After freaking out twice last week, it occurred to me that I was not having fun.
These were supposed to be the Basking Years.
Teenagers lull you into a false sense of family cooperation that comes from the fact that – follow me closely here – they aren’t actually home all day.
I waltz around the house on a Tuesday, admiring the tidiness and quietly cheerful atmosphere and feeling like my family is just the loveliest thing. I smile into their photographs on the wall. They sit perfectly still up there, not even thinking about spilling food on our new couch.
At 6pm exactly, the front doors fly open and admit a hurricane that smells of basketball practice, stale Ritz cracker crumbs, greasy backpacks and spilled gatorade.
Gym bags, sweatshirts, shoes, papers, and cell phones are dropped the length of the house as my man-cubs attack the kitchen. There is no eye contact, only grunts and fierce grappling over the refrigerator handles.
My daughter has put boots on the landing, purse at the staircase, umbrella on the table as she navigates to the sink.
In go the tupperware from lunch at work.
She’s tidy like that.
I’m really sorry to say it.
But the Teen Version of our game, Would You Rather? looks an awful lot like the Toddler Version.
Only on Axe. So.
Would You Rather….
Have food in the fridge for a week of actual dinners, but duct taped and clearly labeled “DO NOT EAT”…or…let it go and watch them live on frozen hot dogs, tortilla chips, and pancake mix?
Stay awake until midnight every weekend until you see your teen safely in from a date…or…startle awake at 3am, notice the front porch light still on, have a small coronary, rush to the child’s bed and WAKE THAT KID UP BECAUSE WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE ALL THE HEART ATTACKS AROUND HERE?
Be flattered that your teen is asking you a question, like, maybe you still know things, even if you have NO IDEA what the answer is, so you make it up like a boss…or…keep watching your episode of PSYCH, quietly hand the teen an iPad and mouth “Google it”?
Have a teen who has a better resume than you…or…have a teen who can navigate internet circles around you?
Have a teen who is content to ride the bus to pay for college…or…have a teen who gets a drivers license immediately but can’t even afford gas?
Have a house full of teens bouncing off walls and smearing pepperonis in the houseplants…or…have all the teens at someone else’s house where the adults have abandoned them to pepperoni autonomy?
Spend hours and dollars helping your teen fill out job applications, buy a nice shirt, practice interviews, and drive him to his new job so he can make minimum wage…or…hand him the difference in cash because, as his sisters keep pointing out, no one can support himself away from home for years to come.
Which would be my only motivation in the first place.
Have a teen who gloats about his manly smell of victory…or…runs the hot water heater dry in a single shower?
Have a teen who wakes up at 6am every day no matter what but be grumpy…or…have a teen who sleeps until you pry him off the bed with a crowbar but then he’s one happy cookie?
Do the sniff test on a pile of random laundry you found in the hallway…or…do the sniff test on a pile of random restaurant doggy-bags you found in the back of the fridge?
Dive into an end-of-the-season gym bag…or…into an end-of-the-year backpack?
The question last week, of course, was, would I rather have a teen who goes mysteriously missing for five hours…or…one who gets in touch promptly in order to let you know about a motorcycle, a car, and a broken kneecap?
In other words, would you rather freak out…or…be reassured to NOT freak out?