Wednesday, May 15, 2013

They Shall Remain Nameless If They Know What's Good For Them

I noticed that I haven't talked about the Tornadoes in a while.  That must have been nice for you, but it's over now. 

So, Seventh Grader.  Seventh Grader gets annoyed with me for not identifying her and her sister, Freshman, by name.  Why don't I just use their names?  she asks me.  Why did I even bother giving them names if I just think of them by label?  Well, Seventh Grader, because sometimes those labels save your life.  I don't mean in the way you think I mean.  That is, I'm not referring to how by thinly shielding their true identities on a public forum I might protect them from bad guys.  I'm talking about when, say, Seventh Grader decides to act like a whiny little puke, I have a way of reminding myself:  "Ah.  Seventh grade.  Where whiny little pukes are made."  And then I don't kill her.   

This is working out doubly well for Seventh Grader in particular, actually, because she bears a label which has already been broken in by her sister.  It has really only been whatever common sense God gave me plus a fine selection of parenting books on dealing with teenagers that stood between life and death for Freshman on many a day.  She's much more subdued now, a new level of maturity having emerged with her advancement to high school.  I hold out great hope that it continues to get better as time goes on.  But as Seventh Grader, and especially as Eighth Grader?  Freshman was among the whiniest, pukiest, most self-centered, stubbornest, most resistant to parenting, biggest slave-to-whiny-puke-conformity whiny pukes that ever whined or puked. 

Excuse me.  I think I blacked out for a minute.  Anyway, rough times, but they produced a bounty of experience that is serving to cushion the blow as Seventh Grader, perhaps involuntarily, acts out the same annoying crap for me.  Case in point:  the wildly vacillating adolescent identity crisis that encompasses homework completion.  Some days, Seventh Grader is the same Five Year Plan big dreamer about her future that she has oddly always been.  She's going Ivy League, she's building skyscrapers and then leaping them in a single bound.  Other days, she is a hot mess of At Least I'm Passing, Just Leave Me Alone!  Excessive television and/or Internet usage seems to be a trigger. 

Yesterday was a hot mess day.  I should have seen it coming.  Too many DVR'ed episodes of Glee.  Too many excited phone conversations.  The first three times I asked about homework I got an immediate "Yep!"  which means, of course, "Nope!"  The next two times I asked, she could barely pull herself up from the electronic haze to comprehend the question.  Before you point out that I shouldn't have to ask five times, just shut up.  I wasn't going to ask her at all, since she assured me over the weekend that if I just gave her some space to take responsibility for her work, she would do a much better job.  Another few hours went by after dinner and she remained simultaneously glued to her phone and the TV.  When it came time to shoo her up to bed, I couldn't resist but ask one more time. 

"Are you SURE you actually did your homework today?"

Blink. Blink.

"Because I can't help feeling like maybe you didn't do it."


"This is your chance to come clean.  Homework?  Did it?  Or was that all a story?"

Tears.  Heavy, instant, dramatic tears.  The whole, nearly verbatim outburst I heard two years ago from Freshman about how she can't do anything right, all I care about is school, it's all stupid, it's none of my business, and I think she threw in something about something else being stupid.  Maybe me.  Sigh.  My blood pressure didn't even blip.  "Go to bed," I told her.  And this morning she was back to being Wonder Girl. 

As little fun as I'm having with Middle School Motherosity, I do recall how very much more it sucked to be the child in this scenario.  Middle school blows chunks.  Always has.  Fortunately, if you pass, you get to leave and never go back.  Until your kids go.  My advice:  use the labels.  They help.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Keep out! Unless, you know, you don't feel like it.

Our house borders a pond and a dam that belong to the town we live in.  The pond is perfect for canoeing and kayaking, and the dam makes an attractive base for fishing or taking photographs or whatever one does on a dam.  It's a beautiful setup and was a big selling feature for us when we bought the house. 

While the pond and the dam are town property, the land leading up to said public outlets is not.  That's ours.  Occasionally, this becomes a point of debate between us and certain neighbors.  The words "town access" get bantered about.  Yes, we say, the Town can have access, if needed, to maintain the dam.  But it's our property.  No, they say, it's Town Access.  We live here, so that's us.  We'll be sending our kids down your way to muck around and possibly get injured while we're not watching them.  Then they usually walk away. 

Husband likes for me to believe that he has a tough streak, and he may, but if I were to pinpoint its location I'd have to place it in the flibbertygibber region.  This is a murky region, from which wildly fluctuating tolerance levels for trespassers originate:  friendly neighbor's kids want to take their canoe out?  He'll help them carry it.  Renters next door bring their barbecue party across the line, beers in hand, to let the kids pick up snails and throw rocks in the pond?  Husband will not formally protest or directly address the offenders.  But he does a fine job of looking out the window and sputtering obscenities.  If it goes on long enough, or if I make moves toward going out the door to put a stop to things, he will eventually spring into action.  By "spring into action" I mean he goes outside and shakes everybody's hand, asks the kids their names, and makes small talk about the unseasonable weather or whatnot.  Eventually the trespassers go home, no doubt believing that that neighbor guy they met at the park next door was really nice. 

The dam is broken at the moment, a situation that Husband brought to the town's attention and which they greatly appreciate him doing.  In response, they've asked permission to descend upon our pretty piece of land with heavy equipment and giant bags of material and lots of sweaty workers to fix what is broken.  As soon as the first excavator truck showed up, an alarm went off in my head. 

"This is going to confuse matters even more," I said to Husband.  "People are really going to believe it's town property when they see this mess."

Husband agreed.

"We have to put a sign up," I said.  "I'll get one tomorrow."

I read all of the signs at the hardware store, knowing that Husband would want me to get the kindest one possible.  I settled on one that said "Private Property" followed by a short list of unallowable behaviors.  As I left the store with my sign and wooden stake, I knew I had just kissed $2.18 goodbye for nothing.

The sign sat in the garage for two days.  In the evenings, after the sweaty workers left, strangers pulled up to our yard, traipsed across it, ducked beneath the yellow tape the town had put up to keep people off the broken dam and walked out on it to see what was being done.  I guess if they can't comprehend yellow tape, they aren't likely to comply with a sign.  But still, dude. 

It was another day before Husband relented to putting up the sign.  First he had to ask the sweaty workers for their opinions, which were favorable.  Wouldn't want the sweaty workers to not approve.  Then he asked if we could maybe cross out some of the unallowable behaviors first.  Um, no. 

After some discussion, we decided that eventually we'll go have a sign specially made that he can live with.  Something that gets the point across but won't endanger the chances of anyone liking him.  Something like "Private Property - our apologies" or "Private Property - coffee and doughnuts inside".  Meanwhile, we will weigh what kind of common sense the renters next door possess as they have complimented Husband for planting the nice row of arborvitae in the park.