For moms of teenagers, one Sunday each May seems hardly enough.
We’re really just here to keep them alive until they’re 18,” my husband keeps telling me about our two girls, both of whom are entering that theme park of misery known as The Teenage Years. His mandate is easier said than done. Mostly because it is I who wants to strangle them.
I know in my heart that my kids are kind, decent, good-natured, honorable people who will mature into incredible women with an abundance of gifts to offer the world. However, with the onset of puberty, those endearing qualities appear to have gone into spontaneous remission, buried someplace, likely under the rhinoceros-size mound of soiled laundry piled up in their shared room. (The very same mound they manage to walk around daily as if it isn’t even there, a laundry blindness of sorts that also seems to apply to dirty dishes, homework, hair in the bathtub, overflowing trash bins, and milk left out on the counter.)
In addition, it seems my adolescent children have developed a companion auditory affliction wherein they either hear nothing we say to them—their eyes and ears fixated on a screen and universe far, far away—or hear everything we say to them as a scathing insult. Which leads to conversations like:
“Dixie, sweet pea, can you put your cup in the dishwasher?”
“I WAS JUST DOING THAT OMG YOU NEVER TRUST ME TO DO ANYTHING WHY DO YOU HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT ME?”
When these exchanges happen, I immediately think about my own traditional Southern mother, and how, had I spoken to her in a similar tone, one look alone would have silenced me for a decade. She was also known to throw a slipper now and again, as needed. (There was no such thing as a time-out in our house, only a come to Jesus.)
But, these are more modern times, with parents trying to communicate more and hurl footwear less, and that is probably a good thing, although there are times I wonder. Like the other night when I was trying to explain to Dixie why she didn’t need to keep “borrowing” my expensive wrinkle cream to moisturize her perfectly lovely arms and legs.
“Calm down, Mom,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. (Mercifully, I was wearing shoes that could not easily be removed.)
“It’s worth it, right?” I asked my mother afterward.
“Define worth it,” she joked, before reassuring me that almost all teenagers need to rebel to find their own sense of self, and that before long they would circle back around, stop being female Hulks, and reconnect with the family. “Make no mistake,” she added. “They are still absorbing everything you tell them, even if they pretend they don’t care.”
I asked my mom how she could be so sure. She broke into laughter.
“Girl,” she said, “who do you think you’re talking to?”