Ahhhh, summer. That magical time when you’re excited that your kids are going to be out of school and home to spend time with you.
For about five minutes.
Suddenly, in between all the fun things you have planned and events you’re going to do together, you realize your sweet little Susie isn’t so little any more and she’s turned into (insert scary music here), a teenager.
Alright, take a deep breath. It’s going to be ok. I think. I mean it has to be, right? As you know by now, my husband passed away almost two years ago from pancreatic cancer. I write about my grief. I’m pretty raw and very honest about my life because I think sharing my journey is important if it helps people, but even sometimes I get burned out and don’t want to talk about it. And this week, I don’t want to talk about death. I don’t want to talk about grief. I want to laugh, and I want you to, too, so with summer here and teenagers at home, I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to let you into that part of my life, too.
Now listen, my editor made me clean up the language that really goes into this post but you’re still going to be offended if your don’t have a good sense of humor. So if you don’t think making fun of your kid is funny, then just don’t read this. In saying that, my daughter has read it and not only did she give me the seal of approval, she laughed all the way through. Because it’s true. And it’s funny.
I do a lot of thinking as a single mom, and I had an epiphany the other day. You see, For thousands of years, philosophical masters have tried to figure out where the “Seven Deadly Sins” came from and what exactly they mean. They’ve literally gone to the ends of the earth doing research into it and some even died not knowing the answer. Well, listen, I’ve figured it out. No, it wasn’t the Greeks or the Romans or some Biblical character. It was a mom describing her teenagers. And here’s why:
- Gluttony: Have you ever watched a teenager eat? I mean, heck, if I had that kind of metabolism, I would probably pack it away, too, but man – I can make my kid a full meal, watch her engulf it, and then ask for more. I often watch in disbelief and silently ask myself how it’s even possible. Why do we even give them silverware? Napkins? Why even bother having cups when they can just drink out of the container? Do they breathe in between bites? Do they chew? Wait, yes, they chew. I can hear it. Sometimes I can see it. Do they ever get full? Where does it go? I feel sorry for their digestive system, honestly. I feel sorry for my plumber. I feel sorry for the guy who is trying to decipher their special order at the fast food restaurant. And, why, for the love of all that’s Holy, do they have to suck on their straw once all their drink is gone? Are they that hungry that they have to try to drink air? Is it the noise they like so much? Is it the fact that they just like to be irritating? I had two picky eaters and one not-so-much. She will eat anything. She licked an eyeball on a fish, once. She tried escargot and swallowed it. I gagged. Who in their right mind actually wants to eat a snail? She knows how to make three things – macaroni and cheese, eggs, and ramen noodles. Sometimes at different times, sometimes concurrently. I dread the day when she wants to cook for us and we all have to try it. I see it now, “Scrambled eggs delicately laced with ramen noodles, topped with mac and cheese.” And a side of toast. She can make that, too, which is evident by the crumbs she leaves behind. But really, how many boxes of cereal can a teenager eat at once? I used to tell my kids when they were little that if they ate their corn, they would be able to see it in their poop. If they ate their green vegetables, their poop would turn green. You know, creative ways to get them to eat, much like how we put cheerios in the toilet for boys to pee on. But, I didn’t know I was creating a monster. I didn’t know that making eating fun when they were little would cause an astronomical grocery bill and multiple uses of the plunger. On top of that, teenagers can live on crap. If I have one too many spoons of ice cream, I am paying homage to the porcelain God for a month, yet they can live on Doritos and soda. Do they even take in any water? Does their body just know? Will they go into shock if they eat something healthy? What if there isn’t any food in the house? Oh, that’s ok. They memorize your credit card number and order $1,500 worth of “Uber Eats” in a month. Did you know Uber delivers food? I didn’t, until I got my credit card bill. There is actually an app you can order from and people who will show up at your door with a chocolate shake and a bag of fries at your request. If that doesn’t scream lazy, (see below – deadly sin #2) then I don’t know what does. I thought for sure I was a victim of identity theft, and just when I was about to file a claim with the credit card company and all three reporting bureaus, I went through the itemized bill and saw that all the restaurants were local. I asked the terrorist about it and sure enough – she was hungry. Obviously famished because she ordered enough food to feed a small village. I had to mentally write apology notes to all the phantom kids I cussed out in my head who I thought might have stolen my credit card and went on a binge eating spree all over the country. I hope her ass gets fat.
- Sloth: Mmmm, k. Really? Does this one even need an explanation? I wanted to get the correct definition of this so I could be very, very sure it related to teenagers. The definition reads, “(noun) reluctance to work or make an effort, laziness.” Ding, ding ding. Now, you can’t tell me that when somebody made up the seven deadly sins and decided to include laziness, they weren’t talking about their own kid. I can hear the conversation somewhere in the sixth century. It goes like this:
“Lo, you there, child.” A mother yells out to her teenager.
“Whaaaaaaaaat? Why thou callest me while I am sleeping?” He answers.
“Fetch me a water pail, so that I may draw your father a bath.”
“Eh, he can do it himself. I’m tired.”
“But, child, he works his hands to the bone for your comfort. He is weary and hungry upon his return. A hot bath will ease his tired body.” The mother tries to reason.
“He’ll get over it.”
“Alright then, I shall do it myself.”
“Moooooooooom. Why you gotta be like that? Why you gotta make me feel guilty while I’m trying to sleep? Why don’t you just ask?”
Oh, give me a break. Kids are lazy, they always have been and we let them get away with it. Now, it saying that, I honestly have always thought that teenagers need more sleep than most people, so I always did try to let my kids sleep. But, like 14 hours a day? I wish I could do that. Not only can I not fall asleep very quickly, but I can’t stay that way. If one thing or another doesn’t hurt, it’s the middle of the night bathroom visit that really wakes me up. How in the world do kids hold their bladder for that long anyway? Especially after all the crap they’ve ingested all day. Does Mountain Dew have like some kind of mystical power where they don’t have to pee in the middle of their slumber? Is it hibernation? I watched a documentary on bears the other day and no shit, they can sleep for seven and a half months. IN A ROW. Are our kids bears? Is this natural? Are they preparing for the winter? Zombies? I’ve found my kids sleeping everyplace. In beds, in closets, on the floor, in the kitchen, in chairs, in the car; everywhere. I seriously think this goes back to the fact that their body is mad at them for filling themselves up with crap and it puts then in a mini-coma to digest it all. But yes, even I can get my kids to do chores. Lots of threats, bribery, crying, but eventually, they help. One time, my daughter was so excited to show me how she cleaned up her room really nicely, and boy did she. It was beautiful. Everything in it’s place, cleaned out. Neatly arranged. Even some big things were missing, but that’s ok, it gave her space. Until I found all her crap in the guest room the next week. I love parenting.
- Greed: I’m not actually going to blame this one on teenagers. No, this starts when they’re toddlers. That whiny, “It’s mine” is only met with a whinier, “No, it’s mine.” Guess what, kids. It’s MINE now. If you haven’t uttered those words at some point, then you don’t have multiple kids or you’re not a real parent. So, we teach them. We teach them what’s theirs and what isn’t. We teach them how to share. We teach them how to give. We haul them to Goodwill to get rid of all our junk and give them this big long lecture about how we’re giving things away to make somebody else’s life better, and then we hold hands and sing Kumbaya. We all know that really, we’re just trying to get rid of all the junk in our house and feel good about it, but it works most of the time when you want your kid to get rid of 300 pounds of toys and you can’t think of another way. At least when they’re little and their hearts are still tender. “Listen, Johnny, there are kids out there who don’t have half of what you do. Don’t you think it would be nice to give them this stuffed animal? You know, the one you’ve had since you were two. The one with only one ear. Yes, dear. The one the dogs chewed the leg off of. I know, he was your special friend that week you had the chicken pox and he’s probably totally contaminated, but yes, some little boy out there is going to love him just like you did. Probably even more because he is part of you.” Yeah, that stops when they get older. They discover Craigslist and second-hand stores and gullible friends. They want to sell their stuff. Yes, the stuff you bought them. Do I get a commission here? Like, really? Remember that shirt I got you for Christmas that you said you loved and would wear every day? Why is Susie wearing it now? She’s five times the size you are. I know her mother didn’t buy her that. Are you getting it back? No, I sold it for five dollars.” Wait, hold up. You sold your $80 shirt that you never wore for $5.00? What for? Were you hungry? Will that even buy you a No. 1 anymore at McDonald’s? With all the selling that goes on around here, I’m surprised she doesn’t walk around with a credit card reader on her iPhone and have to pay taxes to the IRS. But, it’s not like that money goes back to me? Oh, no. Greedy Gertrude hoards it for herself and manipulated momma just buys her more when she needs it. Yep, totally guilty. I CAN’T HELP IT. I see the cutest outfit and I just have to get it because, well, I know how cute all her friends will look in it when she decides to open shop and go on a selling spree. And not only does she sell stuff to them, but she buys stuff from them. You think you’re on top of your game when you sell some old stuff on Facebook? No, let me tell you. You don’t have anything on these kids. Nothing. They know exactly how to put together a “lot” of items, with one expensive piece and five crappy pieces and sell it for $50.00. And kids will pay! Well, their parents will pay. It’s like the bundle of socks you get at the store. The ones on the outside are super cute and the three in the middle are plain Jane white? Same concept. Same scam. Next Christmas, if I have any money left, she’s getting a dog. The dogs are the only things we have that she doesn’t want to get rid of, even when I want her to. And those are “all hers” too, until it’s time to pick up poop. Then, they’re not so greedy, are they?
- Lust: Remember the hormone fairy? She’s a jerk. One day, your sweet little girl is playing with her Barbies, setting them up for tea parties and getting them dressed for the school dance and the next, Barbie and Ken are making out in Barbie’s dream camper. Suddenly, they’ve chopped off Barbie’s golden locks and painted her nails and made her more appealing to Ken, or their brother’s G.I. Joe’s. Aw, they’re growing up. It’s a fact of life. But, these girls nowadays…phew. Lemme tell you. We thought we were cool in high school because we teased our hair high and wore dark eyeliner or dawned pink and green to catch the eye of our resident Jake Ryan. We thought winking was flirting, even when we looked like idiots after our heavily mascaraed eyelashes got stuck together. We wrote our crush notes and told all our friends so that eventually word would get back to him and maybe he would ask us out. How do they do it today? They just don’t wear any clothes. Shorts are shorter, tops are practically non-existent and bralettes are the next big thing. That word, bralette, is even on my spell checker. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a bra where the kids wear the strap up behind their necks because they want it to be seen. Sure, in the 80’s we wore lingerie as shirts but at least most of us covered it up with a cool jean jacket and wore at least one cool glove. How are we supposed to avoid lust? I don’t know. I’m thinking about taking a cue from the Quakers and dressing her in a cotton dress that buttons at the neck and falls all the way to the floor, but then again, she will probably just sell it. I think this is just one of those things we have to accept will come, and never go.
- Pride: I struggle with this one, actually. We want our kids to be proud. We want them to take pride in their appearance, to wear appropriate clothes, to be proud when they get good grades or have some kind of accomplishment. We want them to be proud of their actions and be proud of their friends. But, what we don’t want, is for them to be jerks about it. We don’t want them to be over confident, but we do want them to have confidence. We want balance. So for this one, I say go for it. The punishment in Hell is to be broken on the wheel. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but it sounds awful. I’m hoping for grace on this one, because as far as I’m concerned, you go on with your bad self.
- Envy: This starts early on and gets worse and worse as time goes on. We’re all envious. We’re all jealous. But teenagers, well, they’re taking home first place on this one. My daughter was a competitive gymnast. Not only is it one of the hardest sports to master, but you’re on a team with the same people you’re competing against. So, you’re supporting and cheering on your teammates but at the same time, you want to beat them. It’s natural. And it doesn’t just come from the kids, it comes from the parents. Parents tally up scores on their kid’s competitors during competition, some of them force them to practice at home after being in the gym five hours a day, some of them make them practice on broken bones, and some of them have panic attacks watching their kids compete. We want them to be winners. We want them to be have a grasp on healthy competition. And then we shove the pressure down their throats. I know, because I did it. I thought I was encouraging her, but really, I was feeding into her natural, animalistic, competitive nature and then wondering why she was acting like a shit when she didn’t win. I have some good friends who are “Gym Moms” who have managed to instill the art of competition in their kids while teaching them how to be gracious, but some of these moms – wow. They’ll even resort to buying their kids’ friends just to have a personal cheering section. We, as parents, are culpable here, folks. This is one of those “sins” we also need to work on. And as I stand on my soap box, I am working on it, too. I am trying to teach my kids that it’s ok to lose and still come out on top. It’s ok to get knocked down and get back up. It’s ok to be jealous of somebody else, but it’s not ok to be an asshole about it. Let it drive them to be better. Let it drive them to set goals and a plan to obtain them. Let defeat make them better. Let “want” make them work harder. If I can give you one piece of totally unsolicited advice on envy – be patient with this one. They’ll get it, eventually. One day, as they come out of this freak of nature teenage thing and they blossom into beautiful young women, they will know how amazing they are. How talented. How beautiful – in any form. They will know they are good enough. Strong enough, and worthy of great things. Because, even when they’re little heathens, you will tell them. In your own way, you will get that point across. Write it down if you have to. Tell them you love them. Write it in lipstick on their mirror if you can’t utter the words because you’re mad at them that day. Write it on the $5 dollar bill they’re gonna steal out of your wallet. Tell them they’re valuable. Remind them that this shit is normal, and they will come out the other side. Because, I promise you, they will.
- Wrath: They say “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. I don’t know who “they” are, but “they” obviously don’t have teenagers. Either that, or they have never seen a teenager pissed. And, do we ever really know why? You know when they’re mad at something. Slamming doors. Throwing down their backpacks. But they won’t tell you what’s wrong. No, it’s the perpetual game of twenty questions, that leaves you guessing until you’re blue in the face. Then somehow, it becomes your fault. You’re to blame. Never mind that little Miss Popularity at school hurt their feelings or told the whole school their deepest, darkest secrets, or that the boy they liked asked another girl out. No. This is YOUR fault, and they will be the first ones to tell you that. Or show you that. I remember the first time I saw my youngest daughter really mad. It took everything I had not to laugh. And I’m glad I didn’t, because if I did, I think she was ready to kick my ass. Still, to this day, I don’t really know what she was mad about it, but she sat in the recliner, with her legs crossed, kicking her crossed leg out into thin air, with fire in her eyes. And whatever it was that she was upset about didn’t matter because I was at fault. For breathing, I think. Just being alive at that moment. Tears filled her eyes and her voice cracked, but there was no way she was going to tell me the real reason she was pissed. Nope. She was just mad. And then Bonus dad walked in and she melted. What in the actual hell? She’s mad at me because I exist, and he walks in and suddenly, she’s the sweet kid again. I think there is something about the mother/daughter, or even the mother/son dynamic that just makes it happen. They might think they hate you, but really, they know how strong you are. They know you can shoulder their storm. They know you can take it. They know they can be shitty and you will love them anyway. They know that you will always be there for them, even when you can’t stand them in that moment. It’s like childbirth. While you’re in it, you promise yourself you will never have another baby again. No, screw that. Ain’t nothing coming out of me ever again. And then you hold them and love them and they smell so good and nine months later, you’re doing it again. Because you just don’t give up, and kids sense that. I’m telling you, you’re doing something right if they trust you enough to show you that vulnerable side to them. We just have to learn to appreciate that, even if we really want to run far, far away into the magical kingdom of, “I don’t Care,” where the skies are blue, money grows on trees and margaritas are always within your grasp. Or for me, a martini. Tequila makes me sick.
Time for me to wrap up this up because my dog is barking and growling into thin air. I’ve told him to stop sixteen times but he listens as well as my 15-year-old. In all seriousness, friends, try to remember back when you were a crazy kid. All those hormones, mixed messages, pressure, stress – it’s all natural. They’re going to get through it. And so are we. I hope.”
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