The Perfect Teenager

Recently, a friend of mine used the “P” word to describe her middle schooler. Not the Trump “P” word (get your mind out of the gutter). The word she used was “perfect.” I held my tongue because I love my friend and her son is honestly a great kid, but he’s still young. Hormones and high school haven’t wreaked havoc on their world yet.

As a mom with slightly older boys, I’m going to drop a truth bomb … There’s no such thing as a perfect teenager. The perfect teenager is a myth. A unicorn. A falsehood. An alternative fact, even. I was reminded of this today when I ran into another friend who was lamenting her teen’s behavior — a boy who is, by all accounts, kind, courteous and earnest, not to mention smart and talented. He is a “good boy,” but he is a teenager, so it goes without saying that he is also a hormonal, dramatic, capricious asshole at times.

Phone number, please!

Humblebrag alert: My boys are “good boys,” too. I’m often told how handsome, bright and athletic, as well as kind, polite and respectful they are. Even helpful at times! But I am a realist (at times, a cynic) and know this is only a half-truth, at best. At home (read: with me), my boys are less kind, polite, respectful and helpful. At home (again, read: with me), my boys are often temperamental, argumentative, uncommunicative and negligent. Just like most teenagers. It’s infuriating and exhausting, but it’s also par for the course.

I think I owe my parents an apology … Sorry, Mom and Dad!

Since I still have a few more years to go before escaping this teen stage, I’m trying to keep my sanity by remembering these four truths:

  1. It’s only a phase. Like all other childhood phases, it will pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but once their skin clears up and they graduate from high school, my kids will magically turn back into decent, loving human beings again. I hope.
  2. It’s not all bad. Every now and then, they do or say something that fills my heart with joy and gives me a glimmer of hope that the end is near … until their moods swing back and they suck again.
  3. It’s not just my kids. From what I hear, I’m not the only mom who sometimes feels unappreciated, disrespected and used by her own offspring. Maybe that’s why the expression, “Misery loves company” resonates so strongly with me.
  4. It’s not me, it’s them. I like to think that the reason my boys behave like responsible young adults in public (despite how they behave at home) is because of my good parenting. And even if it’s not, just let me have this one.

#parentingishardwork

My kids are far from perfect. Very far. But as imperfect as they are, I love them with all my heart. No matter how frustrating this stage may be, and no matter how loudly (and often) I bitch about it, I’d still do anything for them. Sure, I’d like to strangle them most days, but I will always have their backs. Always. I may be their biggest critic, but I am also their biggest supporter.

Selfie with my loves, last summer

– LJDT

Fourth Time’s a Charm? Not Exactly

Last Friday, I spent six hours at my son’s middle school for Parent Visitation Day. I think this should negate at least six of my bad mommy moments (one for each hour ) — am I right?

This should be on my next Mother’s Day card, for sure.

Since this is not my first rodeo, I’ll shed a little light for those unfamiliar with the concept: On Parent Visitation Day (PVD, as I like to call it), parents follow their student(s) around from class to class in order to get a feel for what their day is like. Spoiler alert: it’s long, chaotic and exactly as you remember middle school to be.

When it comes to this shadow day, there are three types of parents: The super excited class participators who think this is the best idea ever (most likely, they’re with their first-born child and this is their first experience with PVD); The badass rebel who’s been through it before and says, “Nope. Been there, done that,” so they skip it (hey, no judgement here!); And the reluctant rule-follower who’s there begrudgingly and will most likely cut out early. I fall in the third category, although I wish I was in the second.

Having already gone through this torture three other times with my older son, I swore I’d never do it again. The first time, when my oldest was in sixth grade, I naively suffered through a full day of classes. The following year, I bailed before lunchtime. And last year, I arrived late and only made it through a couple of classes before I ditched. Does this make me a bad mom? Maybe. If so, just add it to the list. But I’m also an honest mom and Parent Visitation Day is sheer misery for me. The chairs are uncomfortable, I pee too much and I think I have adult ADD. Or maybe I’m just too old and uptight to enjoy it. Either way, PVD is my tenth Circle of Hell.

When I read the calendar last week, for a brief moment I though I was in the clear now that my older son is in high school. I actually thought I had dodged a bullet — until I remembered that my younger son is only in the sixth grade. As a newly minted middle schooler, that means I have three more years of visitation days ahead of me. Ugh! So I held my breath and secretly prayed … Maybe he wouldn’t want me to go. Surprisingly, not only did he want me to go, he was excited about it. Despite my best intentions to avoid a PVD four-peat (is that what follows a three-peat?), mom guilt won out. So there I was last Friday, suffering through yet another middle school experience.

I know I should have been happy that my eleven-year-old was excited to spend time with me, but I also knew it wouldn’t last. Sadly, I was right. My son’s excitement petered out midway through first period when I made mistake #1: Offering my help in Spanish class. To ease the embarrassment, I bribed him with the two mini muffins that I grabbed from the parent visitation lounge (a.k.a., the library, where they were conveniently hosting a book fair and spirit wear sale). Crisis averted  — at least until lunchtime, when I committed mistake #2: Asking a few of his friends to pose for a photo. It went downhill from there.

Product of my mistake #2: Photo evidence of my middle school “freshman” and some of his buddies.

If the past four years of attending parent visitation days have taught me anything, it’s that I know my kids and I know my limits. My kids like the idea of me being with them at school, but not the reality of it. And my limits no longer include six hours of middle school … Or wearing a name tag.

Maybe next year he won’t be embarrassed, or maybe he’ll tell me to stay home. A girl can dream, right?

– LJDT

The End of the Innocence

Anyone remember that late ’80s song, “The End of the Innocence,” by Don Henley? I don’t even like that song and, to be honest, I’m not even a big Don Henley fan (except for “The Boys of Summer”), but the chorus of that song has been stuck in my head for the past few weeks because it’s reflective of my world right now. You see, we are entering a whole new stage of life with both my boys — puberty for my youngest and dating for my oldest.

My 5th grader, who is a little more than a month shy of turning 11, has been learning about the body systems in school and is currently studying the reproductive unit. Luckily, his cool, 32-year-old health/PE teacher keeps it pretty basic and PG-rated. No Miracle of Life videos or graphic textbooks, but he does teach hand signals to help with the vocabulary. My personal favorites are the forceful fist punch up in the air to represent ejaculation and a military salute for semen. Needless to say, dinner conversations at the Tarr house have been rather lively these past few weeks, filled with scrotum stories and unbridled laughter from my pint-sized penis-talker.

Thanks to Mr. D and 5th grade health class, I’ll never be able to look at this Halloween photo the same way again!

This isn’t my first journey through puberty with boys and, generally speaking, it takes a lot to shock me. But I have to admit, it’s a little unsettling to hear my 10-year-old discuss nocturnal dreams when he still sleeps with a stuffed animal and wants to be tucked in each night. Talk about a dichotomy! Thankfully for me and my music selection, he’s still pretty naive and sexual innuendo mostly goes over his head. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my oldest … Cue the clean version of my playlist.

Speaking of my oldest, my 13-year-old 8th grader is officially a man-child. At 5’8″ and over 140 pounds, he has long surpassed me in both height and weight. Add an additional two inches for his “winter hair” (a.k.a., the faux ‘fro) and he’s almost as tall as my husband. But it’s not only his size that amazes me. Like many typical moody, hairy, smelly teenage boys, he’s now girl crazy. While he’s still fully absorbed with his buddies and playing lacrosse, football and basketball, he’s now equally obsessed with texting and FaceTiming his new girlfriend. Yes, you read that correctly. My first-born baby has his first-ever girlfriend. I don’t like to think about it, but those nocturnal dreams my younger one is learning about may be more of a reality for my older one. [Shutter] All I have to say is, thank goodness he does his own laundry so I don’t have to find out.

My man-child even has lip fuzz … or is that dirt?

The teen dating scene is new to me (and him) so I’m sure there will be many more posts about it in the coming weeks. I know this is just the beginning and right now it’s all still very innocent. They are still very innocent. Thankfully. But my boys are growing up and experiencing things earlier than I remember. On the school bus alone they are exposed to everything from elementary school kids dropping the F-bomb and telling racial jokes to middle schoolers talking about blow jobs and sexting. For real! I can’t home school them (none of us would survive that catastrophe) or keep them in a bubble, so all I can do is talk to them (repeatedly and incessantly) to ensure that my polite, honest and respectful boys mature into polite, honest and respectful men.

In a few months, my boys will start middle school and high school, respectively. Life will get even more complicated, I’m sure, so for now I’m going to relish the hand gestures and giggles … and even the constant texting.

– LJDT