Teenagers Are Like Two Year Olds

This is what my husband says when I complain.  Teenagers are like two year olds.  When my children were two, I didn’t complain about their irrational, illogical, self-centered, pouty ways.  I just accepted it as part of the stage.  Well, ok.  I complained, but not because I expected them to behave differently.  Maybe if I view my teenager as a two year old, I can do the same now.

The thing is, they look so much like grown-ups.  They are capable of so many things like complex speech, reading, self grooming (most of the time), lawn care.  It really seems like they should be capable of logical deduction and basic analysis of situations.  But they aren’t.  Some examples are in order.

This morning, Jane was angry.  She was angry because her dad wouldn’t buy her Blow Pops for her campaign for National Junior Honor Society Secretary.  He wouldn’t buy them for her because she didn’t have a plan.  She just wanted to hand them out.  He said she should have “Vote for Jane” signs on them or something.

After discussing with me, he decided to offer to buy the Blow Pops if she’d pay for half.  She was still angry.  Because he had told her (her words) that “giving the Blow Pops without a sign advertising was stupid.”  I stopped her and pointed out that she now had the opportunity to get what she wanted.  She was too busy moping.

When I pressed, she pointed out that she’d been asking for the Blow Pops for several days and she could have put tags on them if she had gotten them then.  I asked why she had never mentioned putting signs on them.  “Last night,” I said, “Why didn’t you say, ‘Hey, I need those Blow Pops for tomorrow. Look, I’ve made these signs and I want to attach them.  Can mom pick up the suckers on the way home from her meeting?’  But you didn’t do that.  You waited to ask for them again this morning.”

“Because I didn’t think about it then.”

And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of the problem with the teenage brain.  Well, one of them.  They expect so much more out of you than they ever hold themselves accountable for.  It’s her suckers.  We really don’t give a flip if she has them or not.  So whose responsibility should it be to make sure they get purchased?  See, I would think it’s hers.  But she thinks it’s ours.  Because she told us about it and that makes it ours.  She gets to offload it from her brain to ours, as if we don’t already have plenty of things that are important to us taking up space there.

A similar thing happened with the purchase of eggs for her science project.  One Wednesday evening, she declared the need for eggs to test her protect-the-egg-from-breaking-when-dropped-from-a-great-height device.  So Daddy brought home some eggs.  Saturday night, she had a friend spend the night.  Sunday morning, with six people in the house, one of them a guest, Daddy thought it’d be a good idea to fix some breakfast.  The eggs were still there and were the only eggs in the house.  So he cooked them.

Monday morning, Jane got out a pan to fix herself some breakfast before heading out to volunteer for four hours at the elementary school (no school that day).  That’s when she discovered that *her* eggs were gone.  She was enraged.  Those eggs were hers.  They were for her science project and we had no business cooking them.  Never mind that we cooked them so her guest could have breakfast.  Never mind that she had acquired them over four days earlier yet not conducted her experiments.  Never mind that she herself was about to cook them.  Never mind that we had four hours to get more eggs before she could do anything with them.  They were hers and we were out of line.

About five hours later, we were returning home and were almost there when she asked about eggs.  She then got saucy and rude when she found out we had forgotten to purchase the eggs.

“You and Daddy drove right past the store after he picked you up.  Why didn’t you ask if he had purchased the eggs then?”

“Because I didn’t think about it then.”

Again, we were expected to remember her business more fully and completely than she was.  We were, again, in the wrong while she shared no culpability in the non-possession of eggs.  And she needn’t come up with a solution to her problem – like, stopping at the convenience store around the corner from our house, which was what I suggested.

The selfishness of teenagers truly has no bounds.  That particular weekend that her friend spent the night, her brothers had been making plans to sleep on the couches in the living room Saturday night.  They were pumped about it in a way that only makes sense if you are under 12 years old.

And then Jane, who was celebrating her birthday with friends, asked for a sleepover.  I agreed and then suggested to the boys that since they didn’t have school on Monday, they could sleep in the living room Sunday night.  They weren’t happy about it but reluctantly agreed.  Jane and her friend stayed up late into the night watching a half dozen episodes of How I Met Your Mother in the living room.

Sunday night, on the way home from visiting friends, Jane asked if she could watch an episode.  Daryl immediately piped up that she couldn’t because they had the living room.  I confirmed that he was right.

“So I don’t get to watch an episode,” she said, with so much scorn and disgust dripping from her voice that I’m surprised it didn’t stain her clothes.

“That’s right.  They didn’t get to do what they had planned last night so they get to tonight.”

“Can’t they wait in their room while I watch an episode and then they can go sleep on the couches?!”

“No, dear.  They gave up their plans last night so that you could do what you wanted.  You watched five episodes last night.  I think you’ll be ok not watching one tonight.”

“So I don’t get to watch an episode.”  Her tone made it clear that the world was unfair and stacked up particularly tall against her.

The fact that she could not comprehend how she had impacted her brothers the night before, nor that she was asking for a further inconvenience that night for something that was truly not important, astounded me.  The comparison to a two year old is an accurate one.  The only difference is that I never expected her to comprehend why it was wrong to steal someone else’s toy when she was two.  I kinda expect her to get it now.

But, no, it’s all about what she wants and when she wants it.  The morning after Daryl’s exhausting sleepover, while I prepared to make detailed minion cupcakes for Hal’s party that afternoon, she wanted me to sit at the dining room table so we could discuss her desire for an iPhone.  I told her that, especially since I had just discovered I had no icing, I simply didn’t have time and it wasn’t a priority to be taken care of that morning.

She could not believe that I wasn’t making time for her on what is arguably one of my busiest days of the year: Saturday of birthday weekend.  She started ranting about how she had been “kicked out of my house on my birthday and now you won’t talk about my phone!”  This ignored that we had pulled her from school to eat at her requested restaurant for lunch.  That I had delayed taking her back so she would miss the class she didn’t want to walk in late for.  That she had spent the evening doing what she wanted: movie and dinner with her grandmother.  That she had been given the option of returning home or staying at the hotel with grandma and had chosen the latter.

She also couldn’t understand why her Daddy wasn’t willing to just trust her that she could earn $50 a month to pay the larger phone bill.  Never mind that she struggles to pay her current $20 bill each month.  Never mind that we would be locked into a two year contract, whether she proved able to pay it or not.  Never mind that she’s never shown a willingness to work.  No, her father’s desire for a two month proving period where she earns the $50/month before we acquire the iPhone was deeply unreasonable.

Oh, well.  My only comfort is that when I talk to my friends with similarly aged children, they tend to bounce up and down and get excited and point at me and say, “My kid too!  Oh, my goodness!  It’s like they are twins!”  I take comfort in our shared misery.  I also take comfort in my mother’s laughter when I finish a rant about my daughter with “I surely never behaved this way!”  Because if I did, as her laughter seems to indicate, then there’s hope for Jane.  After all, I think I turned out just swell.

TBT: Meeting My Children

My children all have birthdays this week, so it seems appropriate to devote this week’s Throwback Thursday post to their births.  I’ll try not to make it into a long drawn-out birth war story that makes all the men run for the hills and all the been-there-done-that women roll their eyes.

One thing I distinctly remember when I was pregnant with Jane, our first child, was the day that it finally hit me that we were about to become parents.  And that we were locked into it.  Committed.  Baby growing in the belly.  It was going to happen.  And we didn’t know what we were doing and I was scared out of my mind!

I remember trying to run up the headboard “away” from reality, saying to my husband, “Oh, no!  Oh, no!  What have we done?!  We don’t know what we’re doing!  Are we crazy?  We can’t do this!  We can’t do this!”

One similarity with all three births was that I worked all the way up until the day they were born.  All of them.  Although slightly different circumstances each time.  With Jane, I remember preparing everyone the day before.  I asked a guy in a club I was President of to attend a meeting for me in my place if I didn’t show up to work the next day.  I gave another guy a list of things-to-know “just in case I’m not here tomorrow”.  And guess what?  I wasn’t there tomorrow.

Daryl was induced.  I had begun dilating 5 weeks before he was due.  Every week, the nurse would comment, “Well, we probably won’t see you next week!”  And then I’d drag myself in the next week.  Since Jane had woken me up with labor, that’s how I anticipated it happening with Daryl too.  So every morning that I woke up still pregnant, the more depressed I became.  Horrible, terrible people would comment, “You ain’t had that baby yet?!”  I started wearing sunglasses, even in the buildings, as I walked into work – so no one could see the tears.

The week before his due date, they measured me at 5 cm.  Before you say anything, yes.  I know that’s supposed to be active labor.  But there it is.  When I went to my appointment the day before his due date, the doctor looked concerned.  She was afraid that whenever labor did start, I wouldn’t be able to make it to the hospital in time.  So then she did a terrible thing.  She asked me, “Do you want to have a baby today?”

I burst out crying.  Of course I did.  What I did not want (when I was in the right state of mind, that is) was to be induced.  Or have any other interventions.  But she had hit below the belt and I just nodded mutely.  She sent me to the hospital.  I called my husband and my mom.  Husband got there in time.  Mom, who lives in the next state over, made it to the parking lot.

Contrast my quick willingness to head to the hospital with Daryl to the way I conducted myself with Jane.  The night before, I had told my husband that if I went into labor, I would be shaving my legs before we left.  He rolled his eyes.  When I woke him up the next morning by tossing the notebook with the timing of my contractions on the bed, he hopped up and asked if I was ready to go.  I said not quite.  He cried out, “What are you doing?!” when he saw me waddling into the shower.

“I am not going to the hospital with hairy legs!  I told you that last night.  I’m going to shave.”

There indeed was no need to hurry.  She was born a solid 14 hours after we got to the hospital, which was about 3 hours after the contractions woke me up.  And that was after we forced the issue with my lackadaisical body.  I think I might have vegged out too much, trying to stay relaxed.  I put the Gregorian Monks CHANT CD on repeat All.Day.Long.  It drove my mother insane.  She begged for something else to listen to.  I refused.  When they finally shut off the CD to prep for delivery, I could still hear it.

That forced pushing set me up for some panic with kid #2.  Contractions are more intense when you are induced yet still going natural.  So intense that at one point, I started screaming my head off, imagining that I was in for hours of that pain.  I distinctly remember rational-me curled up in a corner of my mind thinking I’ve completely lost it.  What’s she going to do about it?  Instead, that primal urge to push came over me and the boy was out less than four hours after I headed to the hospital.

Despite a speedy delivery, the experience with the inducing and an unpleasant nurse that chastised me for not taking drugs caused me to dislike the thought of returning to the hospital with kid #3.  So I talked to my Primary Care Physician about doing a home birth or using a birthing center.  Since there were not any birthing centers nearby and she was concerned about how quickly the last kid had come and since my births had been non-eventful, she recommended a home birth.

And that’s what Hal was: a planned home birth.  That third pregnancy was the hardest.  I eventually decided that a particular day would have to be my last at work because it was just too uncomfortable to go into work.  I went home, slightly disappointed that I wasn’t able to work up until the end.

Hal, always the thoughtful child, was born in the early morning hours the next day.  I woke up in the middle of the night to extremely sharp and powerful contractions that did not repeat and did not build in frequency.  I eventually retired to the couch so I wouldn’t disturb my husband.  Some time between 2 and 2:30 am, something happened that had not happened naturally with either of the other two.  My water broke.  We called the midwife.  The contractions were suddenly 3 minutes apart.  We called the friend who had agreed to sit with the kids.  We called my mom.

The midwives arrived first and quietly began to assess and prep.  The friend arrived next and quietly whispered outside our bedroom door that she was there.  Mom, again, was unable to cover the distance between us before the child was born.

I had always planned to bring the kids, 5 and 8 years old at the time, into the room to witness the birth.  I learned in those early morning hours, however, that I needed everything in that room to be about me and I couldn’t handle a kid asking a question or getting grossed out.

The kids, prior to the friend arriving, were in their shared room on the other side of our closet.  They could hear me screaming through the contractions (not panicked screams like before – these were intensity-of-effort screams).  They lay there, wondering what was going on, both of them on edge and slightly scared.  One of them finally said, “I think Mommy’s having the baby.”

They were reminiscing about that morning this week, each saying what they remembered.  It was funny to listen to because neither of them had accurate memories.  It made me wonder which of my memories of childhood are faulty.  I also learned that they’ve recounted their versions of events to their friends.  I now wonder what their friends think about me.

Right near the end of my very short (less than 2 hours) labor with Hal, I tried to call them into the room for the birth.  They arrived just in time to see Hal getting placed on my chest.  “Happy Birthday, Daryl!” I said with a tired smile.  I’ll never forget that huge grin that spread across his face as I said it and he looked at his little brother.

And each time, as I cradled my new little one, I felt just the same as I did the first, when the nurses all chuckled and smiled as I whispered, “Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!” and stared dumbfounded at the beautiful miracle in my arms.


How to Botch a Birthday

My husband turned 40 recently.  Forty is one of those milestone birthdays that shouldn’t pass by unremarked.  I started planning back in June.  I commissioned a very talented wood worker to make a custom box to hold my husband’s playing card collection.  I asked for 10 drawers that could each hold 10 decks each.  It turned out beautiful!  And also much bigger than I expected.  So the Saturday before his birthday, I took him to the gentleman’s shop to pick it up.  To my relief (the price tag was not trivial and thanks to Dave Ramsey, I couldn’t hide the price tag), he loved it.  Success!

But getting an awesome gift a few days before your birthday does not mean that you are ok with your birthday just passing by like any other day.  Unfortunately, I was sick all week.  Already prone to be self-centered, when I get sick, I become completely engrossed in me and only me.  Pitiful me.  Sick me.  ‘Please pamper me’ me.

So even though we had discussed birthday dinner plans the day before, when I woke up the day of, it was just another miserable, I-wish-I-didn’t-have-to-get-out-of-bed drag toward the end of the week.  We did our usual routines.  He took the kids to school.  Since I was still dragging, I was home when he got home.  I hugged him before I left.  He seemed unhappy about something.  I didn’t know what.

I was at the end of our street when I remembered our evening plans, which reminded me that I had just left my husband without wishing him a happy birthday.  And, worse, I had failed to remind our children so they could give him a hearty Happy Birthday before they went to school.  I was late to work but I U-turned at the intersection.

Back home, I hung my head and said I was so sorry.  Since he was on the couch, I knelt down in front of him to give him a hug and wish him a Happy Birthday.  He smiled and said, “Well, I almost made it to 8:00 without anyone wishing me a Happy Birthday!”

He proceeded to have a rotten, too-busy, non-satisfying kind of day.  When he called me late in the afternoon, it was obvious he was overwhelmed.  I thought about how he made a cake for my birthday.  I had no plans for him.  No cake.  No card.  He had told me that morning that we weren’t going to go out to eat after all because we really needed to fix the pork chops that had been marinating for several days.  No favorite restaurant.

Help! I begged a friend via email.  I need to do something special for his birthday but I can’t think of anything that’s not food!  He’s not eating chocolate and he’s on a health kick, so I don’t want to necessarily do any dessert but what can I do?!

She suggested a fruit parfait, which sounded great.  I stopped at the dollar store to purchase some cheap glasses to hold the individual servings.  I went to the grocery store for the fruit and yogurt.  While there, I picked out two Mylar balloons and a bouquet of brightly colored flowers with glitter sprinkled over them.  One of the balloons had a phrase making it clear the recipient was getting on in the years.  The other had Phineus and Ferb on it.  I smiled at the thought of the confusing signals I was sending anyone trying to decipher my purchases.

When I got to the car, I thought to myself, I need to tie down these balloons somehow so they don’t blow away when I open the hatch at home.  Spying the car seat L.A.T.C.H. system on the back of the seat, I threaded the ribbons through it and then wrapped it around the plastic cover a few times.  Perfect, I thought.

I left the kids at another friend’s house and hurried home to assemble the parfait.  When I opened the hatch on the back of the car, I noticed that the bag with the food and flowers had fallen over.  I wondered whether I should pick that up first or grab the balloons.  Better safe than sorry, I thought and reached for the balloon ribbons.  As I began to pull them loose, I thought to myself, Wow.  They are really securely wrapped around there.  I think I can go ahead and grab the bag first instead.

At that point, I let go of the now-loosened ribbons to gather up the bag.  I had the dollar store bag in my right hand and almost had the grocery store bag secure in my left when I noticed that the ribbons were very quickly snaking out of their hold.

“No!  No!  No!” I called out as I grabbed for the ribbons with the already occupied right hand.  I succeeded in catching one ribbon, but the other continued to slither away.  I reached high with my left hand, grocery tote bag hampering the movement.  I just barely missed it.  Fearful of breaking the glasses or accidentally losing the secured balloon if I attempted to drop the bags, I ran around the side of the car toward the floating balloon, clutching the two bags and one balloon.

I jumped and jumped, reaching with my left hand, but barely missed the tail of the ribbon as the balloon gained altitude and floated over the house.  I stood still for a moment and watched its progress, hoping that maybe, just maybe, it’d get snagged in the tree behind the house.  No luck.

With a sigh and a shrug and some paranoia about possibly losing the other balloon while digging for my house keys, I entered the house.  At least I still had the Phineus and Ferb balloon.

The parfait assembly was uneventful, and then I remembered that I wanted to put candles in his.  Digging through my box of birthday “stuff”, I found a 4, a couple of 1’s, a 6, and a broken 9.  No zero.  Well, I thought, the broken 9 looks like a 0 now, so… ok.  Done.  I’ll use the 4 and broken 9 for 40.

After secretly assembling everything, I left the house just as he pulled into the driveway.  I hustled him into the car and took him and the kids out to eat at his favorite restaurant.  Pork chops, be damned.  This was the third time to eat out that week though, which means we’ll have to not eat out anymore this month to keep our budget, but hey, he’d had a bad day.

Of course, he had somewhere to be shortly after dinner, so we ran home with just enough time for him to see the balloon, hear the story, blow the candles out of his parfait, listen to Hal throw a fit about not blowing out candles, relight the candles, watch Hal blow them out, and then head out again.  The kids ate their parfait while finishing up homework.  Hal spirited the balloon away to his bedroom.  I waited for my husband to return so we could eat our parfaits together.  But neither were hungry enough to finish it.

Before long, we adjourned to the bedroom where we played some Words With Friends before turning out the lights.  I guess I didn’t totally botch the birthday, but I certainly made a valiant effort.