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.