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.