“Sorry,” I said, feeling chastised, but hearing the mortification in his voice reminded me of everything trying in our mother-son relationship right now. Do you think I like his hairdo, long and straggily raking across his face? And, he whips it back so many times a day I believe he has developed a tick. I haven’t seen his eyes in a year and a half.
He is on the phone nonstop. “Son, can we just buy the ten items we need here quickly—or get through any activity at all without your receiving or sending a text?”
“It’s not a text. It’s a meme,” he says, exasperated that I don’t know the difference.
“A what?!” I ask, passing the baby food aisle and fondly remembering when his needs were so simple and easy to define. Before he became a short-circuited bag of demands and hormones, sneaking food in the pantry but never closing a bag so every cracker in the house is stale or gone—the empty box a telltale sign. “Is it like Twitter?”
He rolls his eyes, “No, you tweet on Twitter. A meme is totally random stuff and acts on video where everything goes wrong.”
“And, this is what your generation does with the amazing technology at your disposable?” I was thinking of a grown friend who had told me that there is a new “app” that allows you to “pop a zit.”
“When is the last time you used your laptop or that new phone to research a word or study an author, to find anything of value?” I am especially upset because this, his fourth cell phone, he had dropped in the bath last night, screaming that it had to get replaced; he got it less than two weeks ago. “You all are so intellectually starved, it’s ridiculous.” I share this knowing my son is one of the better teens, one of the “good guys.”
When you wake with a sore neck and can afford a massage, that’s great, but what you really need is an adjustment because it means your spine is out of alignment. In the same vein, how do I correct what is obviously wrong between my son and me? I don’t care what anyone says, having been there (and still am) raising a teenager is the hardest thing I have ever done. I keep wanting to scream or run for the hills—and, honestly, I’ve already tried that. Fleeing is a temporary resolve. It gives you space but the problems remain.
You hear advice on talk shows: Don’t overmother. Let him go and suffer the consequences. Seamus does nothing without being asked (although his chores are regularly scheduled items like take out garbage Tuesdays & Fridays, feed the dogs after school) and he must be reminded four or five times. “In a minute, Mom,” but then twenty go by; meanwhile, he’s blasting his stereo and on the computer and his cell at the same time, “Oh, yeah. Garbage, I forgot.” Then he forgets to put a new liner in the trash can. He forgets his sack lunch at least twice a week but has never forgotten to take his cell to school or to put it on the charger at night. You can lock him out of the office for days at a time, ground him, and punish him but nothing changes the behavior long term.
This week alone I made homemade popcorn, even took it to him upstairs, where he sat in front of the computer. Then, anticipating the household needs of the week, I went down to fry some bacon that had been in the refrigerator awhile. Next, I reminded Seamus that it was 10:30, phone curfew, and he needed to bring the plastic popcorn bowl down. Texting, he put the bowl—with uneaten popcorn still in it—on the counter and was headed back upstairs.
“Go ahead and wash it,” I said, carefully placing the scorching skillet I had just used into the sink. “Just don’t put it on top of this pan because it’s so hot it’ll burn the plastic.” Then I went outside to rally up the dogs for the night, and when I walked back into the kitchen the plastic popcorn bowl wasn’t washed. No, it was sitting ON TOP OF THE BACON PAN I HAD EXPLICITLY TOLD HIM TO AVOID and Seamus was nowhere in sight, so I lost it.
Well, today I am picking him up early from school because I am taking him with me “into the woods” to camp for two days. (Steve was invited but isn't interested; he has been gone all week in Alabama for a seminar and wants to come home and do nothing this weekend.) It’ll be a fresh air, campfire, lots of exercise but a low tech weekend, and we’ll see how my son and I survive.