters such as Mozart and Haydn. Just because I don’t listen to operas (with the exception of Carmina Burana) isn’t a reason for my children to not listen to Carmen and other classic operas. That daydream flew out the window faster than a drag car at a track. When Kath was little, my wonderful hubby and I listened to the Winnie the Pooh soundtrack over and over and over again. We also sang the lyrics to the Winnie the Pooh soundtrack over and over and over again. My daydream turned into a nightmare that Kath would be in high school and still only listening to the same cassette over and over and over.
Kath is now a teenager. The 14 year old Kath is quite a contrast to little 2 year old Kath. She actually has Vivaldi on her iPod touch and has listened to The Four Seasons. Alternative rock is her love and passion, however. She has confounded teachers who expect teenagers to only know the likes of One Direction and Justin Bieber. Her favorite artists are Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie. She was devastated last week when it was announced that Ben Gibbard was going to release a solo album. She likes to plug her iPod touch into the car’s system when I drive her places and it is just the two of us. My rule is I get to veto when it plays “I Will Follow You” by Death Cab for Cutie as that is one of the most depressing songs ever.
More often than not, it is not just the two of us as I am the mother of four. When MJ came along, I braced myself for another round of kid’s music on our car’s radio system. Children always do their best to surprise you. MJ has never really cared for kid’s music. With MJ, we were fortunate. When he was two, he heard Louis Armstrong. We now own a variety of wonderful Louis Armstrong CDs as he loved to listen to “It’s a Wonderful World” and “Hello Dolly.” Now he likes to listen to U2 and The Script.
So my musical tastes were appeased for a while and sanity ruled inside the car. I like alternative rock so I would happily turn on the alternative station and listen to U2, Train and Mumford and Sons in the car. Then came the twins, Cupcake and Chunk. Each child is different from one another and my little fraternal twins are no exception to that cliche. Cupcake presently loves a cassette of Bear in the Big Blue House music. Chunk likes a Veggie Tales CD. For a while, they would acquiesce and agree to listen to one and then the other. Then each would scream to listen to his or her favorite. Now one will scream for Bear and the other will scream to listen to “Mommy music.” Now it is Chunk who will let me listen to my radio station while Cupcake insists on Bear and Bear alone. Thanks to Kath, I know Cupcake will not be listening to Bear when she is in high school, but I do wonder what type of music they will both like. When we aren’t in the car, Cupcake dances to music coming out of my radio. She especially liked the Pretenders. This gives me a great deal of hope for her musical future and mine.

When I was pregnant with MJ, I watched Food Network quite a bit. Not only did I have lots of different food cravings, but I also craved watching the preparation and discussion of food. Kath quite enjoyed this part of my pregnancy with MJ (although she still reminds me of the good old days when she was an only child) and started watching Food Network Challenge. Together Kath and I would watch four chefs battle it out to build a perfect cake or dessert display. The chefs would work in perfect unison with their sous chefs to present a cake that may or may not topple over into oblivion. While I never understood why you make cake for a competition if you aren’t going to eat the said cake, I always watched in amazement at shows like Iron Chef or Down Home with the Neelys where chefs would work together to cook something appetizing as well as edible. One reason I watch in said wonder is that cooking with my different children is quite a different experience from any of these shows. Frankly, we will never be asked to appear on a Food Network television show.
My daughter Kath was so impressed with Food Network Challenge that for a little while, she wanted to be a pastry chef. I kept reminding her that with her food allergy to walnuts and pecans as well as food sensitivities to kiwi and pickles that another field may be a better fit. While she has moved onto other career ambitions which will be a subject for a future blog, she still likes the idea of cooking. Cooking just doesn’t like the idea of Kath. I was making some dessert and gave her the task of melting chocolate. She burned the chocolate. I didn’t know it was possible to burn chocolate before that, but she did. Once she tried to microwave popcorn. When she took the corn muffins out of the microwave (I had made corn muffins the night before and stored the leftovers in the microwave), she didn’t see that one had fallen out of the bowl. She burned the corn muffin when she made the microwave popcorn. The black charred remnants of the corn muffin went into the trash, but my wonderful hubby could still smell the aftereffects when he got home from work seven hours later. At age 14, she and her friends are starting to discuss colleges and careers. Her friends have sampled her cooking. They have told her if she rooms with them, she is in charge of anything but the cooking. I keep telling her she has to keep at it. After all, my dad still teases me about making a cheesecake that never set and was more like cheese soup. To her credit, she made snickerdoodles this week. She had to bring cookies to school. The teacher requested that the students bring in homemade desserts rather than storebought ones. Kath was the only one who brought in a homemade dessert. She brought it home as well. Cupcake and Chunk were ecstatic. They liked Kath’s cookies and were excited to get more. Truthfully, they were the best cookies she has ever made, but it is sort of a sad statement when kids go for the storebought food first rather than the food people made by hand.
Cupcake and Chunk are now noticing that they can help with cooking. Having twins help with food preparation is totally different from having my other children help. Kath is 14, MJ is 9 and Cupcake and Chunk are 2. Cupcake and Chunk love scrambled eggs whereas Kath and MJ do not. Yesterday while Kath and MJ were at school, I decided to make scrambled eggs. Sounds simple. What could go wrong? Cupcake has deemed herself mommy’s little helper. She has to turn off the TV for Mommy, close the door for Mommy, and help Mommy unload the dishwasher. Sounds great, but sometimes they both want to be Mommy’s helper. Cupcake was in the room while I cracked the eggs. She wanted to help whisk the eggs. She stood on the footstool. At age 2, she needed help to whisk, but she did not want Mommy’s help. I had to help or I would still be cleaning up egg. Then Chunk arrived and wanted to help. Cupcake yelled no. I then helped Cupcake whisk ten times and then helped her off the footstool, installed Chunk on the footstool and helped him whisk the eggs ten times. You couldn’t hear me count the ten turns of the whisk because Cupcake was howling exactly in the place where I had placed her to put Chunk on the footstool. Then I put her back on the footstool followed by ten turns of the whisk and ten seconds of Chunk cries and I reversed it to the same effect one more time. Cupcake and Chunk both want to help cook, but they want to be the only helper at the time. The joy of twins.
So if you’re keeping track, Kath tends to burn things, Cupcake and Chunk tend to negate each other as helpers, so where does that leave MJ? This past weekend, he made his favorite food with wonderful hubby’s help. His favorite food is lemon cream cheese pound cake. It came out perfect. The top was perfectly crisp around the edges, the inside was moist and melted in your mouth. It was the first thing he had wanted to make other than toast with peanut butter or peanut butter crackers or sliced apples with peanut butter or a peanut butter sandwich. I guess if Food Network wanted to make a show about the thousand and one uses for peanut butter, MJ would be the perfect host. Still all of us will keep cooking together with our unique flair. After all, you can wipe up spilled egg, remelt chocolate and buy peanut butter in bulk and except for the burnt chocolate you can still eat most culinary mistakes. I think.

In my previous post, I wrote that in a moment of weakness or four mouths all talking at once that I agreed to two things that should have required more thought on my part let alone the simple word no. I already detailed my 9 year old son’s slumber (or rather lack of slumber) party. So what promise did my 14 year old daughter extract from me?
It all started when she began eighth grade. She announced her 8th grade team would be going to a great Southern city made even more popular by Forrest Gump and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I went to the team meeting outlining student responsibilities and trip cost. I dozed during the part of the meeting that discussed chaperones. I have four children, including twin two year olds. There was no way I would be able to go so I ignored that part of the meeting.
I told my wonderful hubby about the meeting. Kath then chimed in that chaperone’s daughters received the right to pick out their roommates. Having zoned out during that part of the meeting, I nodded. Kath kept repeating how awesome it would be to be able to go on the field trip knowing that she was friends with her roommates. I kept on nodding as Cupcake and Chunk clamored to be picked up and MJ showed me his newest paper airplane.
Over the next week, Kath talked to my wonderful hubby about the trip. I continued to think I would stay at home because the trip was expensive and did I mention I have three other children, including twin two year olds? Wonderful hubby and I looked at our budget. We decided that we could use the amount we didn’t spend on our last vacation as the main payment for the trip. My Christmas gift from my in-laws as well as a good chunk of my weekly spending money went for the rest of the cost. After a background check and three “easy” payments, I was signed up to be a chaperone. Kath kept thanking me because now she would be able to choose her roommates.
The three day trip occurred in late April. My rear end has finally stopped vibrating from the bus ride. I calculated that I spent more time on the bus than I did in the hotel room. At first I worried about my other three children, but wonderful hubby prepared them well. The whole week before I left Cupcake and Chunk would go around the house repeating, “Mommy go out of town. We party.” When I called the house the first day, wonderful hubby told me he had a sneezing attack while he was watching Cupcake and Chunk take their bath and that Chunk replied, “It’s OK, Daddy. Mommy comes home on Friday.”
So there I was on a chartered bus along with forty girls, six other chaperones, two teachers and the tour guide. Let me preface the next part with the declaration that my four girls were wonderful on the trip: they were polite and well behaved. I started referring to them as “my girls” even though each one has her own unique personality and three of them have other parents.
I wish I had similarly wonderful things to say about the other thirty-six girls. Our group’s first stop was at a POW museum/National Park/Civil War cemetery in Andersonville, GA. It’s a very somber, eye awakening experience. Before this trip, I was a Justin Bieber virgin, meaning I had never heard a Justin Bieber song in its entirety. I want my former status back. A group of girls sang Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Taylor Swift songs at the top of their lungs. When we pulled into the National Park entrance, they didn’t hold back. They continued singing even when the tour guide stepped on the bus. It took her three attempts to quiet them down. Here we are at a National Park honoring fallen soldiers and POWs and this group is singing pop music.
Similarly after a riverboat cruise when we were headed back to our hotel room at 11:30 at night, these same girls once again sang so loudly I was crying from the headache they caused.
I had so much fun with my daughter and her friends that I dislike complaining about a group of spoiled girls who were inconsiderate of others. I enjoyed walking down River Street with them and enjoyed watching the four of them dance together on the riverboat. I loved seeing their reaction to the Atlantic Ocean and enjoyed eating with them at a picnic lunch. When we got home, my daughter thanked me for chaperoning so that she was able to room with her friends rather than the other girls, the ones that were singing when they weren’t sleeping or playing truth or dare. I’m reading between the lines to only hope that she enjoyed having me on the trip. Even with those singing girls, I would gladly be her chaperone again, but first and foremost, I’m glad I’m her mother and MJ’s mother and Cupcake’s mother and Chunk’s mother. I’m also glad Kath listens to Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie rather than Justin Bieber and Rihanna. But the important thing is that Kath is my daughter and I love her. That’s why I endured singing girls for her. I would do it again for her.