Friday, 26 August 2011


I am walking down a country road with two of my teenage daughters when we pass a family with two young children. The mother is pushing the youngest one in a stroller while the older one is skipping, holding her father's hand. I smile at them as we walk by and try not to sigh. Seeing parents with little children always makes me feel so nostalgic.

"You two were once that little," I say.

My daughters smirk and exchange looks. This is the kind of idiotic stating-the-obvious comment they have come to expect from me whenever I see little kids.

"We remember," my youngest daughter says.

My acquired daughter nods and they exchange another look. For a few moments, we listen to birdsong and enjoy the dappled sunlight filtered through branches.

"I'm tired," my youngest daughter says, heaving a deep sigh. "Are we there yet?"

Acquired daughter swings our picnic lunch. "I'm tired too and my feet hurt. I didn't know it was this far!"

Before I can say anything, they trade side-long glances and grin.

"Yeah," says my youngest daughter. "If I'd known it was this far, I'd never have agreed to come."

"This is stupid," they chorus. "All this way for a stupid picnic."

"Yeah. I need to sit down. And did you bring Coke? I hope you brought Coke. I'm going home if you didn't bring Coke."

"Are we there yet?"

"My shoes are pinching my feet! Why didn't you tell me it was so far? And I'm hungry."

"I'm hungry too, and I'm cold! Can we eat our picnic now?"

"Yeah, can we? In fact, I'm so hungry I'm about to be sick. Give me a sandwich!"

"Don't take the cheese and tomato! Don't let her have the cheese and tomato sandwich Mom, it's mine."

"Are we there yet?"

I get the joke, but an older couple passing us on the road look horrified. They stare at my girls and shoot me a look of pure amazement. What spoiled brats of teenagers I have!

"Oy," I whisper, "those people who just passed us thought you were serious. You should have seen their faces!"

For a fleeting moment my girls are obviously embarrassed, but they quickly get over it.

"Are we there yet?" my youngest daughter asks again. "This picnic is so stupid!"

We have a great picnic. We sit in a green grassy spot and stare up at the wispy feathers of clouds that trail through the bright blue skies. "It's going to rain," my younger daughter says through a yawn. "Why did we pick a day when it was going to rain? I want to go home."

"Yeah," my acquired daughter says sleepily, closing her eyes and smiling. "This is horrible. Let's go home."

I feel utterly happy. In fact, I don't feel quite so nostalgic anymore: I remember when my kids were like this for real and what a pain in the neck it was. Anyway, who needs toddlers when teenagers are this much fun?


Carole said...

Nothing like teens to bring reality to the fore. But I have to say they were very clever to think of it so fast.

Vijaya said...

Your girls are fantastic! I get nostalgic when I see 6-mo-old babies. They didn't have one wicked bone in their body back then.

Charles Gramlich said...

My teenager was fun, except for a couple of years there.

Eryl said...

You've reminded me of the nurse who showed me how to bath Bob in the hospital just after he was born.
"You won't believe this," she said, "but as he grows up you'll love him more and more."
"Impossible." I said, unable to imagine feeling more love than I already did.

Only now do I know what she means.

Just spent a lovely half hour or so catching up on all your posts: wonderful.

Bish Denham said...

How totally wonderful! It sounds like just the sort of thing my sister and I would do to and with our mother. Precious moments, precious memories.

Angela Ackerman said...

Oh those rose colored glasses...there were many good times, but many 'when will they grow up???' times too! :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

aquafortis said...

Great story. Funny what can turn into a cherished moment! :)

Lisa Shafer said...

Teenagers can also do up their own zippers and wipe their own noses. :)

Mary Witzl said...

Carole -- Yes, teenagers tend to cut right to the chase. And when it comes to effortlessly effective parental irritation, my girls are top of the line.

Vijaya -- Babies have that effect on me too. They are so natural and guileless you almost forget they're tiny human beings.

Charles -- Mine too (shiver). We won't think about those years, will we?

Eryl -- I remember being told something similar -- and not believing it. Our love for our children evolves, and it's a good thing for them that it does.

(Thank you so much for that nice compliment.)

Bish -- My mother was fun to tease too, though looking back on it, she was more credulous than I am. I think I ruin things for my kids sometimes by being so savvy; I feign cluelessness. (They will tell you a different story, of course, but this is MY blog.)

Angela -- The problem with those good times was that we could only see them through a fog of exhaustion. And then suddenly your kids have grown up, so out come the rose-colored glasses -- and you forget all about things like bed-wetting, temper tantrums, and "Are we there yet?" until you're ready to scream.

Sarah -- Yes! Ten years ago, I couldn't have imagined that my kids' chronic whining could be turned into something that would amuse me, and yet here I am.

Lisa -- Ah, but if they could pick up their coats! I hoped that the coat scene from Karate Kid II would have the necessary effect, but it looks like it'll take more than that to clue my kids in.

Robert the Skeptic said...

My daughter just got back from taking the grand kids (ages 5 and 7) up to Washington state to visit relatives. Daughter assailed her mom, with just how horribly her kids acted in the car, turning a long trip into an eve longer one.

Then my wife reminded daughter of a similar trip to Washington she took daughter and son on, an equally horrendous experience when they were younger.

It must be true what they say, kids are fates way of punishing you for what you put YOUR parents through.

Falak said...

Looks like all moms with teenage daughters feel the same when they see little kids.
Glad to know that there's at least one parent out there who thinks teenagers are better than toddlers :D

Anne Spollen said...

Diapers, Mary, diapers....

Robin said...

Your kids are awesome! They really do remember that age. They do a perfect imitation!

We used to have the funniest bike riding fiascoes. We'd get perhaps a block when Alex would begin yelling, "This hurts my balls!"

meredith said...

My girls are a little younger at 11 and 13, but I just love this age. We really do have fun together now. I'm not too worried about the teenage years that have been hyped up as terrible. I think we'll survive :)

Pat said...

Seems to me every stage is so precious.
I'm particularly enjoying the now when they are the wise ones and can keep me on the straight and narrow.

KLM said...

My almost-12-yo has forbidden me to tell stories about when she was a baby. Or a young child. I think it embarrasses her to think that she ever needed me. Because, you know, 12 years old is when you start living independently and driving a car. Well, that's what she seems to think.

Have I mentioned how very eager I am to have school start again?

Anonymous said...

Such a cute post. Your teens sound like fun kids to be around.

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear. I don't have kids, but this reminds me of some of my students.

Kappa no He said...

Trade teenagers with me, please. I think mine is at "those" years you and Charles are talking about. *sniff*

Mary Witzl said...

AnneS -- Oh, I've got a whole arsenal of cringe-worthy stories I can bring out if I need them. The diaper stories are good, but the food ones are even better.

Robin -- Bike rides brought out the whiners in our family too, though nobody complained about their balls hurting. For some reason, I've completely forgotten whether I was like this at their age. I seem to remember going on LONG, arduous hikes with my parents, without the tiniest complaint. Good thing my parents aren't around to help me with my memory...

Meredith -- 11 is a great age, but 13 was a different matter. But if you're pals with your 13-year-old daughter, good for you AND her -- and have you considered contacting the Guinness Book of World Records people? ;o)

Pat -- Oh, I live for the day when my girls are wise women and not just wise-guy wise! It must be wonderful to get to that point.

KLM -- At some point our kids take a good look at us and realize that, old and daft as we are, we are still privy to loads of dirt on them. I remember the horror of listening to my mother's amused accounts of all the cute things I said and did as a toddler. She meant no harm at all, but I saw her as a loose cannon.

Catherine -- Thank you! Most of the time they're pretty good, but they definitely have their moments.

Medeia -- One of the hardest times for me was when I was teaching teenagers, then going home and being the mother of them. Not the same ones as I was teaching, of course, but it was still a hellish experience.

Kappa -- (Big hug) I know how awful what you're going through can be. One minute, you've got a kid who's more like a pal; the next minute, you're with this surly, sullen stranger who treats you like an unwelcome doormat (weird collocation, but you know what I mean). At some point, that scowling teenager will become your friend again -- take my word for it. (If you still want to swap, let's go for it. I may wait until a certain time of month -- I bet you'll be begging for your kid back.)

Anonymous said...

I love this post.

And yes, I get nostalgic when I see little ones too, but I do love my teens. They are a lot of fun! (most of the time)