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.



10 Steps to Great Parenting


Haha.  Not really.  I just called it that because it’s funny.  I have no idea how to be a great parent.  I’m still constantly surprised that someone let me bring two babies home from the hospital with no adult in charge.

At 19, my daughter is more the parent in the house.  She was most likely the parent at 9. That’s just her nature. My observation is that we do the best we can to teach kids to be good and kind, keep them from setting expensive stuff on fire and keep them safe.  They really come fully programmed from the factory to be who they are. It’s just our job to guide them.

I had someone tell me not too long ago that I was too much a friend, not enough parent.  I am good at listening politely and then laughing when I hang up and so I did.  This from a parent whose child would rather die than spend time at home.  A self righteous parent who has no idea what their child is up to, doesn’t want to know, and is parenting by the “do not” method.  If there is a surefire way to produce a rebellious kid, it’s by the “do not” method.

So I’m a friend, so what?  My kids, at 17 and 19, choose to spend time with me, their friends hang out here and in that way, I can be a real parent, keeping them safe and knowing what’s what.  They have both survived, so far, as good and lovely humans, even with a parent like me.  They are lucky The Goose came with an adult gene to keep us all in line.  So, to other happy hippie parents everywhere, these are my ten observations:

  1. Don’t keep Sharpies within reach until kids get a driver’s license and then only with limited access.  No amount of Kilz will make this go away. Once applied in indelible ink, a hallway will still say “poop” 16 years later no matter how many coats of “Creme No. 5644” have been applied.Image
  2. Cultivate a “nothing” face, so when your kids tell you who among their friends is getting into trouble and being generally stupid you can make them think you are non-plussed by this while you cultivate a plan.  I have heard volumes of information from both of my kids, who think I”m cool enough to handle it, and in this way, I have steered them from harm.  I should be used by the FBI as a secret weapon.
  3. Don’t brag about your kids to other parents.  They don’t care.  If your child cures cancer, another parent will still find her child more fascinating because she got the the spirit stick at cheer.  Everyone thinks their kid is the best.  That’s the beauty of being a parent.  No matter how fat, skinny, tall, short, smelly, freckled, wart covered, glittery or down right stupid a child might be, to Mom and Dad, they’re da bomb.  Just keep their vibrant glory to yourself, no one else is interested, especially at parties. Nothing harshes my party mellow than pictures of someone else’s kid. Especially when I know mine are the best.Image
  4. Any time a child is expected to be quiet or respectful, like at church or at their grandparent’s anniversary party, they will inevitably belt out something rude or toot loudly and fall down laughing.  Be prepared to explain that they have had a recent concussion and come armed with medical terms.Image
  5. A child will rat you out to grandparents every chance they get.  They will tell them you didn’t actually go to church but, instead, stayed in your jammies all day watching tv, with your door closed, while expecting the kids to eat reheated Bagel Bites.  They will pull up the hems of their skirts to show the clever way their mom uses duct tape. They will tell their teachers and Sunday school teachers every infraction you commit.  They will supply the answer “wine” when their Kindergarten teacher asks what their mother’s favorite thing to make for dinner is.  They will pull on your coat and say “nuh-uh, Mommy, you quit your job!” when you tell their teacher you can’t help with field day because you’re working.  This is their revenge.  Expect it.  Stay ahead of the curve and occupy them with something, anything, when trying to speak to another adult.Image
  6. Be the “fun” house.  Always let kids come over and have fun.  Be a little bit nicer than other moms and in this way you can covertly eavesdrop and know all.  Yes, it’s messy, yes, kids want to eat constantly, but, of all the things I did right, this was one of them. I know lots more than I really want to, but at least I’m not in denial. My kids’ friends have confided in me, my kids have told all and I think I’ve had a grasp on the real situation out there.  High school is a super scary place.  It’s good to be aware.


  7. Your 11 year old travel baseball player?  Probably not going pro.  Your daughter who spends 6 days a week at dance class?  Yeah, most likely not going to be doing that at 25.  All these things are fantastic if the kids love it.  Many times, though, it’s the parents’ dream.  For crying out loud, let the kid have a day off to catch salamanders and get dirty.  Lock up the xbox and send that little precious outside to play.  A kid that has to be stripped in the garage and carried to the tub because he’s encrusted in mud is a happy kid.  It’s like a secret recipe.  Kid + water + sunshine = kid that doesn’t wear black and listen to death music.  Imagination is an awesome thing.Image
  8. Don’t try to make kids be who they’re not.  I saw a video once, called The Animal School and it changed me.  I highly recommend looking it up if you have kids in school. ( or, look up “Raising Small Souls” and find it there. It is the most beautifully done video for understanding individual children I’ve ever seen.) If your kid is really NOT a math kid, quit shoving it down his throat.  Chances are, he’ll do something with his real talents that don’t involve solving for X. Let kids explore their talents and abilities.  If they spend all their time trying to be good at something they’re not, they never get to be really good at what they naturally tend towards.  Kids today are over scheduled, stressed and confused.  Teach them real skills like how to balance a checkbook, how to use the front loading washer with 42 settings and how to say “yes ma’am” and “I’m sorry”.   It’ll take them a long way.
  9. Be flexible.  Kids are going to try stuff.  Be ready to keep them safe through it all.  My 16 year old called me from a party and said “I drank some beers, come get me”.  I wasn’t happy about the drinking, less happy about driving 30 miles in my jammies, in hair curlers (not really, but my hair was almost as embarrassing) but I was so happy he’d called me.  When I got there, he seemed perfectly fine.  When I commented on this he said, “yeah, I had two beers four hours ago but I promised you I’d never drive after having a sip”.  How can I be mad at that?  Kids are going to experiment, better to be able to talk about it and hope they learn.Image
  10. Teach kindness.  I raised vegetarian kids. I told them that God loves all his creation, two footed, four footed, swimming or crawling.  The one thing I’ve stressed is goodness and kindness to animals and others.  I see this deep within them, no matter what phase we’ve been in, and there have been plenty.  Sometimes teenagers aren’t happy creatures with whom to share a home.  Still, there is a carefulness for the feelings of others, a swerving for squirrels, a moving of turtles, a scooting outside of spiders that lives in them that thrills me. Show me a person who has compassion for animals and I’ll show you a person who is good to the core and won’t grow up to keep human heads in their refrigerator.

Enjoy it.  I spent years worrying over the cleanliness of my floors and the dust on my tables instead of sitting down and coloring.  Now, when it’s late in the game and I’ve seen the loss of several of my kids’ friends, I sit when they want to, I go when they ask me along and I enjoy every minute until they move out and I have to call them several times a day.  It does go by fast, even though those preschool years seem to go by in long sleepless dog years.  Young mothers, it gets better.  It gets fun.

I’m no model parent.  I am silly, can’t stick to the rules, cannot help with math.  I have been described by my son as a pushover and, sadly, by my daughter as “shrinking” (surely not, I still say I am just slumping). I see all these parents with ten million rules, expectations and demands and think they might just be missing the point.  I’m not saying my kids will invent a new source of power, but they might.  They may not make billions, but they could.  They may not change the world, but they have changed my world, and I have changed theirs.  That’s pretty cool in itself.

The Appendix Cure for Lying


As I get older, I find I have no tolerance for liars and no ability to tell lies. (Actually, I have little tolerance for lots of people, but that’s another blog.)  Of course, things are easier the older I get because I don’t get into as much mischief.  If I do something, I just say “bam, I did that” and deal with the consequences.

As a teenager, though, I was … naughty.  By this I mean, if it was fun, I did it, and then found a way to get out of trouble later.  I learned such a lesson in lying when I was 17 that it should have cured me for good.  Except for the occasional fib to The Goose about the cost of some shoes, or a slight slip over an incident with the car, I’ve been pretty dang truthful all of my adult life.

When I was 17, one weekend, my parents were going out of town.  I told them I would stay with my friend.  What I didn’t say was that her parents were out of town as well.  My poor parents swallowed the whole story, sweet trusting people that they were.  When I left for school on Friday morning, I kissed the folks goodbye and set out for a Ferris Bueller weekend in the extreme.  My good mother, however, noticed that I had left my gas credit card at home and worried that I might run out of gas.  So, being the kind hearted person she was, she brought it up to school.  I was not at school.  I was elsewhere, already embarking on the road that leads straight to Hell.  So, in this way, the school was alerted to my absence.  Since this was before cell phones, I was left to believe that all was well.


That night was something from an 80s movie montage in that it involved a Ferrari, an accident, a cute boy, turquoise satin pants and a lesson in Spanish. It encompassed checkerboard sneakers, large hair, Taco Bell and no seat belts were worn whatsoever.  Those of you who were teenagers in the early 80s, you might have lived a version of this weekend too.  Things were just more fun then.

I lived through it, barely, and even managed to screech in Saturday morning just in time to get to school to take my SAT.  While I believe I probably did well on the first few problems, I then put my head on my desk and slept through the rest.  Final SAT score, 400.  The next night was tamer than the first, but only marginally.  On Sunday afternoon, as I drove myself to youth group at church, worn out, hung down, achy, I told myself I really should be better.  I would be better!  By golly, I would be a good girl, complete with pleated skirts, Peter Pan collars and loafers.  The visual of myself as “good girl” caused mad fantasies where I helped winos off the street and saved kittens from trees. I would be like a nun!  As I sat in choir practice, I congratulated myself on my thoughts to do so.

ImageThen, in the tiny glass window, I saw my mother’s face.  It’s round magenta countenance filled the window completely and conveyed such malevolent intent that I almost climbed under my chair.  I still do not know how she found out some things, and thankfully, she didn’t know half of what I’d been up to, but she was set on destroy mode and I was in the crosshairs.  She had my dad in tow to drive my car that she was threatening to sell and as I followed her rapidly clicking heels out of the church, I knew even he, usually understanding of the wayward, couldn’t save me.

ImageOn the drive home, in a Hail Mary of Biblical proportions, I mentioned that my stomach hurt.  I said it was killing me.  I might have just as easily said my head or back, but I chose stomach.  I really laid it on and moaned and begged her to stop being mad.  To forgive.  To understand.  She was a sucker for a sick kid and I thought I had her, but she suddenly veered off the main road and drove me directly to my pediatrician’s house.  She grabbed me by the upper arm and marched me into his living room, across his sculptured carpet, instructed me lie down on his plastic covered sofa and then proceeded to dare the poor man to find anything wrong with me.  If our doctor was surprised to see us at his house, one look at my mother caused him to close his mouth and fein interest in my condition.  I continued with the ruse, now in such hot water that I feared juvenile incarceration if I stopped, and so I moaned at all the appropriate times.  If he pushed, I wailed.  He suggested we go straight to the hospital.

Now it was getting serious.  I began to think.  If I told the truth, I would not see the light of day for years.  The worst that could happen is that she would have time to cool down, see me in a dire medical setting and all would be forgiven.  Nothing prompts a mother’s love and concern more than seeing a child in the ER.

After waiting for hours, I realized that it would be too late when we got home for me to go to school the next day.  One problem down, no visit to the principal’s office. Upon examination, which included the kind of x-rays where they strapped me to a table and turned me upside down, a doctor came in and announced that they would be removing my appendix that night.

That’s when it all came out.  I admitted I’d been lying, I cried, I howled, I confessed to being the worst daughter ever, and my mother just hugged me and told me not to be scared, it wouldn’t hurt a bit. I prosthelytized from the gurney, I wailed and gnashed my teeth, but she told me she was sorry she hadn’t believed me right from the start.  She said she loved me and tearfully left the room.

Then, they wheeled me out and cut me open.  Uh huh.  No matter how much I insisted I’d made the whole thing up, medical personnel just smiled and patted me.

I’d like to say I learned a lesson right then and there.  The terrible thing is, at 17, I didn’t.  I only received a tiny scar.  I spent the week in the hospital, receiving flowers and gifts, hugs and sympathy, boyfriends and friends milling around the bed, and never had to see the principal.


As an adult, I am flabbergasted at myself and the surgeon.  I never thought about the consequences, never thought how much it would cost my parents.  I have relived this over and over, stupefied that this could have happened.

Years later, I told my mom everything.  The irony is that she still didn’t believe me and that’s where the lesson came in.  I hate the thought that someone believes something about me that’s not true, good or bad.  The thought that my mother didn’t believe me, even as an adult, was terrible. I am what I am and, good or bad, I’d rather someone believe ME, not just an image of me.

If this has taught me anything, I believe it might be that the worst thing about lying is someone might believe you.  Well, that, and cherry colored drink stains never come out of satin and never, ever, believe a boy in a Ferrari, “borrowed” or otherwise.


To Quote Jim Morrison, Summers Almost Gone


Never should such a pretty man say such ugly words, but in the words of the beautiful Jim Morrison, Summers Almost Gone.  The bugs might still be here, but the fun is certainly over.

During the summer I am AWOL.  By this I mean, Always Winesoaked Outside Lineforming.  In terms everyone can understand, I move to our house at the lake, in a tiny little town, outside the technology sphere, drink alarming amounts of white wine and lie in the sun until I grow yet one more set of fine lines and wrinkles.

Here, in this tiny house, I fail miserably to achieve any of the sun drenched fantasies I concoct all winter.  While I do run for about the first week I am there, I find that my running schedule interferes with either my desire to sleep past sunrise or cocktail hour, which starts approximately after 11:00 am.  The green juices and raw foods I consume during the year fall by the wayside as I become intimate with the chips and cookies which the kids that surround me demand. I never ride into town to the farmer’s market, on an antique bike with a handmade basket on the front, to collect fresh vegetables still dewy with organic goodness. The wind has yet to whip through my long gauzy skirt, my hair doesn’t flow in the breeze.  I do manage to swing by Bojangles for butter soaked biscuits occasionally, though, and can now distinguish between generic and Nestle’s raw cookie dough with a 70% scientific accuracy while wearing a blindfold.

ImageI wear my swimsuit coverups as high fashion. I think drawstring pants are the bomb-diggity. By the end of the summer, I find I closely resemble Orson Wells, in the later years.

 ImageMy brain atrophies.  I read smut and fluff.  While I began, in June, to read back through all books by Pearl S. Buck, by this time, the end of summer, I have just finished up the literary high of the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse.  I begin a blog in my head and then wander off in another direction because it is incomprehensible to me to remember how to power up my computer. (Hey, look!  A squirrel!)  My only accomplishment this entire summer has been to completely fold all the towels and swim suits on top of the dryer – one day.  Just one day I managed to complete that and it didn’t give me the mountain top high I expected.


My diminutive little cottage has a sweet master bedroom, with a giant, fluffy bed for The Goose and me, that stays somewhat out of the maelstrom.  The rest of the house is chaos.  Downstairs, there are enormous “kids” piled three to a bed, in the three beds, other mattresses dragged out from closets, four more kids on the sofa, one in a chair and some, in enos, strung from trees.  I say kids, though they range from 16 to 21. They each possess two feet that are constantly muddy, 25 outfits thrown haplessly on the floor, and all manufacture crumbs wherever they sit.  They each drink only 1/4 of each soft drink can they open and leave the rest to stick on wooden surfaces.  They roam like weasels in the night, sneaking beers and baking whatever they can get their hands on while I’m sleeping.  They cook everything on broil.


Friends and family come and go daily.  We never know who will be there from night to night.  Many mornings I awaken to find a whole new cast.  Family comes and we float until we’re prunes, going through Dora band-aids and margaritas like Imelda through shoes.  I issue the “be on good behavior” decree to all kids, they disregard it, and all goes on as usual and we find that we like it that way.  Sometimes there is dancing that causes my daughter to ask me the next morning to never dance again.  Some ladies, who are old enough to know better, participate in headstand contests after dinner and some Imageslink away in shame. Friends bring their pontoon over and we idle away hours sunning like seals. We draw endless sharpie tattoos on each other and everyone writes graffiti on the wooden outdoor shower walls.  We document the sayings that were funny at the time, like “I’m not above malt liquor” (courtesy of my new sister, the MILK), “twerk on Kirk”, which has something to do with my not dancing anymore and the lyrics to “Grey Goose”, the filthy worded theme song of the summer.  Elementary aged children should never be allowed to enter the outdoor shower.

ImageThere we have no internet.  No television.  To make or receive a call, one has to go out the front door, stand by the street and position one’s self just right.  Then, we yell and hope someone hears us.  If there were a convenient pole, like on Green Acres, we could possibly try climbing that.  For entertainment, we buy DVDs at the flea market, of current movies, complete with people coughing and walking in front of the camera.  Sometimes we get lucky and there are Japanese subtitles.  In this way, we feel we are expanding our linguistic education.  Cricket can write the dialogue from the first half of Hangover 3 in Japanese, from memory.


All in all, despite the mess, the chaos, all my hollering and complaining, it’s a simpler, happier way of life. The big news in our little town this summer is that the fire men have TWICE run the firetruck into the firehouse.  No murders, no political theatrics.  None of the bad feeling that comes along with being plugged into CNN.  I am delighted to have missed most of the Zimmerman business.  My heart resounds with joy to be in the dark about Weiner.  (Now, see?  I just snickered to myself over that because I’ve been with teenagers all summer.  I’m going to need some time with educated adults to be able to act my age again.) I’ve enjoyed being out of the loop. I live in constant hope of a worldwide EMP that will let us all live small again.  (Except for the hair color problem.  This does worry me.  Being gray in a post apocalyptic world seems somehow less glamorous.)

In the end, I yell and scream, everyone cleans up. There is vacuuming, dusting, endless loads of washing, we clear off the dock, put covers on things, pull out the carpet cleaner and turn off the lights.  The little house gives a big sigh and it looks as if we were never there.


Coming home, everything feels big.  I’m amazed that we need this much room in which to live. I can’t remember where things are.  My animals have shunned me, having fallen in love with their caretakers.  My old cat looks older and skinnier and glares at me from her place atop the microwave as if to say “Really?  Almost three months? Just pour me some milk, you naked, upright animal with thumbs.” I’m starting to feel that old pull inside me again to clean out some closets, find a calendar and organize us all.  I am going to put gas in my car for only the second time this summer.  It seems my hair has taken on a very “sun in” tinge and, jumpin’ jesophat, my dermatologist is going to need DMV tools to restore my face.  This morning, I caught myself yelling, for the first time all summer, to HURRY UP!  I watched the traffic report.  I regarded the giant pile of mail.  I got a text from the library that I was late.  And just like that, we are all forced back into the real world of school, schedules and shoes.

The real world sucks.


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


I’ve never been very, um, “mommy”.  I mean, I was a good mom when the kids were little but I didn’t lose myself in being mommy.  Maybe it was selfishness, maybe immaturity, maybe it was a deep desire never to wear high waisted jeans or drive a mini-van. I stuck to my bimbo code and the kids dealt with it.

I’ve mellowed, become more tolerant and find that I’ve had so much fun with my kids as they’ve gotten older and now there are lots of kids that I truly love.  There are so many friends of my kids who have become like my own.  I wash their clothes, feed them, yell at them, play sardines with them, chauffeur them around on the boat and listen to their secrets, hopes and dreams.

In return, the kids that I love have drawn giant genitalia in my front yard.  They have written dirty words on my car and let me drive around with truck drivers honking and nodding at me.  They have changed my status to “I’m gay” at least 400 times.  They changed my Apple password to “Penis” and I now cannot figure out how to change it back.  Every time I walk into see a Genius, I have to mumble this to them while their whole demeanor changes and they sneak sideways glances at me. They have set their carpet on fire, set the car seat on fire, set themselves on fire.  They have thrown up vodka and blue juice onto the carpet in my basement.  They’ve turned over the ATVs, grounded jet skis, and one has had crying fits worthy of an oscar, but I’m not saying which.  They constantly add mess and confusion to my household, glasses stuck to nightstands, plates with pizza stuck to them, clothes everywhere, friends everywhere. I am single handedly pulling my son through high school using threats, manipulation and little treats, just like I trained my Jack Russell.

In the shadow of all the tragedy surrounding us lately, both in our community and in the country, I’ve been looking at things differently  I think of all the moms that won’t have kids come home to annoy them. Their kids won’t make messes, won’t make mistakes, won’t embarrass them.  They won’t be there to spontaneously grab their moms, pick them up and squeeze them  until they scream.  They won’t share sweaters, won’t borrow their cars, won’t remind them of the stupid things they’ve done, repeatedly.  Their kids won’t ever become smarter than their parents and be there to hook up technical devices.  They won’t still snuggle and watch a movie, even though they’re almost grown. The enormity of that makes me want to fall to my knees and be thankful that I have one more day with my babies.

This makes me forgive all the craziness and realize that this is what makes life fun, watching them make mistakes and learn from them.  Watching them struggle through senseless biology and math. Seeing their hearts get broken and then seeing them rise above it.  It makes me want to hug them until they say “Mom, this is awkward”. I’m seriously thinking of asking if they want to climb in and sleep with me and their dad tonight, but anticipate rejection and looks of concern.

My son, The Boy, recently said “Mom, we’ll both be gone in two years.  What will you do?  You’ll have no life.  Who will play with you?”.  It caused me to feel sad and go straight to bed because they’re right.  I think I’m one of them.  Who is going to play with me?  The thing I hold onto is that, unlike those poor moms for whom I can’t stop crying and praying, I’ll still be able to call my kids once, twice, maybe 26 times a day.  I can sleep over at their dorms and apartments.  Oh, and I will.

Also, the Goose is going to have to step up and get me a puppy.