Lockdown

It was one of those crazy conversations that starts at the dinner table. The cat was outside, sitting at the end of the walkway waiting to come in, as he so often does. W got up from the table and let him in. When he closed the door, he said, “There. Now we are in lockdown for the night. No one goes out. No one comes in.” He sat back down at the table to finish his dinner.

“If that’s the case, you’d better lock the door,” I told him. Rather than get up, he leaned back in his chair, attempting to reach the door. He couldn’t quite reach, and the chair nearly toppled.

“You’d better get up to do that,” his sister advised. “Or you’re going to be the one going out. To the hospital.” W heeded her advice and stood to lock the door. “Or maybe,” she continued. “We’ll have to explain to the ambulance drivers why they can’t come in. GO AWAY! We’re on lockdown!” she demonstrated.

“But then they’d just kick in the door,” W said. “Lockdown or no, they don’t care.”

“True,” I said through my laughter.

By the time I got up from the table, I had completely forgotten about the “lockdown.” The cat was once again meowing at the door, and I let him out, clearly not thinking.

A few minutes later, J spotted the cat out the window. “I thought you let the cat in,” she said to W. “What happened to the lockdown?”

W looked out the window. “Wait… how did he get out? I let him in!”

I turned from the sink to see two kids looking at me. I shrugged sheepishly. “I forgot about the lockdown.” But then we noticed the cat going after something outside. He had clearly spotted something of interest, and he was hurrying toward it. I had been baking for an event at work, and I was sweating, so I took the opportunity to go see what he was after.

“Mom, you can’t go out. The lockdown!” the kids reminded me.

“I’ll just be a minute,” I told them. “I want to see what he is after. DON’T lock me out. There is no lockdown.” And of course, in my mind, my word was the word in this house since I pay the bills.

Nevertheless, I returned to a locked door and a sticky note. “Sorry. We are in lockdown. Come back tomorrow at 6:00 am.” Are you kidding? That’s a long time to be outside without a jacket.

I knocked on the door. “Let me in!” I laughed. “There is no lockdown!”

Yeah, they let me in. If they hadn’t, I would’ve gone to the neighbor’s house. I keep a key there just in case my kids do something crazy—like declare a lockdown and refuse to let me in!

Class Rank

The conversation started out innocently enough. We were talking about the grades my daughter earned in the third quarter, which ended on Friday. Of course, nowadays, with programs like PowerSchool, there really are no surprises when it comes to grades. If parents open that report card and don’t know what their kids’ grades are, they’re not paying attention.

But then my daughter stared talking about a student in her AP English class who was missing much of her work for last quarter because she just didn’t hand it in. Or something. This particular student was ranked number one in the class last year, but this year… not so much.

If you’re wondering why a child would choose to slack off junior year—the year that is probably the most important, as far as college admission goes—read on. The rest of the conversation is quite telling. While the subject continued on grades and class rank, the focuse shifted to my youngest.

“I’ll bet you’re valedictorian in your class,” my daughter said to her brother. Her tone was almost accusatory.

“No I’m not,” he assured her, and he named the student who is.

“Well, you’re just a freshman,” she told him. “Your classes are easy and you don’t even do any homework. Wait until junior year. The people who are working hard now will get overwhelmed and start to struggle. Then you’ll be valedictorian.” She seemed pleased with her logic.

There was a pause in the conversation, and I thought it might be over. Then she said, “But if you’re valedictorian, you’ll have to give a speech, and you won’t want to do that. You’ll have to slack off a bit. But not too much because you don’t want Guidance to notice and ask you what’s up.”

“If I’m a junior and I’m number one in the class, I’ll have to slack off more than just ‘a bit.’”

“No you won’t,” I inserted myself into the conversation. “The top few students are really close. If one grade slips just a little, you’ll slip to number two with no problem.”

“But you don’t want to be salutatorian, either,” his sister cautioned him. “There’s really no point. If you aren’t number one, may as well go for third. Then you won’t have to give a speech, and you won’t have to be second.” If there was such a thing as an audible wink, she would have inserted one here.

And that explains why the top student in the class might slack off junior year—apparently, it’s all about the speech. And this is where I insert an audible groan….

 

One final thought–Christmas antics

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Stuffing stockings—one of my annual Christmas challenges. Have I found enough stuff to fill each stocking? Will I have too much stuff, and if so, what will I do with the extra? Even after years of filling the same stockings, I always second-guess myself.

This year, we approached the holiday in “scaled down” mode. Finances are a little tight, so when I was searching for stocking stuffers, I decided to go the practical route. In addition to some toiletries, toothbrushes, and a tiny puzzle-y-thing or two (okay, and the requisite chocolate…), I purchased socks and underwear to fill the extra space in the stockings because, well… practical (and necessary).

When I started to actually fill the stockings, I found that I did not have enough room for the underwear. I had purchased a package of underwear for each of the teens in my house. While the packages were a good idea and would have taken up a sizeable chunk of space, the stockings were full enough without them. So late on Christmas Eve, I made the decision to place the packages of underwear in the children’s rooms, as if Santa, himself, had gone to their rooms to check on them and placed the item there.

On Christmas morning, I wanted to make sure none of them missed this amazing Christmas treasure. W was the first one up. “Did you see that there is underwear in your room?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he told me, and then his face brightened. “I was so excited that I had to wake C to let him know. ‘Santa came! Santa came! And look what he brought us: new underwear!’” he recounted the scene for me, and I had to smile at his sense of humor and fun. In fact, he actually did wake his older brother with his humorous rendition of childlike Christmas excitement.

And because that childlike excitement of their younger days has tempered to a much calmer holiday emotion, I always smile at the moments like this one—humorous or not.

The big brother who is trying to sleep in … maybe he doesn’t find these antics quite so entertaining.

Slap bracelet

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Because I grew up in a family with one sister and no brothers, I find it fascinating to watch the interactions of my two nearly grown boys. On Friday afternoon, C came home from college for a brief visit to watch his sister perform in the high school play. I went to get him, and when we arrived home, C walked in the door, and his younger brother was standing in the kitchen.

“Bro!” C exclaimed. “Give me a hug!” He wanted he hug (I think), but he was challenging his brother. Pushing to see if he’d oblige. C approached the younger, arms outstretched, and wrapped his brother in a hug.

What he didn’t expect was the snappy response he’d receive. W whipped his arms around his brother, wrapping him in a bear hug and pulling him off balance. From where I stood, I only heard the snapping of W’s arms against his brother’s back.

“Oh man!” C coughed as he caught his balance and straightened up. “You’re like a slap bracelet,” he said, referring to the way his brother wrapped around him.

I had to laugh. “Slap bracelet” was the perfect description of the aggressive, albeit playful—physical exchange (i.e. the “hug”) I had just witnessed in my kitchen!

Necessities

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In the living room, my son is trying to convince my daughter that some colleges don’t provide toilet paper. I’m not completely sure, but she doesn’t seem to be buying his story.

He and I had this discussion while she was in the shower. It started like this: he decided it would be good to add paper towels to his college packing list. That naturally devolved to the need to bring toilet paper, as well.

“I think you’ll find the school will provide that,” I stated, amused at the ludicrous thought that such a necessity would be overlooked.

“I hear some colleges don’t provide it,” he pushed the issue, spinning this new story as he spoke.

“Really?” I asked, recognizing he was going to make up something. “Like what school doesn’t?”

He threw out the name of an institution that one of his friends will be attending. Since his friend recently returned from his orientation, he would know first-hand if the school didn’t provide such a thing. It was a plausible story, but my son was joking, and I knew it.

“Can you imagine paying all that money for college and having to provide your own toilet paper?” I snickered. “That would just be ridiculous!”

Not to mention how that might work in a shared dormitory bathroom….

Yes, we have some crazy conversations in our house. And yes, I end up thinking about things I most likely would not otherwise consider. Sometimes, that would be a good thing.

Growing Pains

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“Mom, I don’t have any pants that fit.” It was Sunday morning, and we were getting ready for church when W entered my room with this report.

Admittedly, my brain had not yet woken up. No pants that fit, I thought. If these kids don’t stop growing like weeds….

But then my mind started to wake up and deconstruct that thought. I thought back over the past few days. He had pants that fit yesterday. He had pants that fit the day before yesterday. No pants that fit? Hmm….

“What do you mean, you don’t have pants that fit?” I asked him.

“I don’t have any pants,” he responded. “Only pants that are too small.”

“There’s a basket of laundry in the living room,” I reminded him (because doesn’t every body keep a basket of laundry in their living room?). “Did you look there?”

“No,” he admitted without the slightest hesitation.

“Perhaps you should. I bet you’ll find some pants in there that fit.” He left the room without further comment. I imagine he knew that suggesting again that he had no pants would do him no good.

I heard no more. When I went downstairs, he was wearing pants, and they seemed to fit. Well enough, anyway. The length was debatable, but who was going to argue?

At 14, he really can grow out of his pants overnight. In fact, it has happened. In my bedroom, I have a large bin of clothes that are on hold, castoffs from his brother just waiting for him to grow so they can be claimed and worn again. However, I opened that bin over the weekend, and it was nearly empty. A few pair of jeans, some shorts, and a handful of t-shirts lingered in the bottom. His older brother’s growth is slowing down. And, of course, the size that W needs now is the size that C skipped. And so, I am doomed. We will have to go shopping and actually try on jeans and figure out which size, style, cut, etc. he wants. And then I’ll have to pay for them. Doomed, I tell you.

But W could consider himself lucky. He will have brand new pants. The era of wearing his brother’s hand-me-downs has passed. Hopefully, he won’t outgrow the new ones overnight.

Meanwhile, on Monday night, we left a meeting and were walking to the car to drive home. The light from the nearly full moon skipped across the ice dotting the pavement. “Hey Mom,” W said, through the darkness. “These shoes are too small.”

Sigh.

Sanity

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I have been working with teenagers since I was barely out of my teens, myself, so when I had my children, I remember wondering what I was ever going to do with these tiny babies. I was pretty sure I would be fine once they reached their teens, but the baby stages… they puzzled me. Nonetheless, I made it all the way from the baby stage to now, layering years and parenting and experiences to get to this point. Now that they are teens, I am still pretty sure that these are the best years yet. Complicated, conflicted, confusing, confounding, but definitely, the best yet.

Every now and then, however, there is a moment that makes me question. You know all those things you’ve heard about teens being moody and unpredictable from one minute to the next? Some days, those things are not true at all. But other days, those things are incredibly spot on.

From one child to the next, it seems I have a pattern in which I “forget” some of the more challenging things. There are days I have to consciously remind myself that some battles just aren’t worth fighting. One morning this week, it was about a sweatshirt. Fact: child in question didn’t have one. He did have a jacket, so I suppose that was a step in the right direction.

“You’re going to be cold in school,” I informed him.

“No I’m not,” he retorted with complete certainty. No. Of course you’re not.

“I hope you don’t plan to wear your jacket around school all day,” his sister chimed in. “That’s just wrong.” And the next thing I knew, he was off moping in the other room. Because moping. As we’ve all heard, it’s what teenagers do.

His absence from the room gave me a brief moment of pause in which I considered what it was that drew me to my work with teens…. Perhaps I had been misleading myself all along. But the teens I work with are other people’s kids. They don’t usually treat me like I’m ignorant.

Moping child came back into the room just in time to pack his backpack and scoot out the door. “Don’t think that just because your jacket is zipped up all the way that you’re fooling me!” I called after him.

“Ugh!! Teenagers are so obnoxious!!” my daughter stated with an overly dramatic eye roll as she put on her jacket. And we laughed together before she slipped out into the darkness of the early morning. And I focus on this.

Some days, I wonder if I will make it through the teen years with my sanity intact. But each time this household spirals into the depths of teenage moodiness, there is someone to pull me through it with a joke or a smile or a sarcastic comment. There is always someone to add a layer of fun or silliness to the situation. And as my son is so quick to remind me, “Mom, you didn’t get into this with your sanity intact!”