Bookmark those “Mother of the Year” sites. You’re probably going to want to race right over and nominate me after reading this! And one of you will have to do it. Because if I’m counting on the ever delightful Fangette for a nomination, I am fairly certain that I’m going to be out of luck. (“SOL”, as the kid’s say!)
Fangette and I had a bang-up day today. Yup. It certainly was a humdinger! I discovered that not only am I self-centered and uncaring toward the “rest of the world”, but that I am also irresponsible where managing Fangette’s life is concerned. As a result of my careless attitude toward HER life, any and all future failures on HER part will be a direct result of MY devil-may-care attitude. So, you read it here first, folks — if Fangette winds up with a career in grocery bagging it will be ALL my fault.
Fangette’s dramatic pronouncement regarding my lack of interest in the goings-on with the rest of the world came about because I could not satisfactorily answer a question that she posed to me following the revelation that we were giving her old desk to a family friend. A desk that she was trying to get me to take down the stairs THAT MINUTE. BECAUSE SHE’S SICK, SICK, SICK OF IT! AND HAS BEEN FOR YEARS!
I calmly explained that I would not be dragging the desk out to the curb on a Thursday for two very good reasons. The first reason being because in this town it cannot be put out there until Sunday, unless you want to take the chance of incurring a $50 fine; a consequence that I am never willing to risk. I reminded her that fifty bucks ALMOST buys her that fancy-schmancy shampoo and conditioner that she HAS TO HAVE! Who do I look like? Mrs. Gottrocks? Do you have any idea how many assholes I have to wait on to earn fifty smackers? The second and, really, the more important reason I wouldn’t be schlepping any desk to any curb was because it wasn’t going out to the curb at all; a friend was going to take it.
I thought these were valid reasons. I didn’t think more information was required beyond that which was already given. I was wrong. I’m always wrong. I really should be used to that. But I’m not. I continue to foolishly think that a reasonable answer will suffice. It never does.
I did not anticipate Fangette’s interest in what would be happening to the desk once it went to it’s new home. She asked me what our friend was going to do with the desk. I told her that I didn’t know for sure, but that I assumed he was going to use it as the good Lord intended it be used — as a desk. Based on her response, I gathered that this was not the answer she was looking for. Oh, and she didn’t like my tone, either. I determined that when she said, “Mom, I do NOT like your tone!” Yeah. I’m a regular Sherlock Holmes.
Whatever. I’m not overjoyed by her tone most of the time either.
Not only had I underestimated Fangette’s interest in a desk that not thirty-seconds before she had been carrying on about being SICK, SICK, SICK OF! (remember that?), but I had also momentarily forgotten that Fangette, unlike her mother, has a tendency to be a bit of a Nosy Nellie.
I suppose I should be grateful that my adolescent has an inquiring mind. I just wish she would apply it more often to where it might do her some good — like in AP History or Conversational Spanish III for example. As for me, nosiness requires far too great an investment of my time for what amounts to nothing more than nonsense. I prefer to devote this time to other foolish pursuits —feigning interest in inane questions, concocting snappy retorts, and perfecting my sarcastic tone, to name a few.
As she was peppering me with ridiculous questions about the stupid desk (“Is he going to repaint it?”, “Is he putting it in his son’s room? — his daughter’s room? — the entry hall?”, “Will he be personalizing it?”), I was readying myself to engage in moving an unwanted dresser from Fangette’s room. NOT, it should be noted, because I had some overwhelming desire to relocate a sunshine yellow dresser into my hallway, but because Fangette was carrying on that the mere presence of THIS MONSTROSITY was interfering with her ability to change her bed sheets and straighten up her lair. (For the record, the yellow dresser may be fugly, but it is NOT a monstrosity. In fact, it’s smaller than most tall dressers.) Fangette fancies hyperbole!
What the relationship was between her inability to change her bed sheets and the presence of the yellow dresser — what one thing had to do with the other — I’m sure I do not know. Inasmuch as I was enjoying our repartee, Fangette was beginning to work my last nerve —- I just wasn’t that invested in having a dialogue about her old desk or her newfound hatred for the yellow dresser. In terms of what the future may hold for the desk, I neither know nor care. The ever-tenacious Fangette kept on with her line of questioning, though.
I was quickly growing weary of the topic. In what I am sure Fangette would consider a sardonic tone, I speculated that, perhaps, our friend planned to break it apart, murder a neighbor with one of the legs, and then burn the evidence. For as long as we’ve known him, he has never demonstrated behavior that I would consider to be homicidal, but you never really know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, do you? I went on to explain to her that it makes no never mind to me what his plans are for the desk. Basically, as long as he takes it the hell out of my house, he is welcome to use it to commit the perfect crime or to set up a roadside lemonade stand. I don’t care. Neither should she.
I then made the mistake of asking her, in my best conspiratorial tone, whether or not she thought we might want to reconsider giving him the desk; whether she thought that providing this possibly deranged person with a potential murder weapon might, all things considered, be a bad idea. I asked her which of his neighbors she thought he might be planning to “whack”. Again, I got the sense that she did NOT like my tone!
It was then that Fangette looked at me and in a “tone of her own”, delivered the following lines: “Do you know what your problem is, Mom? You don’t care about anything that doesn’t directly affect you. You don’t give a crap about the rest of the world!”
I have to admit, the “rest of the world” comment struck me as more than a slight exaggeration. I’m fine with a bit of exaggeration, but I think that there is a cavernous difference between not ascertaining my friend’s plans for a piece of my discarded furniture beyond “Can you pick it up by Sunday?” to one’s inability to muster sympathy for victims of disease, disaster, famine, war, or other horrors, don’t you?
Obviously this assessment of me required a very large leap in logic on Fangette’s part, but pointing out the flaws in her logic would have taken far more time, energy, and attention to detail than I could muster. I had a ham to glaze, potatoes to put on, and a tub that needed scrubbing.
We went to our separate corners — she to her room, me to the kitchen and the bathroom. It was my intention to get through dinner without any additional conversation involving my failure to connect with the rest of the human race. I had made a pact with myself to steer clear of any further mention of desks or dressers. I wanted to enjoy the damn ham. And I needed to think on what the hell I was going to do with the MONSTROSITY that was now figuring prominently in my very small hallway.
As luck would have it, Fangette, too, had decided — albeit briefly — to come to the dinner table sans the chip on her shoulder. In fact, she was wearing her very best sunny disposition. I allowed myself high hopes for a relaxing meal. As anyone with a teenager knows, these moments of serenity are often short-lived. So, I wasn’t all that surprised when Fangette shattered the peace by announcing, mid-meal, that she would need $3,000 AND our permission to go to Spain next Spring Break. “AHA!”, I thought, “That’s why she’s being so nice. She wants something. Now it all makes sense!”
Before I could nod my head and mutter a motherly “We’ll see…”, my husband, the notoriously money-conscious and overprotective Fang, while narrowly avoiding choking on a morsel of his delicious ham, sputtered something that sounded like, “WHAAAAA?” (My husband is nothing if he is not eloquent.) To be fair, Fang is easily thrown off of his game by Fangette AND he may still have had remnants of unmasticated ham in his trachea, either of which could have contributed to his articulation problems. I, too was distracted. I couldn’t help thinking, “Well, if ya gotta go, you might as well go like Mama Cass!”
Once he had recovered from his close call with death by ham, he looked at me and said, “Spain? That’s in Europe, right?” I assured him that while there may be other “Spains”, Spains unfamiliar to me, particularly given my narrow vision of the world, it was probably safe to make the assumption that she was, indeed, asking to go to Europe. (Not that she really “asked”, but that’s how adolescents operate — more or less, they just “pronounce” their intentions.)
Pushing my plate aside, I settled in for what was sure to be an interesting verbal volley between father and daughter. The one thing that can be relied upon where Fang and Fangette are concerned is their utter predictability. To stick with the tennis analogy, my daughter is the fierce, “in your face”, net player; my husband has more of a baseline game. There is a certain comfort in the predictable, so I sat back and enjoyed the match. After what seemed like hours, but was probably only about fifteen minutes (Alex was just announcing the “Double Jeopardy” categories), my husband turned to me and asked me what I thought. I told him that if it were up to me and if the money were not an issue — which it is — it ALWAYS is — I would pack her a bag and she could go tomorrow. If it were up to me, she could stay the year. She could use the time to work on her language and tapas-making skills. Do I even need to mention that my husband was not appreciative of my “tone”?
Once the “I’m going to Spain” drama subsided and I had wrapped the leftovers and done the dishes, I settled down to rest my weary brain with a few rounds of mindless Facebook games — nothing too taxing, just a bit of Candy Crush Saga and some Bingo Blitz. Just as my hind end hit the chair, Fangette came flying out of her room, gym bag in hand. I thought for a moment that she was heading off to the airport. Alas, she was only scurrying off to the gym. While foraging for the car keys (we will not even discuss why the weren’t hanging on the hook!), I heard her mumbling under her breath.
Normally I don’t pay a great deal of attention to her when she is in full “search” mode and mumbling generally eludes me, but I swore that she said something about needing “about” a hundred dollars when she got back from the gym for SAT registration. Requests for money always pique my attention. And this was the first I was hearing about an upcoming SAT deadline.
I made the mistake of asking her to elaborate on the whole money/SAT thing. That’s when all hell broke loose. BAM! One minute I’m NOT beating level 164 on Candy Crush Saga, the next minute I’m being admonished for not paying careful enough attention to the goings-on in my teenager’s life.
I had to guard against responding to her (not very) constructive criticism by saying something like, “Seriously? You never tell me anything! I often think that you work for the CIA!” because my goal was not to raise her hackles, but to get to the bottom of the whole SAT thing.
In a nutshell, she needed to register for the SAT exam by midnight. She needed a picture. She needed “about” $100. Her plan was to bring up the website, have me find an acceptable picture somewhere on my computer or her laptop, and, this should go without saying, cough up the money.
Needless to say, this was not a carefully crafted plan. Also, I suspected that this was Plan B. Plan A, I’m sure, had been to breeze in from the gym, waste some time on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter, and then, round about 11:45ish, rip me from my warm, cozy bed so that I could take care of it for her — not because I have any recent experience with SAT registration, but because she would need me to fork over the cash.
I’m sorry, what’s that you’re thinking? That I’m jaded? (I certainly am!) That I judge my daughter harshly? (I think “harshly” is a bit harsh, don’t you?) That I should cut her some slack, after all, she’s just a kid! (No. I should not. She will be out of the nest soon enough and she needs to learn a thing or two, aside from the fact that fairies don’t do the dishes or locate your missing yoga pants!, about how Mommy won’t always be there to save her ass — a fact that I’ve been trying to instill in her all of her life!)
She brought up the website for me — the one on which she had supposedly filled out all the necessary information. This is when I discovered, through my previously mentioned Holmesian detecting skills, that not only had she NOT filled out all of the information, but that the registration form required a digital picture — a very specific kind of digital picture. The information and criteria for this picture was about a page long, so you can well imagine the nature of the requirements.
I, literally, screamed, “Stop right there, Sister. You’re not going anywhere until this is done! Are you kidding me? Just this picture bullshit alone will suck two hours of my life?”
In an uncharacteristic display of cooperation or maybe because she had visions of being tackled on the driveway by her crazy-ass mother, Fangette did, indeed, abandon her immediate plans for working her abs and proceeded to attend to the SAT bullshit. She did so in the cursory and disinterested manner in which she often approaches what I’ll call “the important things”. Alas, if only she showed the same interest in the SATs that she demonstrated for the future of the unwanted desk, things would have gone a whole lot smoother. And smoother is always preferable to slapdash, isn’t it? Even removing the digital image requirements from the equation, it was a confusing process — made more confusing because I was unaware that there were two different types of SAT tests.
This important piece of information was uncovered when we got to the area of the form where she was to indicate which subject area tests she was planning to sit for. Of course this was when she chose to ask me which tests I thought she should take. I met her question with a few questions of my own. I’m paraphrasing and cleaning up the language, but it went something like this, “Seriously? These were the decisions YOU expected ME to make while you were working off your ham dinner at the gym two towns away? Have you completely lost your flipping mind? How would I know which subject area tests you should take? Don’t you know? Why didn’t you consult your guidance counselor or an educator about this?”
Admittedly, I probably could have handled this better. Her reaction, to my reaction, was to start checking off boxes willy-nilly, in a “get out of Dodge” fashion. I needed this behavior to cease, mainly because I feared that every checked box was costing me money! I am happy to report that we both simmered down and made what I hope were the correct decisions. For those of you keeping score, her guidance counselor is “useless”. (Her words — but, based on my very limited experience with this woman — I am inclined to agree!)
We solved the dreaded photo requirement issue by just scanning and manipulating her driver’s license photo. I can only hope it’s acceptable. We wrangled a bit about the fact that The State of New Jersey official seal can be seen, but it doesn’t obscure her face and, more importantly, this is the identification that she will presenting when she takes the actual exam. Cross your fingers!
We finished the arduous process with enough time for her to make it to the gym. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that we were out of the woods. Again, I was wrong. (Will I never learn?)
I’m not entirely certain what prompted Round 3, but somehow she got BACK on to the subject of my self-centeredness. Apparently, most of her friend’s mothers are more on top of things than I am. To hear her tell it, most of her cohorts had spent the day fielding texts and phone calls from their mothers regarding the SAT subject test registration deadline. It was obvious to Fangette that these women cared more about their children’s futures than I did, owing to both my cluelessness and selfishness. In something resembling “buyer’s remorse”, she felt the need to inform me that if she had chosen to take the wrong subject area tests based on my poor advice AND this kept her from attending a decent college — setting her on a course to bag groceries for the rest of her life — it will be all my fault — because I didn’t know anything about the SAT subject area tests or, by extension, anything about anything at all.
Her accusations prompted me to do a little soul-searching. I asked myself if, had I known that her entire life would hinge upon the SAT subject area tests, I would have done more to educate myself about them? As much as I’d like to think that I would have, if I’m being honest, it’s far more likely that I would have “encouraged” Fangette to educate herself. Because that is how I like to parent. I prefer to give my child the tools that she needs to succeed, rather than do the things for her that she is perfectly capable of doing for herself.
While parenting is not a competitive sport and I try very hard not to measure my successes or failures by comparing my methods to the methods of others, sometimes that’s challenging. I try to remind myself that we all have our own styles, that we make the decisions that seem right for us and for our children. But I will say this, while I don’t know that I completely believe her story about EVERY other parent being on top of their kid where these SAT deadlines were concerned, I’m certain that SOME of them were. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to discover that they are still keeping track of every aspect of their children’s lives. I also know some of their children. And, I’ll tell you this much, I question the readiness of their offspring to be out in the big, bad, scary world alone. I really do.
As to any “Mother of the Year” awards, I’ll probably never be in the running. My parenting style may be more “laissez-faire” than most, but it’s my style — and I’ve got a kid that even though we tangle, even though we often disagree, and, whether in spite of or because of who I was and who I am, will become whatever she is meant to become; will achieve the things she is meant to achieve based on following the path that SHE chooses to follow — not one that I have planned out for her. Whatever her future holds will not be determined solely by some silly test or where she goes to college, but by the gifts she has been graced with — gifts that will serve her well.
For all of her faults, for all of mine, she is a kind, generous, funny, warm, smart, witty, and genuine young woman. She’s made me laugh. She’s made me cry. She’s made me angry. She’s made me question my sanity. She’s also made my life worth living. I am proud to have had the pleasure (and the pain) of parenting her.