Nailing Jell-O To a Tree


weird mojoHow ever she meant them, I take very seriously the pearls of parental wisdom given to us from the late, great Erma Bombeck. My current mantra is “Raising teenagers is like nailing Jell-O to a tree”. That Erma, she sure had a way with words. Even with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek she was spot on. Spot. On. Baby.

Today’s lunacy here at the hovel involves struggling with my 18-year-old, the always delightful Fangette, to get the hell out of bed and keep the appointment that I made for her at the car dealership — an appointment that SHE needs in order to have her electronic key programmed. Why the need for the electronic key? Oh, just because it’s fancier and cost more money than a regular key.

Her used car only came with one key. Anyone wise to the ways of teenagers knows this to be a recipe for disaster. Disaster.

As it turns out, the electronic key may not have been such a bad purchase after all. Very recently, the door handle on the passenger side stopped working from the inside. This requires the passenger to roll down the window and open the door from the outside. And, no, we’re not having it fixed. The car is eleven years old. It’s cost us enough money, thankyouverymuch! I told her father, the long-suffering Fang, that Fangette and members of her posse will just have to deal with it.

I did, however, point out that the deluxe electronic key will, no doubt, come in handier now. It will not, however, do a God-blessed thing, other than look sexy, if it’s not programmed. This must be done at the dealership, which requires an appointment and, of course, a charge for thirty minutes of labor — they get ya coming and going, I tell ya, coming and going.

Under protest (because I want my daughter to do things for herself!), I made the damn appointment. I even agreed to fund the project. Mostly I did these things because I don’t want to hear it when the only key she has goes missing — falls into the black hole with all of the other shit that she loses. I don’t want the key thing to become an emergent situation. I’m big on proactivity. And, by that I mean, I don’t relish the whining, crying, and carrying on that will accompany the lost key. Basically, I don’t want to hear it.

I sucked it up and made the appointment — an appointment that she promised to keep. An appointment that she slept through this morning no matter how much shaking, cajoling, and yelling was being done by yours truly. Why did she sleep through this very important appointment? Because she rolled in at 1:30 AM last night. No, she wasn’t out partying. She was just at the diner with friends. Still, it was late. I reminded her several times throughout the evening via text message — the only form of communication currently available to teenagers and their parents — that she HAD TO get up early and get to the car dealership by 9:00 AM.

Am I pissed that she didn’t? You betcha!

A crazier and far more energetic parent than me would probably have gone into her room and dragged her out of bed by her hair. Believe me, I fantasized about it for a fleeting moment. And then my mind, as it often does, went elsewhere.

I succumbed to a case of the “what ifs”. “What if” I drag her out of bed and she gets into a car accident on the way there or the way home? Maybe, I rationalized, like people who miss planes that later crash, she’s not supposed to be on that highway this morning. Perhaps everything really does happen for a reason. Like it or not, I told myself, Fangette’s innate laziness just may have saved her life. Tragedy averted.

Or, “what if” we engaged in a knock-down, drag-out this morning and she left the house in a tizzy wearing those sandals that she loves, but that have those very slippery bottoms and, let me just add, NO support, and she goes ass over teakettle on the driveway, breaks her leg, can’t start college, and I’m stuck with Limpy, her seventeen cats, and fifteen hedgehogs (I just KNOW there’ll be hedgehogs in this horror story!) until the day I die? How about that for a tragic scenario?

On the other hand, a better, more resourceful parent than I — one with the wherewithal to drag an 18-year-old fully-formed person out of a very high full-size bed — an act that would have required the use of a stepladder and some pretty good wrestling moves — may have fetched the ladder, scrambled onto the bed, put her child into a half-Nelson, and forced the issue. I daresay that the element of surprise alone, the shock and awe of the whole act, may have been all that was necessary to insure a fully awake and functional human being.

Still, I balked at such a thing so early on a Monday morning. Having not yet had a cup of coffee, engaging in measures so extreme was out of the question. Not for a key, for heaven’s sakes. For a million dollars, maybe, but not for a key.

While I think Erma may have enjoyed a story that involved me belly crawling on my daughter’s bedroom floor and launching myself onto her bed, I think that she would have agreed with my final decision to do nothing. Just like you can’t nail Jell-O to a tree, you can’t always make your children do what you want them to do — even if it’s in their best interests.

I hope she enjoys walking, though. Because if she loses her key, that’s exactly what she’ll be doing. I may be resigned to her decision not to keep her appointment, but I am smart enough to allow her to suffer the consequences of her actions.

Justice often being poetic, I can only hope that WHEN she loses her key she has to walk to work — in the pouring rain. I wonder how in love with those sandals she’ll be then? I’m guessing she’ll regret sleeping in this morning when she’s slogging through a deluge without her umbrella — an umbrella that will, no doubt, be in her car — a car that she will not be able to get into without the key!

20 thoughts on “Nailing Jell-O To a Tree

  1. Patricia says:

    Thanks. That was a good one.

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  2. CaptCruncher says:

    Breathing through these years and knowing that there is really not a right answer just might help you! You are in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t and really, the only way to know you did the right thing is to let it all go! Not the answer we want but the one that is crystal clear in hind sight! Great insights! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. As a mom of a 16 and 18 year old, I completely agree – you CANNOT make a child quite that age do what you want them to do, they have to willingly do it or it’s not gonna’ get done. And I quite agree – it’s VERY annoying! 🙂

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  4. peachyteachy says:

    The conversation I imagine: “So how much do you love your sandals now?” (wagging fingers gurrll style) “That’s what I thought!” God speed.

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  5. Oh my goodness you have me laughing out loud. I have to share this with my 15 year old daughter (and all of my friends with teens.)

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  6. swo8 says:

    One thing that Erma Bombeck taught me was you’re dead in the water if you haven’t got a sense of humour.
    Leslie

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  7. Ellen Dolgen says:

    Oh those teenage years……I remember them well! Screaming in my pillow worked for me!

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  8. Kim Tackett says:

    But the thing with teenagers, the moment you think you are gonna snap, they do something really sweet and wonderful. Kind of like my dog. Yeah, exactly like that.

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  9. Oh my gosh I LOVE this post! You nailed the whole teenager thing way better than jello might I add 🙂

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