Wednesday, 18 April 2007

They Made Me a Moron

Once upon a time I was perfect. My tuna casseroles were ambrosia, my cookies were world-class, my smoothies were nectar. Plus, I was beautiful and I could do anything.

Things have changed: I have teenagers. I know that I am smarter and savvier than I was when they were toddlers, but this truth sadly eludes my kids.

Sure, I could make things easier on myself: I could learn to distinguish between an MP3 player and an i-Pod. I could learn to text. I could learn why Emo and Goth are different or what YouTube is – or does. I could make more of an effort to keep my ideas about tattoos and body piercing to myself and dress in trendier clothes. I could stop singing ‘The Harder they Come’ when their friends are in earshot. But I don’t because I would lose what self-respect I have left.

Teenagers are not logical. You can do everything in the world for them and get no thanks, then impress them with some trifling display of knowledge or skill. You can be a taxi-driver for them and their friends, hem their trousers, clean the toilets, get rid of the dead bird the cat has brought in, welcome unexpected kid guests to dinner conjuring up extra portions out of next-to-nothing, but ask your kids to sort their laundry or take out the trash and the response you get will be 'Why do I have to do all the work around here?'

The other day, I cooked a big breakfast for my fifteen-year-old. Then I took her and three friends shopping. I sang ‘oldies’ with them all the way there and endured her howls of protest over my attempts at harmony. I went with them from store to store, guarded their bags and coats while they tried on clothes, and heroically withheld my idiotic adult opinions. I treated them to coffee, then drove back in the dark, in gale-force winds and driving rain – and ended up putting away 95% of the shopping.

Later, my kid told my husband that I had impressed her. How, I wondered, had I managed to do this? Was it my skillful driving in awful conditions or better-than-usual parking? Was it the fact that I listened to her and her friends talking about having their navels pierced and never once threatened to get my head shaved in retaliation? My uncharacteristic generosity in treating everyone to coffee? No: it was the fact that I happened to know the lyrics to the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen.


Brian said...

My kids were , I am pleased to say , little trouble .
Their kids ,I am even happier to say , are --one at 17 and two at 15 -- quite compliant to familial strictures . But they are boys after all !!!

I find them very valuable-- I swap literary knowledge with them in return for being initiated into the mysteries of DVD players , mobile phones etc.

A good working arrangement .


Mary Witzl said...

Brian, I'll bet you're a great grand-dad. I never knew my own grandparents, and my kids never knew theirs, so I feel a little envious.

I dream of being able to sit down with my grandchildren -- if I ever have any and if I live long enough to get to know them -- and exchange useful information. One of the saddest things in the world, in my opinion, is how we learn from our elders too little and too late. If I had my mother around right now, I'd be tapping her for all the things I never bothered to learn from her when I was a teenager. She knew so much, had been through so many things. Now my kids take me and my hard-won wisdom for granted and I feel the same frustration I am sure my mother must have felt.

In fact, my kids really aren't that much trouble; I like to dramatize it. But a good friend of mine once said something very astute "Even good children can be a lot of trouble." And that is true for mine.

Kanani said...

The other day we were driving through Arizona and my son came to some 'life conclusion,' (unfortunately in early senility, I cannot remember WHAT it was) and then he said, "Oh, that was Christopher Marlowe."

Then he went back to asking if there was going to be a mall in Tucson and told me he needed something at the store, "Hot Topic."

And FYI... what IS the difference between emo and goth? I know they both like black and that's about it.

Kim Ayres said...

I hadn't even heard of Emo...

Mary Witzl said...

Kanani -- I'm impressed: my kids don't know who Christopher Marlowe was. They're familiar with Shakespeare, so I guess I ought to be glad for small favors.

My kids go from being very astute, sensitive and mature to being completely the opposite. Most of the time they are the former rather than the latter, but I find the mood swings a little tiring. Both of them have amazed me by things they know that I have no idea about, then the next minute I find out they cannot spell the word 'lawyer' and don't know that you're supposed to put milk back in the refrigerator.

My senility is well established; fortunately for my kids I have forgotten a lot of the awful things they've said and done.

Kim (and Kananai), I aked my eldest about the difference between Emos and Goths and got an earful, which I will share with you. Emos are posturers and wannabes. I am told they are wimpy, spoilt, macabre hypocrites who say they will do things (such as slitting their wrists), then don't have the guts to go through with them. Goths, on the other hand, are cool, because when they say they're going to slit their wrists or worship the devil, they jolly well do it. As a parent, I suppose you'd rather have an Emo for a kid: they may be wimps and hypocrites, but at least you know they'll stick around, pretty much in one piece. Emos are keen to embrace alternative sexuality; even if they are heterosexually oriented, they'll be at pains to deny it. I am told that the following link is essential for understanding what an Emo is -- I have to say that it made me laugh.

Eryl Shields said...

How odd we both posted about our kids today. Mine is now a grown up and if I try really hard I can just conjure up a hazy memory of him as a troubling teenager. But now he has left home he is little short of perfect in my eyes.

I do remember once saying I was going to paint daisies on my car and he promptly burst into tears! It's impossible to be a perfect mother to teenagers, if you were trendier and knew all the kid stuff you'd probably be seen as trying too hard and embarrassing.

Are emos the ones who embrace their suicidal tendencies? Actually do you know Esther Rankin, she has a teenage daughter and lives in Moffat.

Mary Witzl said...

Hello, Eryl -- According to my eldest, who is scornful of Emos, they do not embrace their suicidal tendencies so much as flirt with them and use them as fashion accessories. They are looking to shock; they aspire to be sensitive and misunderstood poets who toy with the notion of self harming.

Once, on an airplane, I was mistaken for a Mormon by a stewardess who wondered why I declined hot coffee (afraid of burning my toddler) and wine (I wasn't in the mood). I was so horrified by this, I told my eldest I was going to buy a black leather miniskirt and paint my toenails fire-engine red. She looked stricken, so I assured her I was just joking. And she said 'Oh, do it mommy, PLEASE!'

I do know Esther Rankin; she is a friend of mine, one of the first people I met here, as our daughters are in the same year. What a coincidence that you know her too!

Eryl Shields said...

I think I may have a black leather miniskirt lurking in the back of my wardrobe. You can borrow it if you like.

Esther is the only person I know in Moffat and I met her in Dumfries. She and Jimmy came over for my birthday tea and she gave me a book on sheds which made me love her even more. How she knew I have a thing about sheds I don't know.

Kanani said...

So... embracing suicidal tendencies is supposed to be good? Gads, when I was a teen, we didn't even think about suicide. Suicide just wasn't talked about, and was probably only okay in big bad novels like "Shogun," but it doesn't really happen because what the hell would the author have done without a protagonist.

I thought that the main thing about Goths was that they spend an inordinate amount of time and money on looking very bad. Like unemployable.

Mary Witzl said...

Eryl -- I live in gardening clothes nowadays and fear I might not fit into your black leather miniskirt. Though I'd love to wear it just to terrorize my children -- turn about is fair play.

Kanani -- None of it makes the least bit of sense to me. Emos apparnently feel they are more artistic and emotionally sensitive than Goths; Goths hold themselves superior because they are more responsible about their angst and really 'live' it. Both groups, it probably goes without saying, spend far too much on fashion accessories. If you can make any better sense of it than that, I take my hat off to you. I'm just thankful that neither of my kids has turned into either -- and boy is hard typing with your fingers crossed.

Suicide was never discussed when I was a kid either. Too many of our older brothers were packed off to Vietnam, I suspect -- the idea was fighting to stay alive, not looking for ways to end it all.

Eryl Shields said...

You live in gardening clothes, that sounds so romantic.

Mary Witzl said...

Tell my kids that!

One of the awful -- and wonderful -- things about writing full time is that you can get away with wearing the same thing every day if you feel like it. I used to dress in ironed shirts and decent trousers; I wore panty hose and shoes that weren't mud encrusted, and I would never have worn the same outfit every single day, not even when my kids were little.

But now it's different! Why bother to change when no one is going to see me? Why bother scrubbing my nails when I'm just going to go outside and get them dirty again?

I sometimes think fondly of silk blouses and a certain pair of cafe au lait corduroy trousers with a cinched waist. Of real leather high heels and gloves that the entire family didn't borrow...

Then I just go and put on the same plaid shirt, Matalan jeans, and mud-encrusted gardening shoes.

No romance within a mile of me!

A Margarita said...

I'm impressed, I don't know the words to Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen ;)

Popped collars first achieved popularity among the fraternity boys in the United States. Pretty soon, there came a time when you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a popped collar on a college male. As with all fads, there was a severe backlash, and now it’s not uncommon for fifty year old men with beer guts to walk around with popped collars. Of course, now having a popped collar is very uncool, but you still see some clueless young males trying to pull off, to no avail.

A popped collar is simply a collar that has been made to stand up . . .

Mary Witzl said...

Hello, Margarita. The truth is that I don't really know all the lyrics to 'God Save the Queen' either; I just knew enough to impress my kid.

Thank you for telling me what popped collars are -- I feel so ignorant. I've probably seen half a dozen men going around with popped collars and their fashion statement just sailed over my head.

Your blog entry on men really made me laugh. Even if I couldn't figure out what popped collars were, I knew that they were bound to be funny.