How Flat is Flat?

Daryl (yes, we are going to talk about Daryl again) was late coming home from Destination Imagination practice Saturday. I didn’t think too much about it until our friends showed up to play Charterstone, which is a really fun legacy board game (legacy means the rules change and the story builds each time you play). It’s a big deal and we always have a blast.

Practice was over at 12:30 and it was now almost 3:00, so I gave him a call. He was at a store with his friend Jerry. We talked for a minute and he selected 5:00 as the time that he would either be home or call me to check in.

Sometime shortly before 5:00, his truck rolled into the driveway. To my surprise, Jerry was sitting next to him. Ok, I thought. I guess he’s ok with his friend seeing this ‘nerdfest’ we have going on…

Only, they didn’t come in the house. The poor dog was going nuts with anticipation. I asked the people who could see out the window what they were doing. “They’re walking around the truck looking at it” was what I got back.

I’d finally had enough of the dog so I walked to the front door to let her out. The boys were not visible at all; but when she streaked across the driveway and around the truck, Daryl’s head popped up in surprise. I had already shut the front door so he was looking around like he couldn’t figure out where she had come from.

It looked like they were checking out the front passenger-side tire. I wondered why they weren’t coming in for help, but figured they eventually would. I sat back down at the game and when he later tried to quickly let the dog back in without coming in himself, I called out to him. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Nothing. I just need to take Jerry home.”

“You aren’t going to come in and say hi?”

“No, we’re running late. We gotta go!”

“What were you doing with your tire?”

“Oh, I just needed to put some air in it.”

“Did you use a tire gauge?” my husband asked at the same time I said, “You know every gas station in town has an air pump, right?”

No, he didn’t know that he could have stopped at a gas station instead of driving out of town to our house. And, no, he didn’t have a tire gauge. He seemed flustered that he had driven home when he didn’t have to, although he soon showed that he really did, actually, need to come home. As he had no clue how much air was enough.

One of our friends stopped pouring his beer to go get Daryl one of the several tire gauges in his car. I asked Daryl if he knew how to use it. He claimed he didn’t need to use it because, and I quote, “we pushed on the tire – it’s good.”

With that, I followed him out to the truck and his waiting friend – much to his embarrassment, I’m assuming, since he asked me why I was wearing my Christmas leggings on our way out there. When I got to the truck, I showed him how to read the appropriate tire pressure inside his driver’s door. I then walked around to the passenger side, where I could see the tire sagging appreciably on the driveway.

“Daryl! There is not enough air in that tire – just look at it!”

What ensued next was some typical teenage back-and-forth on which boy had claimed what while they had tried to use the air compressor on the tire. There was so little air in it that the tire gauge didn’t actually budge. Daryl still tried to tell me it was fine.

I told him that if he drove off on that tire, there would be six very unhappy adults in there that would have to stop playing their game while his dad came to walk him through changing his tire on the side of the road. “Do. Not. Drive off, unless you can get it to 35psi.”

With that, I went back inside. My husband asked if I had checked the tire for damage. I said, “No. You should go do that. Being the tire guy and everything.”

With great reluctance, he did, and then returned soon after to inform me there was a nail and Daryl would be taking our other truck in order to get Jerry home. About then, I saw the truck go tearing off the property like a bat outta hell.

“Daryl! Don’t drive that fast! What do you think you’re doing?”

“You know he can’t hear you, right?” everyone asked.

“He drives like that all the time,” my husband said.

“Not while I’m with him!” I said, which my husband answered with a don’t-be-so-stupid patronizing look.

Why are our kids so good at pointing out all the things we’ve failed to teach them yet? I hadn’t thought about what Daryl would do if he got a flat tire. I hadn’t thought to share with him the neighbor’s caution to his older sister about driving fast down our road. I hadn’t told him that common courtesy involved bringing his guest into the house to say hello to us.

There’s just so much to teach. And no matter how hard you try, you’ll never get it all. You just have to hope that some combination of luck, common sense, and maybe the intervention of others with make up the difference.



I saw something on Facebook the other day that really excited me. It was a trailer for the upcoming Pixar movie Finding Dory. It hadn’t entered my mind that they might do a movie focused on her, but as soon as I saw it, I thought, Perfect! Of course! She was the best character in that movie!

I never say “Let’s keep at it” or “Keep on truckin'” or “Keep on keepin’ on.” Nope. If I need to comment on the need to just keep after something, I start singing:

Just keep swimming,

Just keep swimming,

Swimming, swimming,

Just keep swimming…

Every. Single. Time. Dory has, in her own special way, stayed with me more than any other movie character. Needless to say, I was excited. Everyone had already left for school though. I had no one to share the moment with. So I decided to send my daughter a text.


I expected something along the lines of “Omg! That’s so awesome! I can’t wait!” I imagined her telling the rest of the family and the car literally rocking from people’s excitement.

Instead I got this:


Well, at least I got the “omg” part right. I responded:


But she was already in the process of typing something else, which came in just ahead of mine. Which means the conversation ended up looking something like this:


Which, of course, looked kind of bad. I decided to respond to her second comment with sarcasm. But she got another comment in first again and I ended up looking considerably more sarcastic than I planned…dory4

I decided it was time to explain.


But no way my daughter was going to let me off easy.


All in all, I think teenagers spend way too much time communicating via text instead of in person or on a phone. That said, I’ve really enjoyed my literary sparring with my daughter over the last year or so.

Three Weeks of Single Parenting

My husband was out of town for three weeks. Things always go sideways when he’s gone. Part of it’s just the normal life stuff that suddenly seems overwhelming when handled alone and part of it’s stuff he normally takes care of that’s now added to my shoulders. But some of it’s special and over-the-top.

Here’s some highlights from my most recent single-mom experience:

  • A kid with a persistent cough that kept everyone up at night.
  • Cleaning up vomit from the floor of the car when said kid coughed so hard, he made himself throw up.
  • A mystery come-and-go ailment with the older boy that came on suddenly with headache and sore throat and left the boy curled up lifeless in the recliner.
  • A trip to the doctor’s office, 2 strep tests, 1 flu test. All came back negative, thankfully.
  • Constant fighting to get kids to take medicine that they don’t like the taste of.
  • Zig Zagging all across town to taxi 3 kids to or from 5 different activities in the course of a single evening.
  • Dead mouse stuck to the floor at the head of my bed.
  • A terrible rotting smell in my daughter’s room most likely the result of the animal that we thought we heard trapped in the wall dying. How does one extract a dead animal from a wall when you don’t even know for sure which wall?
  • Dog that has now decided the neighbor leaving for work at 4am is objectionable and barks to show her displeasure.
  • February started. This means I had to try to setup the next month’s budget on my own while pinging my husband, who was away and busy, to do one little piece. I think we were a week into the month, with me trying to save receipts, before I was ready to fund our envelopes in the GoodBudget app.
  • One kid managing to get both big toes infected due to excessive ripping off of toenails (rather than using clippers) that has left him with ingrown nails and pus seepage. This means me washing his toes nightly, spraying with peroxide, applying polysporin, and covering them. He’s getting to be a big boy. His feet are nasty.
  • Basketball coach forgetting to add me to her contact list resulting in me showing up with my excited Kindergartner at the local frozen yogurt place, only to learn the date had changed. Fortunately into the future, not the past.
  • Me calling my husband and chewing him out for not forwarding that communication on to me. Him getting his feelings hurt. Me attempting to apologize.
  • Four pairs of school dress code pants being pulled out of service due to massive rips in the knees. Two more lost their buttons. It’s a wonder the boys aren’t attending school in just their underwear.
  • Teenager on the rag.
  • Teenager poor decision making on Instagram followed closely by teenager lying, my dramatic (albeit temporary) conflict with another mother, confiscation of the iPod, worries about her social standing, stress, and nervous breakdown.
  • Flooding of the laundry room when I forgot to feed the temporary drain out the window before starting a load, most likely due to distraction caused by the stress of the Instagram debacle.
  • Throwing a laundry basket across the room in frustration after seeing the water and watching it fly toward a shelf of pottery, muttering pleas for it to drop before causing damage.
  • Breaking several of my daughter’s crosses when I rushed into her room to grab the two towels I had seen on her floor, only to learn as I snatched them off the ground that one was cradling the fragile crosses that had been temporarily removed from the wall.
  • Displaying incredible maternal fortitude by collapsing in front of the laundry room with the recently acquired towels, curling into a fetal position, balling my eyes out, and crying, “I can’t do this by myself” – all in front of my boys, who sweetly offered to help, not understanding what “this” was.

It’s times like this that I truly admire the real single parents of the world. To do this 24/7/365 takes incredible energy and dedication. Even doing it badly can take more than you’ve got to give.

The first week was the hardest. It got easier but I still can’t imagine doing it for the duration of a childhood or two… or three. Fortunately, my husband returns tomorrow. Because I’m insane, I’m trying to surprise him with some completed projects around the house. As if surviving with all three kids intact isn’t impressive enough.

When Logic Meets Fandom

“How was school today?” I ask Jane after picking her up from a friend’s house one recent school evening.

“Fine.  Clara sang Steal My Girl in Yearbook today.”

“Umm.  Okaaay…?”

“I didn’t expect her to know it.”

“Why wouldn’t she know it?”

“Because it just came out two weeks ago.”

“But you obviously know it so why wouldn’t she?”

“It’s a One Direction song.”


“So it’s a new One Direction song.”

“Maybe she’s a fan.”

“No, she’s not.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because most people think One Direction is just a silly boy band.  And I looked at her following list on Instagram.”

“So?  Just because she’s not following them on Instagram doesn’t mean she’s not a fan.”

“Um.  Yes, mom.  It does.  Instagram and Twitter are how you find out when new albums are coming out.”  (This is said in that “you just don’t get it” teenagery tone).


“So that’s good that she knows it.”

“Why?  Why is it important to you that Clara likes the song?”

“Because that means they are good.”

“No it doesn’t.  It means Clara was exposed to it and she liked it.  That’s all it means.”

“No, it means it’s being played on the radio.”  (She’s starting to sound irritated).

“Not necessarily.  She might know someone who is a fan and she was listening to it with them or she found it on YouTube or something.”

“No.  She heard it on the radio.”

“Ok.  And that makes you happy why?”

“Because that means they are good.”

“No.  It means their song got played on the radio.  They are One Direction.  It’s reasonable to expect their songs to get played on the radio.  But it doesn’t mean that they are ‘good’.”

“Yes, it does mom.  They don’t play bad songs on the radio.”  (Now we are dangerously close to an explosion).


You see, we were having two different conversations.  I was having one about logical deduction, trying to get her to see what counts as proof and what doesn’t.  I was trying to get her to think scientifically.  To consider what minimum information can be gleaned from the evidence gathered.  To look for other explanations for the data.

She was trying to build a case about why her favorite band is this generation’s Beatles rather than New Kids On The Block.  And, in her mind, I was tearing that down – trying to prove her wrong.  So she was getting frustrated.  Having recently learned my lesson, I chose to acquiesce rather than continue the one-sided logical analysis I was attempting.  I mean, I may indeed think that One Direction is more like NKOTB than the Beatles, but that truly wasn’t the point I was trying to make.

Another Almost-Botched Birthday

We came close to botching another birthday this past weekend.  At least this time, I had help from the birthday girl.  Jane made some friends at summer camp this past summer and her birthday wish was to get to see them.  She assured me that this was attainable because “we all live within 2 1/2 hours of camp.”

There is no point in employing logic when planning with a teenager.  It is lost on them that two people that are 2 1/2 hours from a given location are not necessarily close to each other.  They could, indeed, be a solid 5 hours from each other.  And when only one or two of these people can drive, it seems unlikely that parents would be willing to drive them somewhere to meet another kid from camp.  As she named the towns they each lived in, I found it unlikely we could make this get-together work.

But I am a loving and devoted mother who wants to give my children what they want when possible.  So I first said to find out who was available on that particular Saturday and who was able to travel.  She crafted the text request in such a way that no one answered about whether they were able to travel any distance away from their homes.  One answered that he would be taking the SAT in the morning but was free after.  One said maybe.  One said yes.  One said no.  The local girls, who would be transported with us wherever we went, said yes.

So I said, “Ok.  Tell them that we are going to have your party somewhere at 3:00 Saturday afternoon.  We will pick the somewhere to be as accommodating as possible for the people who are able to come.  See who can be there at that time.”  Same answers.

So then I checked a map.  I already felt like I was having to pull teeth to get any decisions made on this get-together.  After studying the map, I picked a town that was just over an hour from us and also from each of the two yeses.  It would be a longer journey for the maybe, but maybe he could get to the guy closest to him and catch a ride.

“Ok,” I said.  “Tell them the party will be at a park in Townville and see who can still come.”

“Which park?” she asked.

“I’m not going to spend the time picking a park until I know for sure that people can go there.  If either one of those guys bails, then we’ll move the party to the other person’s town.”

“Mom!  We are not irresponsible 10 year olds who say yes to parties when we don’t know whether we can go.  We are responsible teenagers who know what we are doing!  They said they could go.  They know it will be in the {general nearby metro} area.”

“I’m done with this conversation,” I said, and walked away.  Her notion of space is weak as the chosen town is not in the area she described.  After getting dinner in the oven, I tried again.

“Jake can’t come.  He says it’s too far,” she said.  I bit back the urge to point out which one of us had been right about the need to share the location with people.  I merely asked her to confirm with the other person whether he could travel or whether we should travel to his town.

“So at this point,” my husband asked me later, “we are planning a party around one person?”

“Basically,” I said.  But surely one of these friends would be better than none?  I told her to give the boy my phone number so his mother could call and talk if need be.  Several days went by with me pinging her each one.  By Wednesday, I still didn’t know what we were doing.  It distinctly felt like everything was falling apart.

Finally, the boy responded.  His mother said it was too far away and reminded him that he had another party to go to that day anyway.  Ok.  So now what?

She fretted over not being able to get people together for her birthday.  She mentioned a popular girl at school that had dozens at her party.  I said the quantity of people at the party was not nearly as important as how much they mean to you and vice versa.  She seemed to be getting down.

Finally, she named a science museum she wanted to take her local girlfriends to.  I stayed home with the boys.  My husband took the four girls and dropped them off at the museum while he checked out a nearby art museum.  Then he took them to her chosen hamburger joint and a Hot Topic, where they got matching shirts.  One of them then spent the night.  The next day, I delivered her to a movie theater that was showing the “one weekend only” One Direction concert movie.  She didn’t take any friends because none of them are One Direction fans.  Just her.

All in all, I think she had a good birthday.  But it was looking kind of sketchy there for a bit.

Laundry is for the Birds

Jane is responsible for doing her own laundry. She’s not particularly good at it. I’m sorry, I’m just being honest. She’s not. I’ve been told it’s rather common for folks her age. They stink. At doing laundry, and as a natural consequence, sometimes literally as well.

A little while ago she declared that she needed a second laundry hamper. She needed it to transport the clean laundry back to her room. You see, I have a hamper that serves to transport the clean laundry from the laundry room to the living room to be folded and she felt she needed the same luxury.

I said that she would just use it to store the clean clothes, as she was already doing with the single hamper, piling the dirty laundry on the floor. She insisted she wouldn’t do that. I recommended a collapsible hamper for her clean laundry transport, arguing that her room wasn’t big enough to hold two hampers. This way, during those mythical times when the laundry would be folded and put away, the hamper could be too. She didn’t want a collapsible hamper.

Lucky for her, her Daddy does the shopping and she got exactly the hamper she wanted. And then it all went down just like I said it would. Only worse. Check this out:

Any guesses which pile or hamper has the clean clothes?  Me neither.

Any guesses which pile or hamper has the clean clothes?

She left for summer camp Sunday. Saturday morning, we were having them pack so they could tell us what they needed us to pick up at Wal-Mart.  She told her Daddy that she needed socks and underwear.

He looked at the scene above.  “Isn’t this a pair of underwear?” he asked, picking up an article.

“Well, yes, but it’s dirty.”

“Uh-uh,” he said. “And there’s a sock over there.  I’m not buying you clothes when you have a mess like this.  Do your laundry and find enough clean pairs of socks and underwear.”

She then tried to convince me that the two towels in her room were clean because (I quote): “I’ve done laundry twice this month and they were in the first load I did.”  I managed to get clarification that she hadn’t used them since then which answered the question of where all the towels have gone.

She later went off on how she didn’t know where her Kansas City Royals hat was.  “It always sits right here on this shelf,” she claimed.

After she left, I braved her room to look for her volleyball shorts.  I thought they’d serve well as compression shorts under my hockey pants.  I foolishly looked in the chest of drawers first.  That’s where she keeps the clothes she can give away in a garage sale.  Oh, and a bunch of non-clothing items.  Oh, and that hat.  The one that *always* sits on the shelf.  I eventually found the shorts in the pile on the floor.  They smelled clean, I guess.  So the stuff on the floor is clean?

I don’t know.  And here’s the crazy part.  She’ll return Saturday afternoon and then leave for another camp first thing Sunday morning.  That’s a quick turn-around.  So her dad offered her the chance of a lifetime:

Put all your dirty clothes in our hamper and we’ll get them washed and folded for you.

I mean, what kind of a kid passes up an opportunity like that?!  Shoot!  College kids lug their clothes to their cars and haul them home for that.  All she had to do was walk across the hall.

The only clothing article of hers in our hamper is that pair of volleyball shorts I borrowed.  So now I wonder if I just wash all those clothes in her room or maybe pick through the piles to determine what smells bad or just wait and let her sort it out, risking her proceeding to the next camp smelling like a dumpster.

That last thought is winning the day so far.  I’ve spent enough time folding everyone else’s laundry.  If she can’t at least deliver the clothes to me, maybe I don’t need to hassle with it either.

Foot Still Taste Good?

My daughter continues to impress me with her high opinion of my physical appearance.

On a whim and with no small amount of encouragement from her, I bought some “light auburn” hair dye this weekend. I’ve never dyed my hair before. Ever. I’ve contemplated it but was always content with the color God gave me. I had been remarking on the increasing number of gray hairs on my head but that’s not why I bought it. I think I wanted to do something spontaneous (a tame midlife crisis?!) and I think I wanted to do something for my husband (he really likes red heads). Anyway, I bought it. But I wasn’t in a hurry to use it.

Well… Jane bought a shocking flaming metallic red to try herself. Actually, we bought it and she doesn’t get it until this Friday, assuming she does an adequate number of chores in between. This means that she was restless come Sunday afternoon and just dying to dye someone’s hair. (Yes, that word choice was deliberate.)

And so it came to be that I let my 13 year old daughter dye my hair. At first, it didn’t look all that red. Now I think it’s maybe too much (although the kids and husband insist it’s not). When I first came out of the bathroom with it freshly brushed and dried, Jane gushed. She insisted it was beautiful. That I was beautiful. I remarked that you couldn’t really see the red. She said, “Maybe so but at least there isn’t any more gray.”

When we went to get my husband’s opinion, he too remarked at the inability to see the red very well (my natural hair color is a very dark brown). Jane insisted that I looked great.

“She’s just saying that because it covered all the gray,” I said.

“That’s not true!” she protested, indignantly. “You can actually still see some gray right… here,” she continued, picking at my hair.

I glared at her.

“Oh, wait,” she said. “Um, that didn’t come out right. I mean…”

Yes, dear. You slammed me again. Thanks. *smirk*

All Evidence to the Contrary

My children have lost their minds.

Our 13 year old daughter has several chores that earn her right to her cell phone. We’ve gone over what those chores are several times. I’ve walked her through them. Like, literally, stood in the room with her, told her what types of cleaning solutions to use for which chores, whether to use paper towels or a washcloth, how to not forget certain easily missed areas, demonstrated particular cleaning techniques. It has been explained.

So last night, after being told to clean the bathroom, she told her dad that she had done so. He didn’t check her work right then but commented to me later that we needed to (since we have long suspected that she’s not doing her chores or at least not doing them well). So I did this morning.

They had already left for school so I called her.

“Daddy said that you reported cleaning the bathroom last night.”

“Yeeeessss,” she said, as if confused as to why I was bringing it up.

I tried to keep my voice calm and non-confrontational. “Well, you didn’t clean the counter. Or the sinks. Or the faucets. Or the mirror. Or the toilet. Or the floor. Or the bathtub,” I said as I peeked behind the shower curtain and confirmed that the bath toys they’ve been stepping on during their showers were still there. “What exactly have you cleaned?”

I was afraid that my last question had come across too strident and we would now engage in the indignant screaming match where I would be accused of not appreciating anything she does and it’s not her fault if I can’t see all the work she did. Either that or this kind of baffling exchange: you didn’t sweep the floor _ yes I did _ then why is there visible dirt? _ I don’t know because I did sweep _ no, no you didn’t _ YES I DID! _ then you didn’t do a very good job _ I don’t know what you want me to say! I SWEPT THE FLOOR!!

She took a different approach.

“Ohhhhhhh! You mean that kind of cleaning!”

I choose to refer to this response as Selective IQ Deficit: the sudden apparent decrease in a child’s IQ to justify failure to accomplish an assigned task.

She should know that “clean the bathroom” does not mean to put the toothbrushes back in order and line up the cups and soap dishes.

When I told her that she would need to actually clean the bathroom this evening before or after volleyball practice, I finally got the explosion I was expecting.

Only I wasn’t expecting it anymore.

“What?! I’m going to volleyball practice?!”

“Um, yes,” I said, surprised and confused. “It’s Tuesday evening. You always have volleyball practice?”

“But I have UIL!”

After some very confusing back-and-forth, I found out that the school board wanted to recognize some academic award winners. Lots of people miss this. There’s no reason for her to miss volleyball practice for it. But she was enraged that we were going to make her stick to her original commitment. Whatever.

When I got off the phone, I noticed that her 10 year old brother, fully dressed for school, had really greasy hair.

“Did you take a shower this morning?”


“Did you take one last night?”


“Did you take one yesterday morning?”


“Your hair looks nasty. You need to take a shower.”

“I’ll be late to school!”

“I don’t think so. I’ll call Daddy and make sure he agrees but if he agrees…”

I called Daddy. He agreed there was enough time to not be late for school. I hung up and turned to my son.

“Go wash your hair.”

To my surprise, he walked to the bathroom without complaint.

“And do a good job!”

“I will.”

As I put on my shoes, I wondered why the shower wasn’t starting. I had heard a brief turn of the sink faucet. Surely not…

I opened the bathroom door. He was at the sink.

“Um. You’ll need to get in the shower.”

WHAT??!!” Yeah… there’s the reaction I was expecting.

“You cannot wash your hair well at the sink while fully dressed. Get undressed. Get in the shower.”

UGGGH!!! I’m going to be late for school!!”

“As long as you leave in the next twenty minutes, you’ll be fine. Hurry up.”

He glared at me.

I checked on him later. The sides of his hair were not completely wet. He was trying to lather the shampoo while standing under the stream of water. He was only washing the top. I reached in to help him out. He indignantly exclaimed that he knew how to wash his hair.

Ahhhh, son… all evidence to the contrary…

Indeed, all evidence points to the conclusion that my children will never grow into fully functional, productive, responsible adults. I’ve been assured that they will, but times like this… I have serious doubts.

Un Poquito

Hal regularly makes bogus claims about his proficiency in speaking Spanish. The older two have slightly stronger claims but only barely.

This weekend, Jane announced she knows a lot of Spanish. To prove her point, she told her Daddy, “You are hombre. That means man.”

“Que?” he asked.

“What’s that?” she responded.

We had been hugging when she approached to show off her knowledge and I was still cuddled up against his chest. I looked up, turning slightly, held my thumb and forefinger a short distance apart, and said dismissively in her direction “Un poquito.”

“What does K mean?!”

“See?” I said, looking up at my husband. “Un poquito.” Then I snuggled back in.

“I know more than a little bit of Spanish!” she said, indignant at my insult.

“No, no you don’t,” I said. “You don’t get to claim any proficiency in Spanish at all if you don’t know what que means. Even people who don’t know any Spanish know that much.”

“But what does it mean?”

“What?” said my husband.

“What does K mean?!”


“Oh.” She paused briefly, slightly embarrassed. “Well, do you know what woman is?”

“Chica,” said my husband with a smile.

“No! It starts with an M,” she said, resuming her place of presumed superiority.

“Senora,” I said, just to be difficult.

“That’s lady! It starts with an M.”

“Muy caliente chica!” said my husband.*

“That’s not woman! And I know what that means!”

“Your mom is a woman and she’s a muy caliente chica.”

“Stop it! Just stop! Don’t talk like that! Oh my gosh, I have to get out of here. That’s so gross.” And with that, she fled the room and we hugged in peace.

*Before any Spanish speakers take it upon themselves to correct our grammar and vocabulary, I will state that, unlike our children, we know full well that we don’t speak Spanish. I will further state that we were simply goading our daughter for fun, without concern for accuracy. Kind of how we used to drive our Latin teacher nuts by announcing “Semper Ubi Sub Ubi!” (Always wear underwear – technically, always where under where). It was guaranteed to get an outraged reaction at our mangling of Latin for a simple pun.

When Mr. Hyde Comes to Visit

I am a mature, responsible, and fully capable almost-adult so I don’t need you to tell me what to do. Even though I’m not actually quite mature enough, responsible enough, nor capable enough for you to never tell me what to do. I leave it to you to guess which mode I’m in right now and if you get it wrong, it’s off with your head because it’s all your fault for not getting it right.

If teenagers could articulate what is going on in that hormone-addled brain of theirs, I suspect it would sound something like that. Living with one is a lot of work. I’m not sure I’d trade it for a newborn crying to be fed in the middle of the night and needing her diaper changed. There’s still more benefits than drawbacks, but sometimes I feel the need for Calgon to take me away.

Take this morning for example. Daryl, who is 10, had asked me to wake him up at 6:15, having misplaced his alarm clock over the Christmas break. I got out of the shower just after 6:15, robed, and then woke him up at 6:20. I told him he needed to hurry to take his shower because his sister, who usually showers at night but hadn’t the night before, would need to take one too.

That’s when I glanced uncertainly at her closed door. Should I wake her? They shoot for leaving at 7:00. She usually sets her alarm for about 6:40. If you go into her room and wake her up before her alarm goes off, you are guaranteed to get yelled at. “Mo-om! Gah! My alarm was going off in 2 minutes! TWO minutes! Why did you wake me up?! I don’t need you to wake me up! I can do it myself!”

On the other hand, she hates for them to run late. That makes her almost as angry as you waking her up. No, probably more angry. If she was planning to take a shower this morning, surely she would have already gotten up? Set her alarm earlier? Since she didn’t, she probably forgot. She needs to be reminded in enough time.

I weighed the benefits and pitfalls of each course of action. Ultimately, I decided to error on the side of assuming she was mature, responsible, and fully capable, even though I knew that in this instance I was wrong. I did not open her door. When I saw Daryl return from the shower to his room, I wondered when she was going to get up. By 6:45, I had still not seen her leave her room.

When I saw the light was on, I opened the door to see her fully clothed, tying her shoe, hair already up in a ponytail.

“Did you take a shower last night?” I asked.

Her face went blank and her shoulders sagged. I was dreading the usual argument where she says she’s going to take one “tonight” and I wearily try to explain again that she had volleyball practice last night and Athletics at school and she absolutely must shower before returning to school every single day. I was prepared to ask why this was so difficult to understand.

But she didn’t go there. She froze in mid-loop of the shoelace, looked down, and sullenly admitted, “No. I forgot.”

Now I don’t know if she really forgot or if she was hoping to get away with it. Regardless, she was resigned to having to shower now.

“You better hurry up and get in the shower then,” I said.

“I know.” She didn’t move.

“And be sure you wash your hair.”

“Ok!” Still, she didn’t move.

I heard Daryl yelling at Hal to hurry up and get dressed. I took a couple of steps toward their room and said, “Why? His sister still has to take a shower.”

“That will take like an hour,” Daryl said.

“I know. So there’s no need to hurry Hal,” I responded.

Jane, who was still sitting on her bed, staring at the floor, snapped her head up at that point. “Guys! You are acting like we don’t need to leave in fifteen minutes!”

“Says the girl still sitting on her bed,” I said.

She popped up and gestured angrily at the wall between her room and theirs. “They need to get ready to go!!”

“And you need to take a shower! Worry about yourself, not them.”

She then stomped off to the shower as I reminded her to wash her hair. I walked to my room where I saw my husband lying across the bed laughing. I spread my arms out wide to my sides and mouthed What the Hell?! Without bothering to raise his head or stop laughing, he pointed out into the hallway and said, “That’s full-bore teenager right there. Full-bore teenager.”

She exited the bathroom a few minutes later, only partially disrobed, to fetch something from her room. I turned back to my husband, “Really? She’s still not in the shower?”

“Full-bore teenager, I’m telling you.”

At that point, we started encouraging Hal, who was still in his underwear, that he really couldn’t delay as long as he had been. “But I need to go potty!”

And there’s where his life intersects with the teenager’s and he’s learned a few lessons of his own. We all walk on eggshells. If he enters, he’ll get yelled at. If he knocks and asks for permission, she’ll probably say no and he’ll likely still get yelled at. Better to hang out in his underwear and risk getting yelled at for not being ready. His 5 year old reasoning skills don’t extend to getting dressed while waiting to go potty.

Jane soon exited the bathroom and hurried into the kitchen. Already in the kitchen, her daddy, sounding surprised, asked, “You didn’t wash your hair?”


“Mommy told you to wash your hair.”


“She didn’t wash her hair!” he called out.

I hurried to the kitchen and chastised her, saying that I had told her to wash it. “You don’t have to act surprised. You could be honest instead and say, ‘I decided to blow Mommy off and not wash my hair’.”

“Ok,” she said, turning to me, her voice dripping with disdain, “Fine. I decided to blow you off and not wash my hair because I thought it’d be nice to get to fix my breakfast. I plan to wash it tonight. Ok?” After a moment of silence, she suddenly reacted angrily, “And how is saying ‘Oh’ dishonest?!”

We then entered a Clintonesque discussion about the meaning of the word “Oh”. I insisted her tone, along with typical usage of the word, indicated surprise and ignorance, implying she didn’t know that I had told her to wash her hair. She insisted that it just meant “Oh”. Oh. I had no idea. Oh, wait. My “oh” didn’t mean “I had no idea”. It just meant “Oh”. Whatever that means.

I long for her sunny side. I enjoy her Dr. Jekyll so much. She is excellent company and a wonderful daughter: funny, thoughtful, smart, beautiful, vibrant. But even though I’ve come to recognize many – but by no means, not all – of the triggers for her Mr. Hyde, I am woefully impotent at averting the transition. And even worse at responding appropriately once it happens.

And so I walk on eggshells. And try to take refuge in my husband’s humored outlook. And wait. And blog. And breathe.