Category Archives: life with teens

Stupid parents

I have two teenage kids, so couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this on someone’s wall earlier this year:

Tired of being hassled by stupid parents?
Move out, get a job, and start paying all of your own expenses.
And do it now, while you still know everything!

That shoe doesn’t fit all of the time, but it fits like a glove some of the time!


Teen driving: The Agony

I received a very distraught phone call from Our Daughter on a recent evening.  She just hit another car.  She was unhurt, for which we are most thankful, and she wasn’t too far, so I got to her in short order.  She dissolved into tears as I put my arms around her.

Sounds like a water bottle fell onto the floor by her feet while she was driving on a one-block-long residential street.  When she reached down to get it, she plowed our trusty van into a parked car (a brand new one that still had the dealer plates).  Damage to both vehicles was extensive – no time to hit the brakes before impact.  When I arrived, one of our van’s front wheels was at a 45-degree angle while the other was straight ahead.  Not a good sign.  The van’s rear end was still partly out in the street; moving it closer to the curb – with the front wheels turning independently of one another – required a fair amount of force and some painful grinding.  Can you say, “Tie rod ends?”  Now say, “Oooohh – those are expensive!”

We left a note on the other car, took some pictures, and headed home.
In the interests of full disclosure, I told Our Daughter about the time I was going 60 mph on the freeway when a water bottle rolled under the pedals of my car.  I reached to get it, glancing down briefly to see where it was.  That’s all the time it took to drift over and break the mirror off a car in the next lane.  The impact also punched a hole in my passenger-side mirror.  That was the only damage, but it could have been so much worse.  My heart didn’t stop pounding for a couple of days.  At 60 mph, a vehicle is moving 88 feet every second.  It’s almost impossible to comprehend how quickly things happen at that speed until something happens at that speed.
Our van is 20 years old, and has lived up to Toyota’s best reputation.  I put four new tires on it in September, and just spent a couple hundred bucks replacing the stop light switch.  Ugh.  We’re inquiring of local body shops and really hoping it can be repaired.  Or maybe we can rent out the house and live in the van.  I’m considering a lot of options at this point.
Wasn’t looking forward to hearing from the owner of the other car, but she was as sweet as could be.  Her first concern was that Our Daughter was not hurt.  Aside from the fact that no one was injured, her kindness, empathy, and understanding have been the best thing about this incident so far.
Would you carry collision insurance on cars that are 20 years old?  If not, thank you.  If you would, we’d rather not hear about it.  Our rationale, of course, is that we would have paid more in premiums than the book value of the cars.  True ‘dat.  But the dark side of the argument is that those cars have actual value to us (though maybe not to anyone else) because they are reliable and run well.  Now the cost of repair or replacement is borne by us.  Can you say, “Thank you, insurance industry?”
Replacing a car is not something we were considering at this point.  While we are quickly gaining a new respect for households that have chosen to operate with just one car, the outcome of this “crash course” remains uncertain for us.  My better angels (including Susan) remind me that this is one more in a long string of opportunities to see God provide for our family.  “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!”

Teen driving: The Ecstasy

After dinner Thursday I took Lauren out to practice parallel parking.  Her driving test was scheduled for Friday, and she was not yet confident about her ability in that area.  A few earlier attempts to work on parallel parking had not gone well:

“You’re not listening to me.”
“Can’t we do this somewhere else?”
“It’s not that hard.”
“Let’s just go home.”

This time there was none of that.  Lauren and I arrived simultaneously at that sweet spot where her determination to learn and achieve mastery lined up perfectly with my willingness to coach and encourage.  We found a wide street in front of an apartment building where there was little traffic and a Nissan 370Z to park behind.

I got out in case it became necessary to throw my body between our 1991 Previa and the shiny little Nissan.  Lauren practiced pulling up alongside and getting a sense for when front ends were aligned and how long to hold that elusive 45-degree angle.

Five times, fifteen times…  Cars went by, she waved them around.  Pedestrians recognized what we were doing and offered encouraging words.

Twenty-five times.  It was dark.  A couple of police cars drove by.  A window in the apartment building flew open and a woman’s head popped out to inquire about Lauren’s progress.  “Hope she’s got an early appointment, ‘cuz those guys can get pretty crabby by afternoon.  Good luck!”

After thirty-five tries, Lauren had executed several very smooth maneuvers that placed her right next to the curb.  When she did that twice in a row with no coaching from me, we were done.

Lauren’s appointment was the last one scheduled on an 80-degree Friday afternoon.  I had a book to read while waiting during her test but paced up and down the sidewalk instead like some nervous Nellie.

When I opened the car door to greet her, Lauren was all smiles and little beads of perspiration.  “I was so nervous!”  Don’t know why:  she scored 92 out of 100 possible points and is now the very, very proud holder of a Washington Drivers License.

* * * * * * * * * *

Two things to note:

  • I resisted the urge to use the following terms in this post:  “big steps,” “relentless march out of childhood,” and “powerful symbol of independence.”  You’re welcome.
  • Lauren lost points in only two skill areas, one of which was parallel parking.

The Boy

This fine young man (Zack) starts high school next week:

Teen room = clean room

We encourage the kids to manage their own stuff – schedules, cell phones, texting, money, chores, rooms, clothes, etc.  We spell out what’s expected and are happy to assist them if they want us to.  And we think they do a great job with most of these things most of the time.  We tell them, “Our first choice is to have you manage [particular thing], but if you don’t, we’ll manage it for you.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Since she became a teen, Lauren has not seen eye-to-eye with us on what is meant by “clean room.”  We have stated on several occasions (in a corollary to the above philosophy of managing) that failure to meet minimum standards automatically authorizes us to take the matter into our own hands.  I think it’s been perceived as an idle threat, partly because we all knew that following through would be such a tall order.

After conditions in her room deteriorated badly over the weekend, I restated the corollary before Lauren left for work on Monday.  “I know, Dad.”  Her statement was accompanied by a particular movement of the head that obviously means, “you are a moron.”  When she left, I knew that the hour had come to roll up my sleeves and get to work.  Most of my day was spent on her desk, organizing a pile of admissions materials from colleges, gathering up issues of Seventeen magazine, putting away pens, erasers, scissors, glue sticks, and photos.  I discovered two tubs of dried out cookie dough, two of our forks, and our household bottle of vanilla in a desk drawer.  There were measuring tapes and eye drops and sunscreen and water bottles and books and CDs and batteries and combs and fingernail polish and key chains and bus tickets and gift cards and lotion and rubber balls and jewelry and band-aids and stuffed animals.  Susan rearranged the closet and dresser, shoveled out debris from the corners of the room (finding another fork and two spoons in the process), and treated the floor to some Murphy’s Oil soap.  We both worked for several hours, and that room has never looked better.  We’d forgotten what a nice space it is.

Lauren was speechless when she came home that evening.  She went right through the stack of pictures, papers, and notes that we had set aside (without reading), and decided what to keep.  Then, to our delight, she started adding files to her newly-organized file drawer.

One new request is that Lauren take what she needs from the household supplies rather than having everything warehoused in her room.  We also want her to clean out the “office” she has set up in her bed and furnished with reading material, snacks, electronic devices, pillows, writing instruments and art supplies…  We’ll be checking her progress soon.

One thing is now very clear:  there’s no more question about what is meant by “clean room.”

Joys of adolescence

Today Zack and I pulled the middle school paperwork out of his desk in anticipation of him starting high school this fall.   He wanted to burn everything, but I asked him to go through it and pick out things he thought we’d enjoy.  Here’s a gem from seventh grade that escaped the flames:

One of my pet peeves is walking behind someone and you can tell they didn’t put on deodorant.  Even worse is when someone next to you smells so bad your eyes are watering, then they move closer.  I just want to carry around a drystick and give it to people.

One time I was working in a group and this guy had the worst BO ever.  I mean my eyes were watering and my nose was stinging.  I told him he needed some deo and he just looked at me.  I didn’t think it could get any worse after he moved closer to me.  Then he reached up.

I once got put in a head lock by a 15 year-old in need of some Old Spice.  My head smelled for the rest of the day.

Another thing I hate is when people have morning breath.  When you are talking to them, the words kind of breeze past you while the breath doesn’t.  Or if you are doing something and a person watching over your shoulder has bad breath.  I just tell them to breathe through their nose or back up before I pass out.

But what I hate the most is when they have a combination of BO, bad breath, sweat, and just a bad smell in general.  In that case I would say, “Have some gum, have some deo.  I just happen to have a toothbrush and toothpaste – you take it.  Here, have my cologne.”  But in the end, they might smell even worse.

Contrite: feeling or showing sorrow

Merriam-Webster tells us that “contrite” comes from the Latin word that means “to grind, bruise.”  Ouch.  It means “feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming, as in a contrite criminal or  a contrite apology,  or  contrite sighs.”

Can one laugh and still be contrite?  You tell me:

This morning was my turn to drive the girls’ carpool to school.  It rained hard last night and was still coming down as we made our way in rush hour traffic along a street filled with potholes and narrow lanes of traffic.  Big construction projects crowd both sides of the street.  We were in the curb lane and moving about 20 mph when I heard a big spooooooooshhhh.  It wasn’t the short spoosh of a small puddle but the smooth and satisfying sound of a longer one.  I hadn’t even seen the puddle ahead, and if I had, cars on my immediate left would have prevented me from skirting around it.  No big deal – I love driving through big puddles — unless someone’s there.

And someone was there, standing on the sidewalk right in front of the puddle.  Didn’t get a good look at him but had the impression of a pony tail or dreadlocks.  Overcoat but no suit.

As you can see from my self-defensive justification, I don’t know if I could have avoided doing this terribly unfriendly thing.  I honestly didn’t see the puddle.  I felt bad – contrite – about being so un-neighborly.  Who needs to start their day like that, suddenly getting doused with a wall of water while you’re just standing there minding your own business?

Lauren had a bird’s-eye view from the passenger seat and was laughing hysterically.  The first words out of my mouth were, “Oh no.  Did I get him?” She was doubled over and could only nod as if to say, “Are you kidding?” She hadn’t seen the puddle coming up either.  But these things never happen to you, and surely your own Dad wouldn’t be so thoughtless, so inattentive, so brazen as to actually drive through a puddle and soak an innocent bystander, would he?

I started to laugh as the cartoonish nature of the scene hit me.  Easy for me, of course, still warm and dry in the car and not dripping wet on the sidewalk.  But my conscience required me to confess my crime to the other ladies in the car.

* * * * * * * * * *

To that guy:  I’m sorry for having nailed you this morning, and I hope that you received some more welcome surprises today than the one I gave you.
To Lauren – was it okay for me to laugh even while feeling contrite about what happened?  I think I hope so.