Daryl Goes to High School

Daryl knew exactly what he wanted to wear his first day of high school. He was animated telling me about it, dropping into his faux hip-hop mannerisms he uses when he’s talking about how cool he is. He tends to lean to one side, drop his shoulder, and put his hands in front of him, gesturing like a rapper, one side of his mouth turned up in a knowing smirk, his eyes barely open, head nodding, and an occasional smack of the lips.

“I got it all planned out,” he said. “Imma gonna wear my…{smack} Adidas sweatpants and my… {smack} Adidas shoes and then my Adidas sweatshirt… yeahhhhh…” Slow, ‘cool’ nods of the head as he tilts back and slightly to one side.

“You are going to wear a sweatshirt. On August 20th. In Texas,” I replied.

“Yeahhh….it’s gonna be gucci maaaann…”

“You are going to look stupid. The upperclassmen are going to look at you and think, ‘look at that idiot wearing a sweatshirt when it’s a hundred degrees outside.”

“Nah, man. I’m gonna be killing it. See, Imma gonna be all Adidas. Imma even gonna wear my Adidas underwear.”

“How is anyone going to know you are wearing Adidas underwear if you are wearing a sweatshirt?”

“Easy… see… ya just pull your pants down a little like this…” He pulled one side of his pants down a few inches past his hips to reveal the waistband of his underwear. “Yeahhhh…” More head nods and arm gestures as he strutted across the room in front of me.

“Still, no one is going to see your underwear if you are wearing a sweatshirt, even if you pull your pants down a little,” I said.

“No, mama, you see, it’s like this. See, ya juss… ya juss… lift your shirt up like this see? You walk around, you just kinda lift it and go, ‘what’s up bruh? Yeah… iss aright man…’.” He kind of flopped his arms up under the bottom of his shirt and held his arms like he was greating his buddies from the hood or something, nodding and walking like he had a limp.

I shook my head.

“You are going to look like an idiot if you walk around like that.”

“Nah, man, I coo bro…” he said, pulling the other side of his pants down so he had that awful street look where his pants are barely hanging on and his underwear is almost fully revealed. I knew he was tweaking me then.

“You gonna wear Adidas socks to complete the look?” I asked.

“Oh, hecks no. I’m a Nike man! I be wearing my Nike socks! What you talkin’ about?”

Yes, he really said that. Yes he did. After describing his four piece Adidas outfit he was proud to wear on the first day, he declared himself a Nike man and thought I was crazy to suggest he wear anything other than Nike socks.

Kids are crazy, but I think teenage boys may take the cake.

And guess what? First day of school? He wore a T-shirt that he has had for at least two years. Not Adidas, not Nike.

“What about the Adidas sweatshirt?” I asked.

“Ahh… it’s in the hamper.”

“You gonna wear it anyway?”

“Nah. It’s dirty.”

He had a day and a half to wash that sweatshirt after announcing his perfect first day of school attire. I guess the desire to look his imagined best doesn’t go deep enough to override general teenage laziness, forgetfulness, and that overwhelming need to get as much Fortnite in as possible before summer ends.

Fine by me. Saved me all the “Sweatshirt? Really? Is that boy crazy?” questions I would have gotten when I shared the first-day-of-school pictures on Facebook.

Advertisements

What If Overdrive

Parenthood can be anxiety-inducing. Some parts are scarier than others and I’ll admit that I’m entering into one of those stages right now. The last time I remember being this scared was when we brought our first child home and I worried about her dying of SIDS in her crib while I took a shower or slept myself or did anything other than watch her chest move up and down and up and down.

It’s the lack of control that gets me.

When they were little, I had full control. They weren’t going anywhere without me. They weren’t alone with anyone unless I allowed it. Then they went off to preschool. I knew all their friends. I knew the families of all their friends. I had full knowledge of everything they had going on. I talked to their teachers every day.

Then they headed off to Kindergarten. And they started talking about kids I didn’t know. Eventually, I got to know their friends, but I didn’t really know their friends’ families very well. And they interacted with a lot of kids that I didn’t know at all. As they got older, I didn’t necessarily stay at the birthday parties they went to. I was losing touch.

Still, they didn’t go anywhere that I didn’t know about. I took them places. I picked them up. They had no ability to slip from my grip. Or at least my awareness. I still had a handle on things. For the most part. It still felt safe.

Now Jane is in high school. And she’s bringing a boy home to meet us tomorrow. I find myself in a mild panic. I was much more comfortable over the past year when she had steadfastly held that relationships weren’t worth the drama. I had honestly hoped and foolishly believed that the perspective would hold through high school.

I should have known better.

At first, I was happy for her. Basically. They aren’t “dating”. They are friends who think they might be interested in pursuing a relationship. It seemed mild enough. Then I realized that I didn’t know this boy. At all. Never seen him. Never met him. And the what-ifs started.

What if he’s not a nice person?
What if he hurts her?
What if he has dishonorable intentions with my daughter?
What if this relationship distracts her from her grades?
What if the relationship changes her personality?
And then it struck me: Oh, no. He’s a Sophomore. He’ll be driving by the end of the school year.
What if she turns on us? He could pick her up without us knowing.
I won’t know where she is.
She won’t necessarily be where I think she is.
What if they lie to us?
What if they run off?
What if they have sex and she gets pregnant?
What if he’s a perfectly nice boy but not a great driver?
What if she dies in a car wreck with him at the wheel?

The whole driving thing has already been weirding me out. I’m terrified. It’s just too simple for kids to do something stupid. And then they are gone and there’s no getting them back. I don’t want that to be my kid. I don’t want her behind the wheel. I definitely don’t want her in the car while any other young person is behind the wheel. Even if she did say that the Senior who drove her to our church the other day is a better driver than I am. I don’t care.

So, see? It’s the lack of control that I can’t handle.

Parenthood is about slowly and surely losing control. I started off feeding them with nourishment from my own body. Ever since that first weening, I’ve been letting go a little bit at a time. Sometimes I haven’t noticed. Sometimes I’ve rejoiced (never was a big fan of wiping little bottoms). Sometimes…

Sometimes, I’m like that moment a few months before Jane was born when the reality of impending parenthood overwhelmed me and I kept backing up on the bed, trying to pass through the wall into oblivion to avoid this thing that I couldn’t stop. “No, no! We aren’t ready for this! What were we thinking?! We can’t do this! We don’t know what we are doing!”

Too late now.

We don’t know what we are doing. We don’t have a clue. We’ve never done it before. The stakes are so high during this tumultuous time in a child’s life. Not everyone makes it through, but everyone has to enter. So here we are.

I understand now why parents wait up for their children to come home. I understand now why, even past 40, when I leave my mom’s house for the long drive home, she tells me to call her when I get home. I get it. It doesn’t make me any less scared though.

TBT: Ride Sharing

In honor of Throwback Thursday…

My junior year of high school, I carpooled to school with a guy I had been friends with since early elementary school.  At some point, my future husband started riding with us.  In retrospect, this was a bit nonsensical since he had to drive past the high school to get to my house.  Then again, perhaps he didn’t have a parking space.  At any rate, at some point – I don’t remember when – the friend no longer rode with us.

My husband can be a bit obsessive about stuff sometimes and spending time with me was one of those things (still is).  He figured out pretty quickly that if I was ready to go when he got there, I got in the car and we went to school.  But… if I wasn’t ready yet, I’d invite him in and then he’d get to hang out with me while I finished getting ready.

He started arriving earlier.  And earlier.  And earlier.

This caused me a good deal of stress because I didn’t want him to see me before I had my makeup on.  So I started waking up earlier.  And earlier.  And earlier.

And since I was waking up earlier, that meant he could arrive earlier.  And earlier.  And earlier.

He wouldn’t come to the porch until he saw the lights were on.  So I started sneaking to the front door in the dark to see if he was there yet.  One day, he wasn’t there but there was a large dark form of a man crouched on the front porch.  How I stifled the scream before running back to my room, I have no idea.  And why I didn’t report it to my parents?  Also no idea.  I just remember it scared the living daylights out of me.

My husband later said it was the Avon man making my mom’s delivery.  Like I said, he wasn’t there yet but he saw the box.  And probably had been there early enough some other time to see the man.

Since I was in the band and we had early morning practices, I left my house long before anyone else got up.  (Side note: he was not in the band.  That’s how much he wanted to spend time with me – he got to school over an hour before he needed to.)  I never knew (or don’t recall) if my parents ever knew how much time my boyfriend was spending at the house in the morning.  Or that he was deliberately coming early to catch me before I was ready.  Or that him doing so made me at least a little bit uncomfortable.

I’m glad that it went the way it did though.  If they had known, they might have warned me that the behavior was odd.  And that I should cut him loose.  Yes, the behavior was odd.  But we’ve navigated his oddities for a long time now and I’m happy for it.

TBT: Sharing Facilities

When I was fifteen, I participated in Rayado, which is a program at Philmont Scout Ranch, a Boy Scout backpacking camp in New Mexico.  My grandparents had taken groups of Scouts, boys and girls, for decades.  I had already been twice and wanted to push myself even more.

Rayado has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but fundamentally, it’s intended to be the ultimate experience for the mind, body, and soul.  For that reason, unlike the rest of the camp, it’s not co-ed.  So I was with a small group of girls from all over the country.  We hiked 300 miles in 20 days and experienced a wide range of surprises and activities.

{Quick side note.  If you read my post about early interactions with my future husband, you’ll recall I said he had heard about me over the summer before we met and was fascinated. It was specifically this trip that intrigued him. As it happened, he was at Philmont at the same time and had hoped to run into this girl who would participate in such an activity.}

Anyway, like I said, the group was all girls. One of them had chosen to cut her hair absurdly short before the trip. She looked very much like a boy. We all knew she wasn’t and if she was with us, people might figure it out, but if she was on her own, she was going to be mistaken for a boy.

Now, Philmont has acres and acres of land to hike over. Obviously, people hiking all over the place will at some point, need to use the bathroom. Hikers were taught how to relieve themselves in the absence of a bathroom without harming the environment, but there were also bathrooms… of sorts… in the more populated areas.

There were two types of these. They were called “pilot copilot” and “pilot bombardier”. The “pilot bombardier” style was simply two seats back-to-back out in the open somewhere. There were no walls. Just seats going down into pits. You opened the lid and waited for all the flies to exit. If they didn’t, then you found a tree somewhere nearby.

The “pilot copilot” style was more common in the heavily populated areas like major camps. These were side-by-side seats into a larger pit and there was a wall around them. No door though. Just a doorway.

So one day, the girl that looked like a boy headed to a “pilot copilot.” The rest of us were sitting nearby waiting. While she was in there, a (from my recollection, tall, dark, and handsome) guy walked in. We all sat up a bit and wondered what would happen. We were surprised when he didn’t immediately come back out – that’s what normally happened if a gender mismatch occurred when someone didn’t call to make sure it was empty first.

Inside, she was sitting on one of the seats when the guy walked in. He nodded, walked over to the other seat, whipped it out of his pants, and began peeing. She turned beet red, pulled up her underwear and pants in one quick motion, and fled the building.

By the time the guy came out a few seconds later, she was safe in our group and we all burst out laughing when we saw him. I’m not sure he noticed her in our group or knew what had happened or why all those girls were laughing. Suffice it to say, we made it a habit to guard the door in the future.

TBT: My Car, My Step-dad, and Me

This week’s posts about timid drivers and the discussion about bad day birthdays got me to thinking about my stepdad.  Specifically, some experiences we shared while I was learning to drive.

When I turned 16, I bought a 1972 VW bug in bad need of a paint job from my grandparents.  I paid them something like $50 a month for a year.  In the months and years leading up to that birthday, I had insisted that I would take any car, ANY car, except a bug.  I don’t know why I hated them so much, but I did.  By the time I turned 16 though, an 18 year old hand-me-down bug for $600 seemed just fine, thank you very much.

Now, this car had more issues than peeling paint.  It also had a sticky throttle.  Sometimes I’d pull up to a stoplight and the engine would begin to race.  I’d have to put the car in neutral, engage the parking brake, run around to the back where the engine was, pop the ‘hood’, push the throttle thingy back down, and then race back to the driver’s seat, put it back in gear, and take off before the car behind me honked.  If I was lucky, I was transporting either my little brother or my boyfriend, both of whom had been trained to hop out and do it for me.  Sometimes I wonder how much experiences like that keep you humble.

Anyway, before I was trusted to drive around by myself or with other young passengers, a lot of time was spent driving around the neighborhood with one of my parents.  It was a manual transmission, quite different from the automatics that we learned with in my Driver’s Ed class at school.

The neighborhood had a lot of hills and I’d typically pick routes that would not force me to stop on a steep uphill incline.  I hadn’t yet mastered the (now probably lost) art of balancing my left and right feet on the clutch and gas to keep the car stationary and then gently transition to forward progress.  It seemed like a good plan to get good at that on flat surfaces before attempting hills.

My stepdad had a different view of the world though.  He was more in the tradition of “sink or swim” training.  So one day, he directed my progress and it resulted in me stopping at a stop sign at the top of the steepest of steep hills in the neighborhood.  I protested as we approached, saying I wouldn’t be able to start up again.  He said yes I would.  Shortly after I stopped, a car came up behind me.  I began to sweat.  I rolled (yes, actually manually rolled) down the window and tried to motion them to go around me.

I can’t remember now what happened next.  Maybe I’ve fused several memories into one.  I don’t remember if they went around me or refused.  I don’t remember whether I stubbornly stayed put or gunned it.  I don’t remember if I successfully (but with a really revved up engine) passed through the intersection or if I killed it or rolled all the way down the hill.  It seems like I had all of those experiences.  Obviously, I eventually left the hill.  All I know for sure is that I was irritated with him.

I doubt it was that same trip, but on one such neighborhood tour, he insisted when we returned home that I back into the driveway.  I’ve noticed over the years that most people don’t back into their driveways.  Most pull in and then back out.  Both my mother and my stepfather, however, strongly believed that you should back into the driveway and pull out.  The best explanation that I was given was that on icy days, it was easier to exit if you had previously backed in.  If I pointed out the unlikeliness of getting iced-in during the summer months, for example, I’d be told that it was important to keep good habits.

Anyway, I began to pull into the driveway one day and he told me to back in.  His car was already in the driveway and I told him I wasn’t comfortable backing in with it there.  He told me I needed to learn and to do it anyway.  I insisted that I wasn’t comfortable.  He insisted that I do it anyway.

“Fine!” I finally responded angrily.  I pulled either down the street or into the drive across from us, threw my arm over the seat, and looked over my shoulder as I began to maneuver into the driveway.  Likewise, he looked over his right shoulder to watch my proximity to his car.

“You are getting close to the Ford,” he said.  I corrected my motion some.

“You are getting too close to the Ford!” he said again.  I made another adjustment.

“You are getting too…” {{BAM!!}}  “…You just hit the Ford!”

I quickly adjusted the car and hopped out.  So did he.  We were both angrily yelling at each other about the accident that had just occurred in the driveway.  He was yelling about how he had been telling me I was getting too close and I didn’t adjust.  I was yelling about how I told him I didn’t feel comfortable backing into the driveway but he just wouldn’t listen.  My mom came hurrying down the sidewalk from the front door: “What is going on?!”

“She just hit the Ford!”

“He made me back into the driveway!”

I don’t remember anything after this.  I think they made some deal about them paying for repairing my car and painting it if I just did XYZ.  I never did XYZ.  I don’t know why.  I came to love my little bug in serious need of a paint job and a nice dent in the rear passenger-side fender.  It was a very nice match to my platform shoes, bell-bottom jeans, and rainbow sunglasses that I wore to the band’s “hippie dance”.  And it got me where I needed to go.  Most of the time.

TBT: An Ugly Car and Cloud Gazing

I’ve told a couple of stories from my past recently, one verbally to some friends and one in a blog comment.  Both times, I received such a positive response that I thought I should write them up as blog posts.  And that made me think that surely I have more stories from my past that would be entertaining to at least a few souls.

So I’m embarking on my first ever “feature” on this blog.  We’ll see how long it lasts.  Taking a page from Instagram and Facebook, each Thursday, I hope to post a story from an earlier time period in my life for “Throwback Thursday.”  As they are stories I remember well, I suppose they very definitely qualify as “bright spots” in my life if their memory is still shining bright after all these years.


My husband and I were High School Sweethearts.  We met somewhere around the start of our Junior year.  His best friend had a crush on me that summer and talked about me in such a way that my future husband was fascinated and interested in meeting me.  The start of the school year saw me dating his best friend and he dating mine.

One day, my best friend and I met up with him to go to a party.  He had spent the day polishing his not-yet-operational-again ’57 Chevy with a bottle of Windex to show it off.  We drove up.  He stood proudly by his car and asked what we thought.  I was doing my best snotty teenage girl imitation and told him I thought it was ugly.  He was crestfallen.

Within a couple of years, I’d be using a manual to rebuild the master cylinder of that “ugly” car in the band room after school.  I’d ride in it to prom.  I’d later retrieve him from it when it threw a rod through the oil pan on our wedding night.  I’d chastise him for driving it in a torrential rain storm that swept it off the road while we were in college.  I’d willingly have it towed to Texas when we moved.  It’s still sitting in the backyard now, waiting for our time, money, and interest to revive it.

Anyway, the car was not operational at the time and he was not 16.  My best friend was to drive us to the party.  I very snottily told him that I was riding in the front; he could sit in the back.  We stopped at an ATM and my friend and I went in to get some cash.

When I came out, he was sitting in the backseat with his head leaned all the way back so he could gaze out the back window.

“What are you doing?!” I asked.

“Looking at the clouds…” he said in a drawn-out, dreamy voice.  I remember very distinctly thinking that he wasn’t a very good match for my friend and that he would be a better match for me.

There was no motivation to steal him.  There was no emotion, no burning heart thumping in my chest, no desire.  Just an observation of fact.  I remember nothing of the party or anything else we did that day.  But I remember that young man gazing out the back of that window and making that comment like it was yesterday.

Within a couple of months, she had dumped him and his best friend had dumped me.  He had migrated through another girlfriend (who he confided to me he thought he could marry – I still don’t let him forget that remark).  While he was with that girl, I was growing to realize just how much I liked him.  Again, clear as day, I can remember my reaction to his writing that he wanted to marry her in the note we were passing back and forth at a Latin Club event.  This time, I felt the burning feeling in my chest and a profound sense of disappointment.  That feeling of loss was followed immediately by a firm decision that I wasn’t going to react.  That I really liked this guy and if I couldn’t be his girlfriend, I certainly wanted to be his friend.

She dumped him a week later.  And we began to date a month or two after that – after a drawn-out note-passing courtship that we were enjoying but was driving my friends batty.  And I became the first girl in his life to not dump him.  I never have and I never will.


Interestingly, this wasn’t the story I set out to tell.  I set out to tell the story that got my friends smiling last night.  I was just trying to set the stage when this story fell out instead.  Funny how that works.  Well, maybe the other one will come next week.

 

Fighting is Just Part of It

“If anyone is a parent of a teenager and isn’t fighting, then either they aren’t paying attention or they are doing something wrong.”

This was my husband’s wisdom shared when I asked him if we were being too restrictive, after assuring me that we were not. We were sitting at the dinner table with the boys, Jane having opted to spend mealtime in her room, curled up on her bed, likely thinking we were extremely unreasonable.

She’s been asking for a bikini. Actually, she’s been asking for a non-tankini two piece swimsuit. She’s perfectly willing (and actually would prefer) to have a very modest lifeguard style top, like a sports bra.

But we aren’t ready for her to show that much skin. And she can’t articulate why she wants to.

We certainly know why we don’t want her to. She’s thirteen, approaching the end of seventh grade. No one would know that looking at her though.

We ran across an old friend, a photographer, who hadn’t seen Jane in some time. His eyes bugged out when he saw her and he said, “Whoa!” – not believing how big she was.

“Will I be taking her picture soon?” he asked, referring to his rather brisk business in photographing High School Seniors. He was shocked to find out her age, insisting that he would have put her in at least tenth grade.

And therein lies the problem.

She may look like she’s 16 or older but she most certainly is not. Her body is much more mature than her mind and certainly more so than her emotions. She is not in the least bit equipped with the skills needed to recognize and properly respond to the kind of attention she would get.

And so we say no.

And she gets angry.

And I feel sad.

And he is oh so right. Teenagers are basically only happy as long as everything is going their way. If anything isn’t what they want, when they want it, how they want it, then they shed any resemblance to human decency and turn into irrational beasts, angry at the world.

Sometimes I just want to give in. I hesitate to say that since she reads this blog and I don’t want to give her incentive to push harder, but it’s true. Sometimes I just want the anger and the glares and the distance to stop. I just want to get along.

But what kind of service would that be to her? What kind of a person would I be helping shape her to be? I’m certainly paying attention but if I gave in, I’d be doing something wrong. So the fights must continue. For now.

Still. I’ll be happy when her brain catches up with her body and rationality and cooperation prevail again.