I highly recommend having a friend whose kids are
older than yours. It will keep your kids alive. Without Mary's
"that's age-appropriate" comments, I might have murdered one of
Rory's voice goes up and down, a la puberty, in every
sentence. And last night he grew to my eye level. The word "sucks"
comes out now frequently and with vengeance. And, apparently
overnight, he lost his memory.
"Rory, this science study guide is incomplete" (day of
"I've never seen that."
"It's in your binder."
"Don't go in my binder, Mom!" Snap. Bang. Binder zipped
"Puberty sucks," Mary says.
I can't get used to the word "sucks." This was a "dirty"
word when I was a teen.
I decide I don't like change. I can't do puberty
parenting. My makeup is non-confrontational/menopausal. And so I
glare at the back of Rory's head, listen to the tinny sound of his
earphone volume up too loud, raise my eyebrows and mouth a nasty
"na-na-na-na-na" face at him.
"Perfectly normal, perfectly normal," Mary e-mails. "I'll
remind you that my Chris flunked French two years in a
This I do remember. Mary was a French major in college. I
flip when my kids get poor grades on English papers. No one lets me
help with writing anymore.
"Mom, it's fine!" Dillon told me last night.
"Yes but I see you spelled 'their' and it should be
'there.' Spell check doesn't pick that up. And this second
paragraph needs a little clarifying-I could show you
"Mom, it's my voice." He does that parent-proof thing with
the computer. A click of the mouse and his paper vanishes into a
corner off screen.
"Fine, fine. She's gonna make you do it all over," I
glower. Menopausal mode, I stomp off.
"They do figure it all out," Mary said, in that calm,
no-worry voice. If I am a modern helicopter parent, she is a
flimsy, patched, rubber-raft parent.
"When??!!" I ask. "When does that happen??" I type caps
and italics and bold into the e-mail. But Mary has gone
Rory is four chapters behind in Agatha Christies' And Then
There Were None. He has 10 sheets of paper. Each paper has a
character's name on it. He needs to fill in six characteristics,
the accusation against the character, how the character gets
murdered, and Rory has to draw a picture of the character. Not one
sheet is filled in.
"Rory, you have to read tonight."
"Reading sucks," he says.
I rip off my sweater, hot flashing. Knowing I'm going to
say something, knowing this is a really, really bad time for him to
tell me reading sucks.
I scream, "Your attitude SUCKS!"
The house goes quiet. Even the Subzero stops its forever
"Whoa, Mom," Shane breaks the silence from the family
room, "'sucks' is a bad word."
I stomp to the bathroom. This being another part of my
menopausal stage. Most of my day consumed by looking for a sweater,
taking off the sweater, looking for reading glasses and running to
In the bathroom, I take a breather. Wash my hands longer
than necessary. Use two or three pumps of the lavender liquid soap.
I love this room. Its door locks.
I hope they all fail school and have kids just like them,
I think. For a second, I feel bad about this. Then I hear Mary's
voice in my head, "Perfectly normal." I step out of the
Rory has filled in a characteristic for Dr. Wargrave:
"Old." He has drawn a crooked grade-school-style figure with a
bushy white mustache. He gives me a goofy grin.
I guess I handled that OK, I think.
I flash him a thumbs up. He flashes one back at
Maggie Stewart is a freelance writer and mom of three
living in Lake Forest.
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