Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Managed Expectations

I just returned from a four-day tour of colleges with my son and aside from my scratched cornea and a cough that has forced me to sleep upright on my living room couch, we got nothing out of it.

I had grand plans for our trip. We were going to talk and laugh and bond over our weekend experience.  We would discuss the high and low points of the colleges we visited and laugh about the ridiculous questions that other parents asked (questions like, “How many volumes does the library have?”). We would return home with private jokes and be closer than ever.

Instead we bickered and fought and I threatened over and over again to fly home without him. Our discussions about the schools we visited were reduced to single sentences like:

“This tour guide is TOO happy. I don’t want to go to school here.”


“I really don’t want to go to school in the South or East.” (Which would have been fine except that we were in South Carolina… heading northeast).

Mostly I drove and he napped. There were no heart-warming chats, no easy laughter, no communication of any kind other than his occasional requests for bathroom breaks and, of course, food.

Naturally, this is my fault (what isn’t, right?). I just expect too much. A good friend of mine has suggested—on more than one occasion—that I simply need to “manage my expectations.” Apparently, I expected to be traveling with my oldest son as he was when he was younger: chatty, enthusiastic and willing to share every detail of his life with me. I should have realized that I was traveling with a 17-year-old who wanted to be home with his girlfriend and had no intention of telling me anything beyond when and what he needed to eat.

Why should I expect it to be different?

Because I want it to be – damn it!

It’s really not fair that you are handed one kind of kid when they are born and they turn into something unrecognizable in a little over a decade. I haven’t changed – I’m still the anxious, over-protective, demanding parent I’ve always been. My boys, on the other hand, have morphed into cats.

That is the best explanation for this transformation. According to the writer, Adair Lara, in her essay, When Children Turn Into Cats, my once adorable children, who I often referred to as puppies – enthusiastic, sweet and undemanding – are now distant and uncommunicative felines.

Lara’s descriptions were spot on. I remember the way my kids would look at me when they were little – they were amazed at how brilliant and capable I was – it was almost overwhelming. Now, as Lara explains, your kids are still amazed, “[a]mazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor.”

And now, “Instead of dogging your footsteps, [your cat/teenager] disappears.”

If you are the parent of a teen you know that one day your kid can’t get enough of you and the next he can’t get far enough away.

Lara’s solution seems simple enough: learn how to act like a cat owner and put your “dog owner” hat on the back-burner until your kids come back around.

It’s great advice if you are willing or able to change, but I’m not (you know, old dog/new trick kinda thing). I’m also managing my expectations – I would expect­ this to take too long and not work very well. By the time I figure it out they will be out of the house.

Besides, I’m allergic to cats…


Why Do Parents Have to Be the Grown-Ups?

Last weekend a very good friend of my older son’s showed up at my younger son’s championship baseball game – and rooted for the other team!!

Ridiculous, right? Who’s with me?

Granted he knew a kid on the other team but, still, why pick sides?

I know it sounds petty but WTF, this kid is in my house all the time and has been since he was 3 – that’s 13 years of dinners, snacks, sleepovers, movies, museums, you name it.

I didn’t let the behavior go unacknowledged – I just couldn’t. When he said, “Go Knights! (the name of the opposing team), I responded: “No more food for you in my house.” And I really meant it.

My husband thinks I’m ridiculous. I think I’m totally justified.

I want to question this kid about his behavior, let him know that I do not approve, and, more importantly, make him feel like crap about his decision. Apparently, that is not good adult behavior and I’m supposed to act like an adult.

But I don’t wanna! (If you were here you would have seen me stomp my foot).

Over the years, I’ve learned to bite my tongue when it comes to watching my kids’ friends behave badly. It tends to have a negative impact on my kid’s friendships. I once told my son that one of his friends was never allowed back in our house because he was being mean to my son in front of me and I thought that was disrespectful. Needless to say the kid never came back and my son didn’t stay friends with him. Apparently the kid is not a bully anymore but he’s still afraid of me.

I also scared another friend away when I accused him of stealing– which, let’s be clear – he did. But still, he was 6 at the time so maybe it wasn’t the best use of my energy.

I didn’t actually see him take the money but I cross-examined him and watched with relish as he tripped over his lies.

I was getting change from my purse for my son’s friend for the lemonade stand that he and my son were setting up in our front yard. I took out a five-dollar bill, put it on the counter and turned away for a minute (literally a minute and I mean literally, in the literal sense). When I turned back the money was gone and the kid was slowly walking away from the counter. Just then my son came back in the house and I turned to both boys, “Did you take the money off the counter?” I asked, not in an accusing manner more in a ‘Huh. Now where did I put that?’ kinda way.

“What money?” my son asked.

“The money that I just put on the counter?” I said, looking directly at my son’s friend. I pointed to the now barren counter. “It was right there.” I said.

“There wasn’t a five dollar bill on the counter,” the friend said.

Aha! I had him. I knew that I never said “five-dollars”; I just said “money.” But even with his slip up, he still wasn’t coughing up the dough. Short of frisking the kid and calling the cops there wasn’t much more that I could do.

A little while later the friend came back in the house without my son. “Look what I found outside,” he said, holding up a five-dollar bill.

“Really?” I asked innocently. “You just found that?” What I really wanted to scream was, “Seriously? Do I look like an idiot?” Instead, I waited.

“Yea,” he said. “I found it on the side of the house.” He went on to explain how someone must have dropped it when they were buying lemonade and it probably blew over to the side of the house.

I was really appalled at the extent of the lie. But I was on to him and I was moving in for the kill.

I asked him what side of the house he found it on and he pointed to the west side of the house.

“Was it wet?” I asked him.

He looked at me with an expression that seemed both puzzled and just a little bit frightened.

“Was the money wet?” I asked again.

“No,” he said, clearly confused.

“Interesting,” I said. “Because the sprinkler is on, on that side of the house.” I pointed (I’m sure, very dramatically) to the window where the water was spraying against the windows at regular intervals as the sprinkler moved back and forth in the yard.

It was a solid cross-examination. I didn’t go to law school for nothin’, you know.

He never actually confessed but he didn’t hang out here very much after that. Either he knew that I had his number or he thought I was crazy (probably both). Was it worth it? I don’t know. Would I want my kid to hang out with someone who swipes cash from my house? Probably not, but maybe it was just a phase the kid was going through. I’ll never know.

As for the baseball incident, my older son called his friend a traitor and they laughed about it. Very mature behavior.

I, on the other hand, am going to withhold all of the good snacks from that kid from now on. So there!

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