“The kids in Kolkata won’t be worrying about how their water bottles are filled going off to school … if they are lucky enough to have a school … and they won’t be talking to their parents like that, either …”
I didn’t say that, did I? Said I to myself even as I said it.
K was flustering around the kitchen counter, all moaning and flicking/testing freshly expertly curled hair ends. Stuffing containers of crackers and fruit segments into her bag, ready to run out the door for school. And there was this offensive water bottle to deal with.
Told me she hated water bottles refilled, because they drip in her satchel, on her books. Fair enough point if it wasn’t being hissed at me with the subtlety of a prosecuting senior counsel.
So Sarky Dad had to stick his oar in, of course.
When the wind abated and she was gone, I had to think about it all. Again.
Yes, her attitude was terrible, and mine hardly better, but she was up and out, and looking gorgeous and fresh.
The episode was actually well down the K Scale and nothing like the explosion it could have been … so the morning had been okay, really.
It’s just hard to see it like that at the time, though, when tensions are high, and there’s this sniping and counter-sniping.
Or have my expectations lowered so much that I see taking only a certain amount of crap as a result?
Handling young teens often seems like handling explosive devices. Trying to maintain control while trying to not set them off. Or yourself.
Hard to do this when even the way you look, how you breathe, even, seems to send them into paroxysms of disdain and irritation.
I often think we set ourselves up for this by taking our kids so seriously. Which reassures and pisses them off in equal measure.
Of course they talk and act this way with us because ultimately they know they can.
And accuse us of not caring while knowing there is nothing we care about more.
Right from the beginning.
I still remember 15 years ago late at night watching the same K sleeping in her basket after bringing her home from the hospital, and the feeling of relief when I saw that tiny little chest rising after a pause that went on for a small eternity.
And then we introduced our children to magic, all Santa, fairy tales and you can be anything you want to be if you believe hard enough Disney-drivel.
Santa and the tooth-fairy are long gone but our household still functions on magic.
Domestic magic. The kind that clears the dishwasher, washes floors and hangs those ironed school uniforms in their wardrobes. And pays for school trips, hoodies and football boots from a source that never depletes.
The magicians are here every day, showing how it’s done, but it’s still magic! If you choose to believe. Our kids sure seem to.
Little wonder that one of my nieces, many years ago when she was seven, told her parents she was going to run away, and when asked what she would do for money, patiently replied: “I’ll get it out of the cash machine outside the bank.”
Which is maybe why it’s so hard to get our teenies to want to take on those magic housekeeping jobs themselves. Without payment.
Of course, it doesn’t help when you have been fobbed off with “Just one sec …” for the umpteenth time and finally flip your lid.
Despite seeing Mommy and Daddy cleaning and cooking all the time, some part of our big, stropping … I mean strapping … teenagers still believes fresh socks just waft into their drawers, and that creamy carbonara for four just appears on the table at mealtime.
They are bright as anything but still have to be told to get their jackets even though an Arctic gale is blowing outside.
I remember years ago in college reading for the first time about psychotic behaviour.
Turned out it had nothing to do with pulling crazy faces, drooling and talking random nonsense to yourself all day long, with no logic to it.
No, psychosis was logical all right. It was just the logic started from a different place to what might be considered “normal”. And it remained utterly true to that different logic. Was governed by it, in fact.
Which reminds me of how teenagers behave sometimes.
So one minute they are all bright and chatty, and this parenting game is a breeze, and then you ask them, again, to tidy their room and they come at you all confrontational and aggressive.
You are taken aback and regrettably, sometimes you bark back and try to take them to task.
Pretty soon there’s sparks flying and the actual cause of the conflagration is forgotten, as they go through all your parental flaws and all the rest.
You are left seething, and more fool you if you think there will be an apology later.
Yes, I see teenage logic as broadly similar to adult logic, only it starts from a slightly different place. Our adult version is flawed, or as they might put it, “So *** pathetic and stew-pid!!!”
From their point of view, their hormonally-fuelled over-response to your basic parental instruction is magically subtracted from the equation, and thus did not happen, whereas your parental irritation and anger are not alone left in, they may even be multiplied …
So, your flying off the handle had nothing to do with them, and only proves, again, what a crap parent you are.
Magic, isn’t it?
It’s also the kind of magic whereby all the wonderful things you do are just … you know, normal … what every parent does … but if those socks don’t appear, or those keys can’t be found, then the dreaded incantational shout of “Mom!!” or “Dad!!” goes up and this all better be sorted pretty quickly.
Magic, my arse!
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