This Parent Said “NO”

The care and feeding of teenagers is not always fun. The horrible truth is that parents are just saggy, older teenagers. It takes me a few seconds every morning to adjust to the fact that I am not a teenager and don’t have to make my bed if I don’t want to. (Not strictly true as it is so deeply ingrained in my soul that an unmade bed is the major source of chaos in the universe that I sometimes make my husband’s side if he gets up to go to the bathroom during the night.)

I only know everything when I’m lecturing my kids. Inside my head there are warning bells, my mother’s voice, house plans, yogurt flavors, vacuum cleaners, puppies, wine, shoes, zebras and calorie counts all swirling haplessly. It’s amazing I can even keep a straight face when giving advice or laying down rules. Truthfully, even my kids call me a pushover. I know I am. I HATE arguments and don’t like it when anyone in my family is unhappy with anyone else. I am a born peacekeeper to the extreme. I fully embrace “Can’t we all get along?” and have probably made a lot of “don’t be your kids’ friend” mistakes.


So, it has come as a surprise to my second child, my numba wan son, that I have said NO to spring break. Spring break. Are there any two words that can as quickly cause a parent to smile and reminisce, remembering their own debauchery and, perhaps, their mug shot, and, at the same time, wince? While we may have lived through our own antics, no parent can possibly think a teenager let loose in Daytona or Panama City is a good thing. Amazingly, though, there are thousands who apparently do. I have been told that I am the only living parent in the southern states who has said NO. The only one. I have influenced his father, who is now in cahoots with me. We are both irrational, deluded and untrusting. These are the arguments with which we’ve been presented:

You think I’m a bad kid. (No, just a kid who will not receive his adult brain until the brain fairy brings it along about 25. )

A parent will be there. (Yes, a parent we don’t know, in charge of 1,346 kids.)

I have a big car. I’ll be safe. (We have a big car that we allow you to drive. You’ve had two minor wrecks and we’ve been called by a state trooper who caught you going 86 in a 55…)

The wrecks were not my fault. It was in the ice. (Was Frosty driving? I’m confused.)

I didn’t get a ticket. (Because the trooper thought we could punish you worse than the courts. Boy, did he have the wrong mom. )

I won’t drink…much. (Hahahahahahahahahaha!)

Everyone is going but me. (Then might we be in danger of the continent tipping over when all that weight shifts to Florida?)

I can take care of myself. (I’ve seen you try to match socks.)

You can’t baby me forever. (Ha. I’m remarkably strong for my advanced age and adult diapers come in all sizes. I feel sure I could tackle, powder and diaper a 150 pound child with little to no injury to myself.)

You can’t even argue with my valid points. (By this time, I’m just mimicking him. He does have valid points but my instinct still tells me no. Jim Jones probably made valid points and look what happened there. )

My son is the ONLY person he knows who will not be among those at the beach this break. In years past, we’ve had multitudes of kids stay with us at the lake. Some breaks have been good and some haven’t. Now that they are 16 and 17, our boys want to venture beyond, where there are buffets of bikini clad girls beckoning drunkly at every turn.

I don’t care about the girls. Good luck to these guys. I’ve made it safely through that stage with my daughter and I say every mother for herself on that one. Any good mom knows it’s a boy’s single unwavering compulsion to get lucky and she should arm her daughters with that knowledge. I’m not even uptight about a few beers. I am a realistic parent. Teenagers drink. I drank. My husband drank. We did worse. Our parenting theory on drinking was to offer sips when our children were young. They would try a sip, grimace and that would hold them for a year or two. This strategy worked so well that our daughter was 19 before she tried again. Even now, she has a good head on her shoulders and never rebelled by drinking. (Extreme eyeliner was another story, but, thankfully, that passed without harm to either of us.) Our son, well, our plan has worked, but only moderately.


When our son was 15, an older kid that we didn’t know brought alcohol in through our basement door and got our son and his friend rip roaring drunk. While I don’t like this kid, I don’t blame him as I’m sure my son was a willing participant. Throwing up drunk. Sick, sick, sick drunk. My husband went downstairs to find our son, naked, sick and lying in the shower. He described him as looking like ET by the creek. We took great enjoyment the next day in rousing the two boys up early in the morning and making them work, in the July sun, on the dock all the next day. It was extremely pleasurable on our part, and taught the boys a big lesson. The other boy does not drink at all and our son has a huge respect for alcohol as well as a distrust of blue drinks.

Still, our kid and most of his friends do drink some. We have a policy about no questions if they are somewhere, have as much as a sip and need someone to pick them up so they don’t have to drive. It’s hard to keep mum when driving a car load of singing boys home at midnight. In speaking with other parents, I find they have a similar policy. To tell a kid not to drink and then expect them to obey is a great thought, but a reality that could end disastrously. I’d rather be safe. Every parent out there allowing their child to go to spring break is telling them the same thing. “No drinking”. As if. Even in a stable, two parent home with a curfew we have to keep a constant eye on them. At 17 their brains have not fully formed, all their thoughts are in their pants and they are so loaded up with testosterone that they fully believe themselves to be Wolverine. Not a good combination to turn loose with thousands of others kids, all feeling the same way.


So, my poor unfortunate kid, with the fabulous car, the designer clothes, credit card and, I feel, dang lenient parents, is NOT going to be at the beach with his friends. He won’t be getting a ticket driving down, he won’t be in the wreck on the side of 75, the tragedy broadcast on 26 stations. He won’t be getting lucky and getting herpes, poor kid, and he won’t be getting stitches at the Panama City hospital. He won’t be in the sand, with 4 oiled up, sandy babes plastered to him. He won’t be getting plastered at all unless it’s with his mom, on umbrella drinks, while doing yard work. (Nothing says fun like partying with Mom…) My poor tortured boy will somehow be living through this incredible stretch of time (7 days), alone, without his ever circulating fraternity, to emerge alive and unincarcerated sometime in mid-April. I know, cry me a river and call DFCS. This parent said NO.



Spring Break

Last week I cleaned my house, my barn and loaded up my tiny new car with two squirrels, two dogs and my giant new Betsy Johnson bag that’s so bright it brings a smile to my eyes and headed to the lake.  I went alone.  I listened to what I wanted to in the car.  I ate the entire spicy hummus by myself.  I experienced bliss.  Then, a few hours later my daughter, Cricket, arrived.  She’s not much trouble, but she is messy.  She burrowed into my bed, dragging 16 pillows and three more blankets, kicking and untucking the sheets.  She left her red plaid bag on my light blue chaise, causing me color dysfunction.  But I’m not complaining, she’s a fun girl and can be counted on to drive if needed, even if she can’t be persuaded to crash a regatta party.

Then, the boys arrived.  Lots of them.  Because I’m not stupid enough to allow my 16 year old to bust loose in Panama City, and because he has friends with parents equally wise, the boys are allowed to come up and do, basically anything they want, as long as they live through it and neither The Goose nor I has to wake up and take them to the hospital at night.  They arrived on Saturday, by way of the giant flea market, with tasers.  This caused me a moment of concern, but I bit my lip.  Sure enough, it only took a few hours until they had worked up the courage to tase each other.  One by one, they stupidly electrocuted each other until someone wet his pants, twitching and screaming.  And still they had the audacity to plague me with whiny questions about why I would not let them drive to PC, where girls are easy and plentiful and every night is a Girls Gone Wild video in the making.  Because no one required medical attention that could be found outside a psychiatric ward and because it didn’t make a mess, I just ignored them all.

The big story of the week, though, was that my stupid dog, Finn, got lost.  Anyone who has lost a dog knows that it’s a hopeless, miserable feeling.  We made this worse by imagining things out of a true life crime drama.  Several months ago, the elderly man next door to us at the lake, a nice, quiet master gardener, died, leaving the house to his, well, unsavory grandson.  Because I have never witnessed drug use, I must issue a disclaimer that I don’t KNOW he’s a crack head, but he has done some odd and unexplainable things.  By the time Finn had been gone for a few hours The Goose, the good neighbors and I were sure he had murdered Finn and removed him in a black plastic garbage bag.  We had the whole scenario mapped out, minute by minute.  The Boy and I worked up courage and went to the door to ask.  My courage was of the liquid type and The Boy’s courage stemmed from the fact that I was pinching him under the arm.  When we knocked at the door, we heard slow, shuffling footsteps and the door creaked open, 40 year old screen door screaming, and we tried looking through the smoky haze to see if we could see any signs of him.  We did see that the man answering was holding a giant glass vase, the kind with the coils and carburetor, and the house did smell decidedly like a Grateful Dead concert, but I’m not making any accusations.  He mumbled that he hadn’t seen Finn and closed the door.  Then, The Boy and I made a terrible decision.  We decided to scout around the house on our own.  We tiptoed around the house, like Fred and Velma, and came upon a large plastic bin with a lid.  A TERRIBLE odor issued from this bin.  I instructed The Boy to open the bin and he said something back to me which no boy should say to his mother.  I urged him again, politely, but he, again, demurred.  So, I opened it.  We both screamed a blood-curdling scream that would have assured us a part in any scary movie.  I shoved myself in front of The Boy and took off towards my house with him close on my heels.  We ran smack into The Goose, who had heard our screams, and yelled “THERE IS A DEAD BODY IN A BIN NEXT DOOR!” because what we had just seen could only be a torso, floating in blood. Therein followed a confusing “who’s on first” conversation, in whispered screams and demonstrative arm gestures, describing to him the width and color of the abdomen we’d seen in the bin.

The Goose isn’t easily rattled but we scared the pants off him and he did not want to go, hoping to let dead bodies lie.  We were pretty worked up by that time and there was no living with us, so he finally snuck around the back of the house, while we quaked and shook, and performed an inspection. We had 911 ready on speed dial and we were diagramming a home invasion and citizen’s arrest involving stun guns, fireworks and rope.  As it turns out, it was a giant catfish, in muddy water, but it COULD have just as well been a torso and we felt justified in our police work and still find him guilty on catfish murder and dismemberment.  Plus, gross, why?

The end result to all this was that our sweet neighbor found Finn two days later, bathed him and gave him a treat before waking us with the news.  There was lots of snuggling and smiling and everyone started packing up and going home, a few at a time.

And I am patting myself on the back for, once again, keeping five boys alive, averting any pregnancies, alcohol poisoning, head trauma, carpet stains, tattoos, STDs or exorbitant bail fees.  That, in my book, is a good spring break.

Little Boy Blues

The other day my daughter told me I was immature.  Nuh-uh, I said.  Yo mama.  This caused me to get thebleak look of pity”.  Unlike theblack glare of death” that she used to give me when she was in high school, this look just means that she loves me, she feels I’m slipping into my dotage and she feels sorry for me.


Four or five years ago, I felt hip and with it.  Heck, even two years ago.  I blame the fact that sparkly bottomed jeans have gone out and skinny ones are in.  I just can’t make the jump.  It’s hard to feel sassy in pajama looking pants and flats.  Apparently, I had been relying on bimbo clothes to prop me up.

Also playing into my slippage is the fact that I’m not really as necessary at home as in the past.  I have become…well, I was going to say an eight track player, then I upgraded to a cassette and still felt I was shortchanging myself.  I am a CD player.  No one really needs them, but they are nice to have at home, hold some of our favorite memories and we spent a lot on them.  That’s me.

This weekend The Golden Goose and I went to the lake.  We went on Friday night and had a lovely evening to ourselves, complete with a roaring fire and wine.  On Saturday, our son, The Boy, came up with his posse, roaring into the driveway, music blaring.  I had so looked forward to this because I have spent years playing with these boys.  Instead of my sweet gang of boys, though, a changeling group of asshats and buffoons arrived wanting nothing to do with me.  The great evening out I had planned in my mind, eating dinner at the club by the big fireplace and sharing humorous stories over dessert devolved into debacle of Arby’s curly fries and muddy boots.

ImageWhile The Boy was telling a fascinating tale of  a drug lord at school, or something, I made the unfortunate choice to interject a question. He had the audacity to say to me “oh, Mom, you just don’t know about stuff, sitting over there in your little chair, with your paisley pants and your hair up, your wine, with those little glasses on your head”.  WHAT kind of poorly constructed, insulting sentence is that for a mother to receive?  The fact that I was sitting in a chair from which it’s hard to effectively launch oneself and, also, I didn’t want to spill my wine, is the only thing that kept his head on his neck.  Well, that and the thought of getting bloodstains out of the rug.

This has caused a great maudlin boohoo on my part and stalwart suffering for the Goose as he listens to my distress.  He has patiently explained to me that there is nothing in a 16 year old boy’s head but boobs.


“My child no longer loves me” I’ve said, at least 40 times since we left the lake, envisioning his chubby baby neck and how he used to bring me tadpoles.  I’ve called him numerous filthy names, both aloud and in my head.  I have texted my daughter at work and told her how she is my very favorite and how I will never subject myself to a weekend alone with all that testosterone again.  She, being the first child, believes this has always been the case and has accepted my declarations with stoicism and a glinty eye aimed towards my will.  She has reminded me several times that I once said “that Boy will be sweet and snuggly all his life”.  Then she laughs the Cruella laugh.

The Goose, being, well, The Goose, reminded me of the fits of despair I went through when Cricket was in 10th grade.  She dyed her hair purple, bought stock in black eyeliner and black clothes and rolled her eyes at every breath I took.  Not one thing I said was cool or even bearable.  Now that she is 74 and has passed me in age, she finds me tolerable, if somewhat childish and is happy to share my wardrobe.

The Goose is right.  The Boy will come back around or wreck the car and need to be nice for a while.  He’ll fail math and need a bail out and I’ll be the hero again.  I’ll do research on thug lingo so as to appear cool and drop a word into conversation casually and shrug and I’ll be all that again.  He’ll grow up and leave and remember me fondly.  He’ll come home on weekends, hugging and glad to see me.  We’ll talk over old times and look at photo albums, tell stories of summers at the lake, of playing in the creek.  He’ll remember the snuggling, the building of forts and the fantastic childhood his mother made for him. He’ll have my picture in his dorm room.

Then, he’ll marry some tacky witch who just wants me to die so she can get my stuff.

Sigh. Image

Dating in the Two Thousand Teens

The Goose and I are coming up on a big anniversary.  The 30th, I said THIRTIETH, anniversary of our first date.  I failed math three times in high school, but this appears  mathematically impossible to me seeing as how I’ll turn 31 in two months.

The truth is, I was 17 at the time.  He was 21.  Seems kinda sketchy now, but looking back, he didn’t ask and I never told and, to his credit, I was out of high school.  To my detriment, though, he did sport a giant porn mustache and why that didn’t scare me away, I’ll never understand.

It took us three years to get married.  I still had another two inches to grow and we had to finish school.  By the time those three years were over, there were still plenty of things we didn’t know about each other and that kept it interesting.

The reason I bring all this up is that kids today (OMG, did I just say that?) just aren’t doing the relationship thing correctly.  When a boy was interested in me, he had to call my house and repeatedly scream his name to my mostly deaf father on the phone to talk to me.  So many times he would come to my room saying something like “Honey, there’s a man from the park calling you.  Did you do something to get in trouble at Stone Mountain again?” only to get to the phone to find out it was someone named Mark, not park.  It kept me on my toes.  Then I would stand and twist myself up in the cord going in one direction and then spin back around the other way while this boy or the other stammered through the details of our upcoming date.  At no point did we discuss our thoughts, feelings or what he was watching on TV (limited to three channels) or what he was eating at the moment.

If there was a new boy on the scene, we couldn’t stalk him on FB, we had to implement actual phone book intel to discern his address and then gather our girlfriends to covertly institute surveillance upon his house.  We had to call friends of friends to hear the scoop on him and that might take days, even weeks.  We had to do it all seeming as if we didn’t care.  The less interested we seemed, the more desirable we became.  Works to this day.

Last night, my son, The Boy and his friends were complaining about girls.  Complaining not about the lack of, but the annoying surplus thereof.

No matter how many times I counsel girls on the genius of “hard to get”, it is impossible to implement this strategy if they are constantly textually active.  Sometimes The Boy will just turn down his phone and turn it over.  When asked why, he’ll say he is caught in a group message with several girls and the conversation is boring and confusing.  Well, duh, girls are mature and smart at 16 and a boy cannot hope to follow along.  My boy still frequently arrives places without remembering to put on shoes.

By the time a teenager has been “talking” to another for a week, they have been texting all day, every day, for the entire time.  They have been texting in their sleep.  They have commented on their clothes, music, who they hate, who’s hot, who they love, their teachers, their parents, their exes and within the span of another week, they are done.  It’s like using the fast forward button. Just when I fall in love with their girlfriends, the relationship has become tired and over and I’m left feeling like I’ve been broken up with!

These kids have no hope.  They know too much about each other to ever find anyone interesting.  Remember how much fun it was going on dates?  The excitement and anxiety? Spending all day lying in the sun, with sun-in in our hair, heating up the hot rollers, using pliers on the zippers of our jeans because they were too tight? I have a callus on my disfigured finger to this day from lying on floor to zip up my Gloria Vanderbilts. Seriously!

Kids don’t go out on dates anymore.  They “hang out”, which means they lie around in my basement, in their pajamas, watching Netflix and eating Bagel Bites. Now how can a girl hope to be alluring and mysterious in Sponge Bob pajamas? Where is the eye liiner, I ask you, where is the strawberry lip gloss?

I was telling the boys last night that dating back then didn’t require a commitment. It was just for fun. I would go on a date with a boy from one school on Friday night and a different boy from another school on Saturday night and my son’s friend looks down and murmurs “there’s a name for that” and they laugh.  After I smacked the living daylights out of him, I reminded him that the entire group of healthy 16 year old boys were home at night playing cards with a mom. No one really listened to me though, they were getting a text.

Hey Y’all!


A word on men.  Southern men.  I have really known nothing in my life BUT southern men so it’s possible this observation might extend beyond the Mason Dixon line, or as my dad used to say, the edge of civilized living.  I do realize, when recounting these stories that are everyday life to me that my friends who didn’t grow up here sometimes react with more enthusiasm than necessary.  Take for instance my friend the Trophy Wife.  Although she is a transplant, she has taken to southern bellism with gusto.  She can banter back with a “bless your heart” or a “y’all come down for dinner” with the best of them.  Her friend, we’ll call him the “Sales Manager” was recently over for dinner.  Now the Trophy Wife’s dog has a terrible time staying in their fence.  He has had every electric collar known to mankind and now has one touted by the salesman as “strong enough to put down an elephant”.  The Sales Manager had had a few cocktails the other night and started that good ol’ boy “aw, how strong could it be” stuff.  Though he was begged, pleaded with even, not to try it and was at least dissuaded from putting it around his neck, the Sales Manager strapped the electric collar to his thigh.  Upon walking into range, his right leg shot up at an angle perpendicular to his body and his face began to take on the look of a wax candle.  His lip sneered in a grotesque Elvis impersonation. Thrown to the ground, the SM couldn’t stop the bucking and wiggling long enough to get to his feet and get out of range of the fence.  He tried worming, snaking and eventually rolling his way out of range, causing such injury to his wrist that he needed an emergency room.  All this was done surrounded by friends laughing too hard to render aid.  Hey y’all, watch this!

My son and our neighbor, Cheese, aren’t immune to the southern man’s need for danger either.  Several years ago they fashioned wings from bamboo and a tarp.  Now, these are educated kids.  They were in advanced science classes.  Cheese’s dad is from a northern state and all these facts combined should have meant someone could have foreseen the problem. They really should have known better.  After I weakly suggested that it was NOT a good idea to jump from the roof, I poured a glass of wine and went out to sit in a chair and watch.  I mean, I’m not one to miss a good show.  What saddens me is not only the loss of good bamboo tomato stakes but the fact that, after seeing Cheese plummet to the ground at a high rate of speed, they climbed up and tried it a few more times.  Also, I had to learn the emergency room is surprisingly strict on rules about bringing in wine, even white wine.

One of the best “hey y’all” stories I’ve ever heard is from my brother-in-law, Kippy.  He was at the county fair with some friends.  One of them was wearing a Marine red satin boxing cape.  I still have not gotten to the bottom of this and, hearing him tell it, it’s not important.  As I adore dressing up in old prom dresses, I’m not the one to cast stones.  This friend was not a Marine nor a boxer, though.  They come upon a bear in a cage.  Now, I’ll have to stop right here and say that this makes me so angry and sad and causes me to wag my head back and forth in such a way that I look like Weezy from the Jeffersons.  A bear, in a cage, at a fair is wrong on any level.  Still, the story is funny and I am hoping the bear has mauled it’s keeper and run away to join wild bears picnicking in a woodland paradise. Anyway, the friend starts bragging that he can whoop the bear.  I believe his actual words might have been “I’m gonna whoop that bear’s ass”. He becomes so unruly that the keeper says, well, come on, son.  What happened in the next 22 seconds or so is that the bear grabbed him in a giant bear hug and breathed such rancid breath on him that the friend fainted dead away in his cape. This so entertained his inebriated friends and makes a good story, that they will tell it at any opportunity.

I love southern men.  I love the way they say ma’am, I love the way they open doors, stop to change people’s flat tires and appreciate a woman in a flowery dress.  A good southern man will never turn down a chance for bourbon, cold beer or anything that gets them dirty, and causes loud bafoonery.  Now that’s just good fun.