Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Things I Can Do That My Teenagers Can't

What a big difference a few decades can make! Just the other day, I came up with this list -- inspired by my Youngest, who struggled to understand my ignorance of all things related to cellular phones -- and it filled me with such awe that I just had to share it. And why have a blog if you can't do things like this from time to time?

1) I can reach into a drain and pull stuff out of it. I don't just mean the odd bits, like a day's worth of stray noodles, scraps of vegetables and tea leaves, either; I'm talking about the gunk that accumulates after a whole month. Slime, hair, age-old crud, food that's been in there since Clinton was president.I can reach right in, pull it out, and -- after giving the involved hand a good wash -- still use it again. (Umm...the hand, that is.)

2) I can leave my house within minutes -- seconds even, if need be -- of getting out of bed.

3) Further to number 2 above, I can actually get ready to leave my house in a matter of minutes. I can pull on jeans and a sweat shirt, shove my feet into shoes, rake a comb through my hair, slap on some sunscreen -- and I'm good for the day.

4) I can take out the trash when it has old fish bones in it. Or rotting vegetables. Or fruit that has been left to go moldy. I can do this even when the bags are leaking.

5) Further to number 4 above, I can identify all the places where the bags have leaked, go back to them, and clean them up.

6) I can -- and do -- remember to make my bed every single morning, even when I have a headache.

7) I can go to work for an entire day, help with the shopping, come home, and cook an entire dinner for five, then wash up after it. (What I can't do is restrain myself from whining after this, but hey, I'm human.)

8) I can show someone how to do something, like how to read English or use past perfect correctly or distinguish between two different modals or remember the stroke order for a particularly difficult character, and not feel upset when they forget how to do it later and have to be shown all over again.

9) I can tell which items of clothing will, if washed with brand-new, snow-white items, turn them a different color.

10) I can feel whether a pot is clean just by running my hands over it. I can immediately spot the half inch of cooked-on oatmeal that has been left encrusted on the lip of the pot.

11) I can hear something unpleasant that has been said about me and refrain from denying it immediately and saying something bitchy about whoever said it.

12) Further to number 11 above, I can reflect about what was said about me and consider whether there is perhaps a grain of truth in it. Sometimes I can even be thankful for having heard it.

13) Upon walking into a room, I can spot -- within seconds -- the items that do not belong in it. I can see socks only just visible under sofas; coffee cups hidden in corners; prune pits left under papers on tables; empty bottles placed strategically for decorative effect.

14) I can get out of bed when I have a fever and headache and care for someone who is worse off than I am. I can cook with a bad back or a sore throat or stomach ache.

15) I can listen to an anecdote my husband has told fifteen times with every sign of enjoyment (admittedly because he is a good storyteller and his stories always change a tiny bit every time and I have to remind him that he has strayed off the path of truth). I can (usually) laugh at his terrible puns, time after time.

16) I can, albeit grudgingly, compliment someone on a job well done even when it was not done properly, as long as I know that it was done in good faith. (Sometimes I fail on this one, but I am only human.)

17) I can walk down the street, singing, and not feel the least bit embarrassed.

18) I can walk down the street without make-up on, my hair all ahoo, and not feel the least bit embarrassed.

19) I can be fifteen pounds heavier than I'd like to be, put on a bathing suit, then go outside and be gazed upon by complete strangers, and not drop dead from mortification.

20) I can look at my teenagers and see quite clearly the fine human beings I know they really are.

Any other parents of teenagers with lists they'd like to share?



Eryl Shields said...

All I can say, Mary, is that you are a better woman than me: there is no way I could walk down a street singing!

I can do the drain thing though, and even take perverse pleasure in it.

Kim Ayres said...

You're a better woman than me too. I can't do 90% of what you've listed...

One thing I can do that my teenage son can't is listen to the 2nd part of a sentence rather than drawing my own conclusions after the first couple of words and ignoring the rest as superfluous.

Ello said...

This is an amazing list and you are a good woman. A little deranged, but a good woman!

Jacqui said...

Ha! RE: 13. I can do this too, but it's not a blessing; it's a curse. I once heard a comedian refer to the inability to see those things as being "clutter-blind."

The Quoibler said...


I don't have a teenager yet, but I see I have my work cut out for me... I can't do half these things! However, I CAN sing in the streets, jump out of bed (with or without combing my hair) and go somewhere, and refrain from coming up with bitchy comments.

The drain thing, though? *shudder* I just can't. I. Just. Can't.



Mary Witzl said...

Eryl -- It's taken me years to get to this point. I think it has something to do with getting old, but whatever the case, I'm thrilled with my new-found habit.

As for the drain feat, I'll tell you what I cannot do, which my husband can: reach into a toilet bowl and clean it with my hands. I've seen him do this with my own eyes. Sometimes I think he just enjoys playing the martyr...

Kim -- I know you can do plenty of things I can't, like read philosophy for pleasure and play a musical instrument well enough that others don't run and hide but actually want to hear you do it.

And as for the listening skill you mention, sometimes I can't do that at all. Especially when the first part of the sentence is one I've heard many times before, such as, "Mom, don't get angry but..." That one gets me every time.

Ello -- Aw, shucks, thank you. (Only a LITTLE deranged? Even after 7 and 12?)

Jacqui -- I was once clutter blind and my mother despaired. Now I see it everywhere and my kids despair. And you are so right: it is a curse. If I could just forget it was there, I'm sure I would be much happier. And I'd certainly be less hoarse.

Mary Witzl said...

Angelique -- (Our posts crossed!) Singing in the streets and refraining from bitchy comments -- those two are huge! We could start our own club: the anti-bitch public songsters, or something even more cringe-worthy.

As for the drain thing, you're still really young, so give it time and I'm sure you'll be amazed. I've got hope for my kids, in fact, and they're still at the stage where they run gagging from the room when the word 'drain' is mentioned.

Charles Gramlich said...

Think of all the things you know how to do, besides cell phones, that they don't. and forget that much of that is obsolete.

Carole said...

This is a fabulous list. I love it.

It almost makes me want to take up blogging again, just to make my own list.

debra said...

And we, the mothers of daughters, can add:
I can be loving even after you've been mean to me, knowing that it's your attempt at independence.

I can do laundry that includes other people's underwear.

I can remember to give phone messages---most of the time.

I can see you growing and blossoming, and be so filled with love that I never knew I could feel that so strongly.

Christy said...

Ha! And what did the girls say when they read the list? Did you post it on the fridge?

(And I avoid #5 by carting the the whole can out to the dumpster, then removing the bag. My husband was amazed by my ability to avoid leaking all over the kitchen floor until one day, he caught me in the act and realized that I'm not actually magic. It was a disappointing day for all.)

Kara said...

i don't have any teenagers, but i have a cat.

and she doesn't take out the garbage either.

Mary Witzl said...

Charles -- Your comment made me laugh out loud: it's just so true -- and sad. I know how to use a manual typewriter and a dial phone; I can bake bread without a machine; I could, if asked to, load a 33.3 record on a record player; I know how to do long division without a calculator. Yep, pathetic.

Carole -- Write your own list anyway -- I know yours would be fantastic.

(You don't blog anymore? Why not?)

Debra -- Aw, heck: I just know you're a sweeter, nicer mother than I am. Sniff. The way you wrote that brought tears to my eyes! It is exactly how I feel.

Christy -- Your husband was probably just mortified that he hadn't thought of that first!

We don't have a can, but I double up on bags when I've got a leak. But unlike my girls, I don't handle the whole thing like so much plutonium, with hysterical shrieking and nose-pinching and eye-rolling.

Kara -- My cat occasionally tried to take out the garbage. That is, she removed the fish bones, fish skin, chicken bones, chicken skin, and occasionally, the moldy cheese. We got to hoping she'd stop it, actually.

Brave Astronaut said...

I think I'm in love . . .

So I'm going to send you my 4 year old and my 1 year old for some training. Would that be OK?

Anne Spollen said...

ROTFL -- yes, all of those, my list would be nearly identical. Hysterical. (Though if I read this to my two teens they wouldn't see any humor in it whatsoever. Not a drop. A new form of "adult humor" entirely here)

Angela said...

Haha, you never fail to make me laugh. Do your kids know you blogged the list?

#15 gives me trouble when hubby's describing what happened on the pro golf circuit. I think that when I go on autopilot....

Merry Monteleone said...

Oh, I looooove this list... what's perfect is that your daughters might see this list today and roll their eyes, but one day, when they have their own families, they'll nod sagely at how wise you are... and likely miss being teenagers.

Mine aren't yet teens, so for the mother's of youngers, I'll add:

I can lay down and snuggle my six year old, tousling his hair and giving him butterfly kisses and melt just a little when he does his contented sigh and finally closes his eye - even after he's gotten out of bed for a drink of water 57 times, after a long day of cajoling items with sugar out of every available person of sugar carrying ability. Even after he's climbed on a chair to get the popcorn out of the topmost cabinet, put it in the microwave and forgotten to remove the plastic wrapper... even after he's painted a lovely portrait that extended well past the paper and died my kitchen table shades of green and, I think, magenta.

I can watch cheesey musicals with oldest daughter, even though I hate most of them because quite frankly, I am SO over high school musical. I can check her homework and help explain fifth grade geometry (did we have this in fifth grade? Bloody hell, I think I need a tutor myself) and patiently go back over information until she gets the knack, even though I have to spend a good twenty minutes reading and re-reading her latest chapter to remember how to do the damn problems...

I can watch eight year olds play football, so that my own eight year old knows I'm watching... and learn a bit about how the rules work, so he knows that I care... I really only care about him. Not much on the sport in general. I can listen to him read, and help correct his pronunciation, and act as if the story has me in rapt attention - okay, sometimes it really does.

I can get up in the middle on the night when one of them is sick, and clean up the sick without being sick myself... I think this is a skill that comes expressly with motherhood because I could not before giving birth fathom some of the messes I could willingly clean up without getting completely disgusted.

I probably should have put this on my own blog. But I was on a roll.

Love your list, Mary. I hope I'm as good with teenagers... I think I may whine significantly more than you do.... and I'm kind of hoping one out of the bunch will want to be a chef or maid :-)

(thank you for the award in your last post!!! I'll get mine up soon)

Robin said...

I love these! I never realized how talented moms are! I feel empowered!

OK - I can smell that a room with dirty clothes strewn everywhere is gross, and I won't sleep there.

I can find the right pot to fill with water for pasta, because I've seen it 1 billion times. I don't have to ask anyone where it is.

I can laugh really loud in public and not be embarassed.

Oh, this is great fun...

Chris Eldin said...

I don't have teenagers, but AHHH!!
Number 17.
Nothing much embarrasses me anymore. It's quite a power I have over the Things, who think they can act a certain way in public and I won't do anything.
And I enjoy demonstrating this when they forget.

I will be coming to you for advice in a few years, when the Things will be Teenage Mutants.

Mary Witzl said...

BA -- Yay! Someone fell in love with me over my accomplishments and not how I look in a bikini! (Remind me not to post a picture of myself in a bikini.) Go and check out what the rest of the Moms here have written and you'll fall even more deeply in love, but don't worry: I won't be jealous -- they are superior. Moms are made of some fine stuff.

Good luck with those kids. Come back to this post when they're both ten years older and you'll be nostalgic!

Anne -- As you wrote, irony, when directed at teenagers themselves, tends to sail right over their heads. I used to find my kids' language acquisition fascinating. Now I'm watching them to monitor their self-directed irony acquisition -- it's actually coming along nicely!

I've been snickering over that Swiss roll comment of your son's all night.

Angela -- They don't know yet! They visit this blog from time to time, though, and it won't be long. (Hi girls! Love you! I've double-bagged the trash and neutralized the plutonium, could one of you maybe take it out?)

As for your husband's golf tales -- whoa, that's a tough one! (Did I say I wasn't on auto-pilot when I laughed at my husband's puns? That's how skilled I am: you could look at me and never guess!)

Merry -- You've got to post that on your blog!

Bloody hell, you do GEOMETRY? The spirit is willing here, but no way could I do geometry. Thank God I met a man who can teach math -- the kids don't know how lucky they are.

Still, I can love the people who have broken my nice things, who have gotten me up time after time for trifles, sicked up on my good clothes, been mean to me when I was feeling sick and down -- and so on. And while I'm going about my martyred ways, I think about my mother who did all this herself -- and taught math, too. And she didn't even have a blog...

Robin -- Ditto on the dirty room thing, and that's kept me up some nights! And yes, I can not only laugh loudly in public, I can bray, whinny, whoop, and even holler -- and never a blush on my face. I have to remind the kids of this on occasion; it generally has the desired effect. And you and I both have the pasta pot talent, too! My kids are in awe of this; I think they've inherited my husband's genes there.

Chris -- I think going through childbirth helps with the embarrassment problem. No matter how inelegant laughing loudly in public might seem, or sneezing in a weird manner, or looking less than perfect or whatever -- all of these things pale next to what we become, giving birth. Good thing, too, isn't it?

Lily Cate said...

Geeze, I have a four year old who is already embarrassed when I sing in public.
And, when I turned on the Christmas station in the car last month, he informed me that he only listens to "cool music". Which apparently includes Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Still terribly clutter blind, though. I think I passed that on to the kid. My husband is 20/20, unfortunately for him!

laura said...

Except for being able to teach someone English (I've yet to master it myself) I'm right there with you, but how about hauling our sick, feverish bodies out of bed to take care of those who aren't sick at all?? I did that too many times. I may not comment on your blog all the time but I constantly lurk! Please keep up the entertainment.

Mary Witzl said...

Lily -- Lucky you, being clutter blind! I cannot think of a better affliction for a writer to have. I am wrinkle blind, ring-around-the-collar blind and (sort of) dust blind, but the clutter thing really gets to me.

Keep up the public singing, though. I think you can actually train kids to bear up. And if you can't, think of all the fun you'll have when your son is 14!

Laura -- Thank you for lurking!

I'm not very good at caring for the able-bodied when I am ill. In Japan, my husband once got me up when I was deathly ill to deal with a group of Jehovah's Witnesses at the door. He claimed he couldn't tell what they wanted. I've never let him forget it.

Patois said...

Oh, I read the other list first. This is way cool. I love that you thought of this.

a. fortis said...

Wow, you're superwoman! I'm really only good at 4, 5, and 10. I have an amazing capacity to feel horrible about clutter and then promptly ignore it.

Mary Witzl said...

Patois -- Thank you. Some days I think of little else...

Sarah -- If the clutter isn't directly in my way, I can ignore it until the clap of doom falls. Hence, my Christmas tree up until Easter. And 4, 5 and 10 are huge, considering how young you are. You wait and see: by the time you're my age, most of that other stuff will be a snap.

Katie Alender said...

Oh, Mary! You must be a superhero in disguise!

One of the major benefits of falling behind on reading your blog is the fun of catching up all at once.