Selective Idiocy

The serial nature of the teenage mind never ceases to amaze me.

Sunday morning, as we prepped for church, I found my son sitting on his bed wearing shorts but no shirt or shoes and watching videos on his phone.

“Why don’t you put a shirt on?” I asked.

“It’s in the dryer.”

“Okay, well we need to leave in 15 minutes or daddy will be late to choir.”

“Okay.”

Fast forward 15 minutes.

“Come on! We need to go!” I called out.

“My shirt is still in the dryer. It has another minute on it.”

“It’ll be fine. It’s close enough. Go ahead and put it on. Let’s go.”

“But I still need to put my shoes on and brush my teeth.”

“And why didn’t you do that while you were waiting on your shirt?”

*Shrug*   (Seriously, no words. Just a shrug.)

It’s like his brain went: Must get dressed. Underwear on. Shorts on. Shirt wrinkled. Put in dryer. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….

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Like it absolutely couldn’t proceed to any other step until the shirt was on. Even though they aren’t sequential steps. There’s absolutely no tooth-brushing dependency on wearing a shirt.

Encore performance – later that afternoon. He came into the house claiming to be done mowing and weed-eating. I dragged him back outside to point out all the places that I knew had not been touched. (He’s yet to get all the grass cut in a given outing. Or in two or three redo’s for that matter.)

Among other things, I pointed out the basketball goal.

“I weed-eated that,” he said.

“Where?” I asked, staring at the taller-than-the-other-grass-around it blades surrounding all four sides of the goal’s base.

“There,” he said, vaguely pointing in a circular motion around the base.

Exasperated, I retrieved the weed-eater and in my shorts and sandals, demonstrated a proper, albeit slightly unsafe, weed-eating job. “That’s how it is supposed to look,” I said.

He just stood there with the mad-at-the-world-you-are-so-incredibly-mean-and-unfair teenager look he has perfected in recent months.

Since the weed-eater ran out of gas as I finished, I told him to get it filled up while I moved the cars off the grass so he could mow. After an attempt to open the tricky gas cap failed, he moved to sit on a bench and wait it out.

“Go get your dad to help you fill it back up with gas,” I said.

As I finished moving the first vehicle, I saw him sitting on the bench.

“Where’s your dad?”

“I’m going to mow first.”

“Seriously, Daryl! Don’t just sit there. You can still get him to help you fill up the weed-eater while you wait for me to move the cars. Otherwise, it will all take longer because you’ll have to go get him after you mow instead of doing it now while you are waiting anyway.”

He went back in the house in a huff.

I think I’ll call this condition Selective Idiocy. When a capable person knows they must complete an undesirable task yet deliberately engages in steps to draw it out as long as possible, as if they are too dense to put together the most efficient way to complete the task. Add that to the general teenage conditions of moodiness and disconnect from the world around him, and you have the perfect recipe for Parental Frustration Overload.

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Hello? It’s me. You know, your mom?

This is what I typically see when I look at my conversation history with my 13 year old son. Sometimes it feels really lonely. Like I’m talking to myself. I know he has a phone because his nose is in it much of the time we are together. So what happens to it while we are apart? Strange, I tell ya. Maybe I should ask him about it…

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Whistle While You Work

I’ve been really proud of my youngest child. He’s mastered a tremendous skill that I have never, ever been able to figure out.

He can whistle.

Don’t laugh. I’m truly very impressed.

My whole family can whistle except me. So why am I proud of him and not the others? Because they were born able to whistle. My husband was carrying a tune before we met. I can’t remember a time when Jane or Daryl couldn’t whistle.

They’ve always been able to and they’ve always been amused by my inability. I’ve tried over the years. Unless it happens accidentally while blowing air to cool off my soup or while saying something that starts with an S, it’s just air passing through my lips.

Hal was in the same boat this time last year. He spent the first part of his eighth year of life trying to whistle and sounding just like his mother. I felt a camaraderie with him on this front. Someone to stand next to me when the whistle abuse rained down. We were a team. We were united.

But Hal didn’t want to be on the Bad News Bears of whistling. I think he wanted to whistle more than his siblings ever did. Of course, they didn’t appreciate it because it has always come naturally. He tried and tried day and night. And he never gave up.

And one day…

One day, he whistled. One short brief note. And then he shrieked in delight. And kept working at it.

…air…air…air…whistle…YES!…air…air…air…air…air…whistle…YES!….air…air…air…whistle…air…air…whistle…whistle…air…air…whistle…air…whistle…air…whistle…whistle…whistle

Eventually, he could reliably whistle a note at will. Only one note and only of a short duration, but every time. And that’s when I got some revenge on the natural whistlers.

Because Hal, he loved his new-found skill. He whistled constantly, just a short toot-toot-toot stream. No melody, no variation, non-stop. And. it. drove. them. nuts.

He whistled in bed. He whistled at the dinner table. He whistled outside. He whistled in the car.

That last one is what really got to them and we soon had to declare the car interior a no-whistling zone. We had to restate the declaration every time we got in the car and usually multiple times on a typical in-town trip.

All the hard work and persistence paid off. Now, Hal can whistle multiple notes and carry a bit of a tune. He no longer feels the need to whistle during every waking moment as if he might forget how if he doesn’t keep practicing. In fact, I don’t hear it that much anymore.

But when I do hear it as he skips by me with his head in the clouds, I smile. A huge smile spreads across my face and an even larger one across my heart. He wanted it, he weathered ridicule, he practiced and practiced, and he overcame.

And now, my husband lovingly calls me Whistler’s Mother and I’m ok with that.

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This is an actual picture of me writing my blog. Ok, not really. Picture found on Pinterest and I couldn’t clearly determine copyright. If it’s yours and you want me to take it down, please let me know and I will. 

Daryl, (Never) On His Own

Daryl recently attended a summer camp out of state with a friend. His dad told him to be sure to send us a picture every day.

By the end of the first day, there was no picture. No surprise.

“Where is today’s picture?” I asked in a text. “How was it?”

He responded the next day with this:

That was it. No text, no nothing. What a punk. I said as much in the conversation that ensued.

(My husband responded first. I was calling my son a punk, not my spouse.)

That was Day 2 and the entirety of the conversation. Notice he left me hanging.

Day 3 brought more silence and no picture. I gave up. You honestly shouldn’t expect much out of a thirteen year old boy.

And then, nearly 48 hours after I asked my questions, he responded, “Yeah, it was cold and sometimes scary.”

Then… then… he sent a picture! Unprompted! And it wasn’t of his feet in socks he’d probably been wearing for several days. It was an honest-to-goodness quality picture of a creek surrounded by trees from a hike he had gone on.

He topped it off by carrying on a conversation with his dad about the hike and what he had purchased as gifts for his siblings. When his dad told him he loved him, Daryl responded, “I love you too.” And that’s when I knew.

The boy was ready to come home.

He’s typically an aloof child and not very expressive of his emotions. But one of the best things about him going on a trip like this is the quality of hug I get when he returns.

He actually hugs back instead of waiting patiently for me to finish and he’ll stay in the hug as long as I want. For minutes even. I sometimes wonder if he’s just being tolerant of his mother. My husband is pretty sure that he does it because he needs the hugs too. Which makes me all sorts of warm and happy inside.

Dressing for the Dance

Daryl’s middle school has an end-of-year dance. A couple of days before the dance this year, he asked a girl at school to be his girlfriend. And then he asked her to the dance. The night before the dance, Daryl was rummaging through his clothing, looking for something to wear.

“Do you know where my Easter clothes are?” he asked me.

“I thought you hated your Easter clothes.”

“I do, but it’s a Hawaiian themed dance and we are supposed to wear Hawaiian shirts or bright colored clothes.”

His Easter clothes certainly would fit the bill. He didn’t want to go with me when I shopped for Easter clothing, telling me instead to “just pick something out for me. I don’t care.”

He cared once I got home. I had purchased a pair of bright turquoise blue shorts on clearance and a sorta-bright pastel yellow shirt. He was horrified! But now? Now he was looking for those hideous clothes. But they weren’t even the best choice he had.

“You should wear your Hawaiian shirt,” I said, pulling a dark blue and white flowered shirt out of his closet. A much more sartorially accomplished friend of Jane’s had handed it down to Daryl a couple of years earlier and Daryl had never worn it.

“I’m not wearing that.” He said it in his serious, no-nonsense voice, which I groaned at and then ignored.

“Seriously, Daryl, that shirt is perfect. It’s a Hawaiian dance and this is a Hawaiian shirt. It doesn’t get any better than that. Here, try it on.” I slipped it off the hanger and handed it to him.

He tried it on. I could tell it was right on the edge of being too small for him but he looked good and I said so. He headed to our bathroom to check it out and I followed. As soon as he could see himself in the mirror, he wrinkled up his nose in disgust and said, “No way!”

“Oh, come on!” I tried. But, no, the Hawaiian shirt would not be worn. He found his Easter clothes soon thereafter and tried to get me to iron them. I pointed out that the Hawaiian shirt didn’t need to be ironed. He pleaded. I told him I was exhausted (I was) and that he could iron them himself. He said he didn’t know how. I said it was a good time to learn. He didn’t iron them but also didn’t switch to the Hawaiian shirt.

The next day, on the drive home from work, I thought about the clothes that still needed to be ironed. Since I was in the car with the bluetooth connection to my phone, I called.

“Get the ironing board and iron out so we can iron those clothes as soon as I get home,” I said.

“Oh, I don’t need to. I took care of it.”

“Really?” I asked in shock. “You ironed your clothes?” He must really like this girl, I thought to myself.

“No,” he said, “I’m not wearing those.” And this is where it got really good. I mean, really, really good.

“I’m wearing the Hawaiian shirt.”

My eyes went as big as saucers.

“Sally wants to match and she’s wearing blue so I’m going to wear that.”

A belly laugh began to work its way up to my throat. I forcefully shoved it back down and in the most neutral voice I could muster, said, “That’s wonderful dear. I’m glad you worked it out. I love you.” At this point, I was in severe danger of making it obvious I was laughing at the situation. “Good-bye,” I said, reaching quickly for the little red “hang up” button on my console.

And then I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. Tears rolled down my face. Mom couldn’t have threatened or rewarded him enough to get him to walk among his peers in that shirt. But a pretty young girl just had to say she wanted to match.

The hilarity continued when I got home and a hyper thirteen year old boy showed me how he had shaved. He fixed his hair (again and then again). He brushed his teeth. He took the toothpaste with him to freshen up after dinner. He checked his hair in the car’s mirror. In short, he acted like a completely different boy than I had been living with all this time.

When Parenthood is Like Solving a Mystery

One day, shortly after Daryl had allegedly mowed the yard, I noticed a large patch of uncut grass about 8 feet by 20 ringed completely by a strip that had been cut.

“Daryl,” I asked, “why didn’t you mow this?”

“I’m going to cut it with the weed-eater,” he said, a response that I found patently absurd.

I said as much. “That doesn’t make sense. It’d have taken you 1 minute tops to cut it with the lawn mower. It’ll take considerably longer than that with the weed-eater.”

“Not really,” he said in that droning teenager voice, this being the response I get every time I say something he disagrees with but won’t give reasons to support his position.

“Yes really,” I said. “Besides that, the weed-eater won’t cut it evenly. It won’t look as good. Always cut as much as you can with the lawn mower.”

“OK” – same monotonous drone.

“Did you see that patch of grass Daryl didn’t mow?” I asked my husband next time I saw him.

“I did,” he said. “I told him he should have mowed it.”

There wasn’t much we could do about it though because the lawnmower had returned to our friend’s house. Rats had chewed through our wiring harness so in a desperate pinch, we hauled hers out to our house.

About a week later, that friend was sitting at our dining room table.

“Did Daryl run over some telephone wire or something when he was mowing?” she asked.

My shoulders sagged as the pieces started to fall into place. “He didn’t say anything,” I said cautiously. “Why?”

“Well, we couldn’t get the blades to spin and when we got to looking under it, there was this telephone wire wrapped tight around the blades. I don’t see how he could have mowed with it like that.”

My husband and I stared at each other silently for an extended second or two before simultaneously calling out in a stern tone, “DARYL?!”

“What?” he asked as he sulked into the room.

“Did you run over something with the lawn mower?” I asked, now understanding why he had inexplicably stopped mowing before finishing a section he had obviously started.

“No.”

“Really? You just stopped mowing even though the mower was just fine.”

“Well, it started smoking…”

“It started smoking and you didn’t say anything to us?!”

“Well!” His tone got defensive. “I thought it was just out of gas.”

“Seriously, Daryl,” my husband said, “you are smarter than that. It doesn’t smoke when it runs out of gas. And you are supposed to tell us when it runs out of gas anyway.”

“This wasn’t our lawnmower, Daryl! We were borrowing it and you knew that! You have to tell us when something like this happens, especially if it isn’t ours.”

“Sorry…”

This scene played out again a few days later when we discovered that his recent abysmal weed-eating performance was due to there not being any thread in the weed-eater. Rather than telling us as much when we got home and questioned his completion of the task, he just kept repeating that he had weed-eated. Even though every tree and fence post and porch or sidewalk edge had tufts of grass surrounding them. Every. Single. One. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when we set him to weed-eating again, that the truth was uncovered.

Seriously. I don’t know how they expect to get away with this stuff.

When They Are Them Instead of You

Much of parenthood is spent seeing yourself or your spouse in your children. There is something satisfying (or sometimes terrifying) about recognizing your idiosyncrasies in your progeny.

Well, of course they loves to read. We love to read. We’ve led by example and promoted a love of books their whole life.

The boy can’t find things to save his life! It’s like he’s blind. So much like his dad.

She’d argue with a brick wall. She gets that from you!

We often analyze our children and their behaviors by dissecting which aspects come from which one of us and what that means.

“Well, she’s driven to perfection like you are but then she’s got a healthy dose of me in her so she doesn’t quite apply herself as doggedly as you always did,” my husband once said of our daughter.

But sometimes – and these are the most fascinating and rewarding moments – sometimes they are all them. It’s one thing to do something with your child that you love too, indeed something that they probably love because you loved it first and instilled the same love in them. It’s a completely different thing to engage with your child in a love that was born and fostered completely within them.

I wonder sometimes if every parent gets to experience this or not. I did recently and I just sat there in awe as my 16 year old daughter did her thing. And what was this thing?

Makeup.

You might be rolling your eyes right now, but this isn’t trivial.

I basically don’t wear makeup. I haven’t worn foundation since I was a pimply teenager desperately trying to cover up my flaws. I wear mascara and a touch of blush. No eye shadow, no eye liner. I don’t pencil my eyebrows or really make any kind of effort at all. And I’m perfectly happy.

I never taught her anything concerning makeup. And truthfully, she often goes days without it as well. She doesn’t find it necessary. She just enjoys it – like makeup artist kind of enjoyment.

She follows various makeup artists on social media, reads articles, watches technique videos, and has stockpiled quite the collection of supplies, including many things I didn’t know existed. One evening, she looked at a dark blue eye shadow she had and – just for fun, she wasn’t going anywhere – turned her face into a credible impersonation of Mystique from X-Men. Just to see how it’d go.

She’s not afraid to try something. Just to see what happens. I was never like that. I had to know how it would go first. I know she gets this willingness to experiment from her dad, but the makeup interest – that’s all her. And it’s wonderful.

My husband recently planned a date night for us. As I got out of the shower, I thought of my daughter and her makeup. “Will you do my makeup for me?” I asked.

Her face lit up. “You want me to do your makeup?”

“Yes, I think that’d be fun.”

She soon took over my bathroom with more makeup than I’ve ever owned in my life. And she started talking about the various items and techniques she could use. She talked about something she could use instead of foundation that would fill the pores and give a smoother look without the heaviness of foundation.

She asked my preference on a couple of different highlighters that had different degrees of sparkle to them. When I looked at her blankly, she rubbed her finger in each and then smeared a streak on her inner forearm to demonstrate how they’d look. She talked about why she liked certain ones better than others and when was a good time for each.

She asked if there was anything I wanted covered up. (The dark bags under my old eyes please…). She talked about contour and highlight and what they do and where they go. Talked about sponges versus brushes. She gave me a double-ended mascara stick and explained that I was to brush the white stuff on first – which would elongate and separate my lashes, and then I could use the black end to cover the white. She explained why she was going to skip eyeliner. She filled in the thin parts of my eyebrows as we laughed about the change.

The whole time she talked and worked, I sat there and took it all in. This was not me. This was not her dad. This was her. All her. 100% her. And it was beautiful. Glorious. She found this, she loved this, she learned it and excels in it.

It didn’t matter one bit that I have no interest in makeup. That it will likely be years – if ever – before I sit again for 20 minutes while I or someone else does my makeup. I didn’t have to love it. She loved it and I loved that she loved it. I enjoyed it because I was spending time with my daughter in her element.

I truly can’t describe the incredible feeling that welled up inside me that evening. If you’ve never experienced the wonder that’s tinged with a bit of “where did this love come from?”, then I fear you’ve missed out on one of the best parts of parenthood.