Teenage Sympathizer

Hey, I have so many mom friends and relatives who have a son or daughter graduating high school this June.  I love all that buzz of buying ‘that dress’ or do you rent or buy the son a suit? – and banquet tickets, famous commencement speeches, and then the after party and after, after party … It makes me think about the chapter I wrote in Text Me, Love Mom about the first time our family spun our way through all that…

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

– Hesiod, Eighth Century BC

One Wednesday late in June, my husband,Will, arrived home and politely inquired as to why so many of our daughter Zoë’s friends were gathered in our backyard again. He had yet to notice that the boys were in their boxers. Forever a teenage sympathizer, I handed him the ice for his drink and said calmly, “Some of them just wrote their last exam. I think they’re feeling celebratory. Let them be.”

“Will there be another party when the rest of them write their last exam?”

“Seriously, Dad, this isn’t a party,” Zoë told him, wrapping a towel around her bikini-clad body. “It’s just a few of my friends celebrating a bit.”

Zoë’s a good kid. If it were a party, she would certainly have let us know. Eight kids having a water fight, with the boys in boxers and the ones of age knocking back a few beers, followed by a session of whipping up nachos in the oven accompanied by rap music, was definitely not a party.

Just then, two of the more manly looking boys skidded by the kitchen window in their boxers and socks. As Zoë’s dad leapt out the deck door to grab them — not that there was much to grab them by — I became a full blown supporter of their… youthful charm. “Come on. Come on. They just finished high school. Twelve years. Of course, they’re giddy.” Zoe’s much younger sister, Lily, and her friend, Heidi, waved at Will from their post in our dilapidated tree house. The younger girls looked entertained, as if they had balcony seats to a reality TV show.

Will waved back at Lily and Heidi but yelled at the others to get dressed or all thunder would break loose. They might have been unfamiliar with that expression, but the guys rushed back into their jeans. Will stepped back inside to demand further explanation. “Wasn’t there a party for this already?” he asked Zoë. He turned to me. “Didn’t they call it graduation? Wasn’t that the night we spent a zillion bucks dressing Zoë up so she could sit at a banquet for two hours, have three dances, and then change back into her street clothes in a washroom cubicle like a superhero, before vanishing for the real celebration out of our sight? Furthermore, wasn’t there a party here three days later, after we watched five hundred of them march across the stage?” His excitement was elevating to match theirs. “And what the heck was last Friday? Wasn’t there a whole lot of teens in a celebratory mood here then, too?”

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“Oh, Dad, that was the last day of classes. Cole’s friends were here, too.”

Will pointed to a tall boy from four doors up the road. “Cole’s friends are here now, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Dad, you can’t count Jacob,” Zoë said. Jacob, our son Cole’s closest friend, was now helping to distribute the nachos. He was almost a member of our family, but then that was true of our younger son, Hudson’s pals, Robin and Mark, from around the block, and Lily’s entourage of blonde twelve-year-olds — Heidi and Charlotte, who were Jacob and Robin’s sisters, and Mattie from across the street. This was a popular strategy with our four kids — pointing out that the number of friends that each of them has over isn’t that out of line — say two or three a piece — resulting in Friday nights with a dozen or more kids sprawling about the house.

“That was the last day of classes,” Zoë explained again to her clueless father. “This is the last day of exams…” She lowered her voice and stuffed a nacho into her mouth, mumbling, “… at least for some people.” Zoë and a few others still had four more days before their last exam and then it would be their turn to be giddy and celebratory… and in their underwear.

“You see,” I said, “maybe this is the universe’s plan to help us let her go away to university in Vancouver. If they drive us insane over the summer, it will be easier to separate.” I choked on the s-word. I really did need to grow up. I needed to be a Shirley Partridge type of mom, hip but mature enough to set some rules, take back the stereo and put on some Fleetwood Mac instead of Bowling For Soup, and take her shopping for school supplies and a sensible raincoat. As a responsible mom, I would study tourist guides of Vancouver with her and teach her how to grocery shop for ripe melons and reasonable cuts of meat.

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But I wasn’t ready for all that. There was something magical about the summer after high school. I felt more like Lorelai Gilmore, the mother-as-friend from television’s Gilmore Girls, than my generation’s sensible Shirley Partridge (though she was a singer in a pop band). The moods of the kids around us were contagious. At that point, we still had Zoë’s eighteenth birthday party to plan, as well as some sort of big family gathering before she officially went away. Forget the grocery shopping lessons, bring on the nachos, I thought, kicking off my Clarks so I could take a run through the sprinkler.

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I Was A Teenage Sympathizer

 

A plate of Nachos—tortilla chips topped ...

Image via Wikipedia

 

So our first born daughter, at barely eighteen-years-old was going away to school. It was time for me to grow up.  It was on a Wednesday in June that her dad arrived home and inquired as to why so many of her friends were gathered in our basement again.  This was moments before he noticed that the boys in the gang were in their boxers.  Forever a teenage sympathizer myself, (and I think you can get arrested for that) I handed him the ice for his drink and said calmly, “Some of them just wrote their last exam.  I think they’re feeling celebratory.”

“Will there be another party when the rest of them write their last exam?”

“Oh, come on Dad, this isn’t a party,” Zoë told him.  Zoë’s a good kid.  If it were a party she would let us know.  Eight kids having a water fight, with the boys stripping down to boxers, then all of them whipping up a pan of nachos in the oven and testing my teenage sympathizer levels with their rap music, was definitely not a party.

Will demanded further explanation.  “Wasn’t there a celebration for this already?  Didn’t they call it graduation?  Wasn’t that the night we spent a zillion bucks dressing Zoë up so she could sit at a banquet for two hours, have three dances and change back into her street clothes in a washroom like a super hero, before vanishing for the real celebration out of our sight?  Further more, wasn’t there a party here three days later, after we watched five hundred of them march across the stage – symbolizing once again that they were done?”

“Oh Dad, that was convocation, not the end of exams.”

Zoë explained further to her clueless father – “This is the last day of exams…” she lowered her voice and stuffed a nacho into her mouth,  “… at least for some people.”  Zoë and a few of the others still had four more days before their last exam and then it would be their turn to be giddy and celebratory… and in their underwear.

“You see,” I said, “maybe this is the universal plan to help us let her go.  If they drive us crazy over the summer, it will be easier to separate.”  I choked on the s-word, confirming in my mind that I needed to be some Shirley Partridge type of mom, hip but mature enough to set some rules, take back the stereo – play Fleetwood Mac on it instead of Bowling For Soup, or take her shopping for school supplies and perhaps study street maps of Vancouver with her and teach her how to grocery shop for ripe melons and reasonable cuts of meat.

But I wasn’t ready for all that.  There was something magical about the summer after high school. I was feeling more like Lorelai Gilmore, the mother-as-friend from television’s Gilmore Girls, then the more sensible (though pop band singer) Shirley Partridge.  The mood of the young adults was contagious.  At that point we still had the party for Zoë’s eighteenth birthday to plan, and there had to be some sort of event before she officially went away.  Forget the grocery shopping lessons, bring on the nachos, I said, kicking off my shoes and preparing to run through the sprinkler.

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