excuse me while i disappear
So this weird thing happened two or three weeks ago: in the middle of the night, some aliens or MIBs or something snuck into my house while we were asleep, and they replaced my sweet, reasonable children with Teenagers.
Overnight, I went from pretty cool to really annoying, and questions that were usually answered with phrases like, "Okay," or "I'll do it in just a minute," or "Yes," were suddenly met with "Whatever." or "GOD!" or my personal favorite, stony silence with the rolling eyes and exasperated sigh.
It's so weird, man. And the thing is, my doors were all locked, and my windows were all closed . . . so my theory is that the Aliens or MIBs or whatever don't actually enter the house. Instead, they use some sort of parabolic mirror to direct a tractor beam through the walls, which we can't see or hear, and they pull the old switcheroo from orbit. I have no idea what they do with the sweet, reasonable pre-teens they take away, though. The current operating theory is that they need their youthful exuberance for fuel or something, but it's just a theory.
I called my mom, and told her how things had suddenly gotten really challenging as a parent, and you know what she did? She put her hand over the phone, and shouted to my dad, "Finally! It's Payback, Rick!" I'm pretty sure I heard my dad shout out something like, "Woo!" or "Yeehaw!" from another room . . .
Anyway, I'm taking a crash course in parenting teenagers, which is fundamentally different from parenting pre-teens. It's not even like switching from vi to emacs . . . it's more like switching vi to emacs and someone re-assigned your keyboard and changed the language and now the damn thing reboots randomly and though occasionally it makes sense, most of the time you're so goddamned confused you wonder why you bought a fucking computer in the first place. The weirdest thing is how suddenly the pod-people arrived. It really did happen overnight (or maybe in the span of two days, but not longer than that.)
A couple of things I've learned, that I offer up, free of charge, to anyone parenting a teenager, or about to parent a teenager:
- When we say, "no," what they hear is, "ask me again in a slightly different way in about ten minutes, and act like it's the first time you've asked me. Or you could go ask your mom, and pretend that we haven't talked. The most important thing is, you must act as if we haven't had this conversation, and keep asking me until you get whatever it is you want."
- No matter what we as parents do, we are so unreasonable.
- No matter what my parents say, I was never this irrational when I was a teenager.
- Whatever it is they want to do, all their friends get to do it, with their parents' blessing.
- Music is better when it's so loud the bass distorts. (Yes, I realize the irony of my "If it's too loud, you're too old" T-shirt from 11th grade.)
- Even though they may act like they totally hate us, they still love us. It's just that their brains are all fucked up right now, and they need our help to figure out what the hell is going on (but won't admit it, and don't know how to ask for it).
Interesting note: for a few reasons that are nobody's business, Anne and I limited TV and withdrew the video games recently, and once the storming around and exasperated sighing (which, I've learned, is the base currency of all teenage communication) ended, the first thing the kids did was ask if they could get my D&D books out of my office and play with their friends. So Ryan is learning how to DM, and Nolan is making a Drow (He is a huge fan of Drizzt Do'Urden and the Forgotten Realms). While they were in my office, Nolan pulled out all my old DiscWars sets, and has been teaching all his friends how to play it (and extracting promises from me to play with him as soon as I get a chance to re-learn the rules.)
So there's this interesting-and-cool thing happening: naturally, because they're teens, they're pulling away a little bit, figuring out who they are, and pushing against Anne and me as we define their age-appropriate limits, so a lot of the things we used to do together are so lame now . . . except for nerdy gaming. They LOVE the nerdy gaming, and it has become a conduit for me to communicate with them, as well as remain a part of their life. Ryan even told me the other day, "I want to start a club at school that's for nerds to do nerdy stuff, but I want to have, like, Masonic Degrees for nerds."
"What degree are you?" I said.
"I don't know," he said, "But you are a 33rd degree nerd."
I didn't ask him if there was a secret handshake, because I didn't want to be so lame.
On the alt.country binge: I bought two from the Asylum Street Spankers, who remind me of Squirrel Nut Zippers, but bawdier, and Joe Henry's Trampoline the oher day from iTunes (look out for those iTunes benders! Before you know it, you've spent 50 bucks, if you're not careful!), and so far I love it. In fact, I've been listening to it while I write this, and it's a perfect soundtrack for this entry. Gods, I love it when music does that, don't you?
To bring this back full circle(-ish): In all honesty, the kids are mostly good and still enjoyable, and I know better than to take the normal teenage behavior personally. Learning how to deal with them as teens has been very helpful for me and Anne . . . but my family (and raising kids who will become productive and respectable members of society) is more important to me than anything else in the world, so contributions to my blog will probably slow down for the very near future while I master this new set of skills I'm picking up . . . though Shane recently threw down a gauntlet at me, e-mail-style, that may result in a giant pile of writing over the next few weeks.
Stay tuned, if that's your thing.
Editorial note: Please, please, please see the humor in this entry. My life isn't falling apart, everything is really fine at home, and my relationship with my stepkids isn't faltering or in danger or anything like that. Thanks.