Thursday, March 3, 2011

Help, my mother is crazy and she can't get off my back

My teenagers have taught me a few valuable lessons lately. I know -- you want to puke -- I hate sentimental crap like that.

It's Okay If You Don't Want to Make Friends and Influence People

My younger daughter (we'll call her Perle Mesta) has one true friend from back in the day (we'll call her Tia) and has made several more her freshman year of high school.

You can see what drew them together.

The joy of seeing her with her friends has been somewhat tempered because the delight is accompanied by a pang that my oldest daughter (we'll call her Gwyneth) has not invited any friends to our house, nor has she been invited to sleepovers, parties or just to hang out. I frequently used subtle approaches such as, "if you want to invite friends over, that would be great! If you want to go to a movie with a friend, I'll drive!" You would think I would already have learned this lesson: while I would literally collapse without my friends, my husband describes himself as an "anti social worker." I just could not accept that Gwyneth could be happy without sleepovers and such, even though she's assured me that she's fine without them. I knew that of course she was in denial - if I need friends, everyone does. Three days ago she told me in the nicest possible way to bug off: she has friends at school but is perfectly happy with her own company. A friend of mine laughed when I told her last night because she has been saying the same thing for years: "I know you worry, but she is perfectly happy."

(Can you tell that I am a high-maintenance friend?)

Gwyneth in her younger years.

Making Cs at School Does Not Mean You Will End Up Living in a Box on the Street

Unless my life drastically changes, my kids are going to have to get scholarships to go to college. Because I think they are of superior intellect, I hound them about their grades - for their own good, of course. If they get Cs, I treat them like social pariahs. I go through stages:
  • When I was unemployed and checked their grades obsessively, I would attack them the minute they got home from school - and this was before I read about the Tiger Mom. (In my defense, I never called them garbage, just shiftless and lazy.) I could not believe that they were not making straight As and colleges weren't already calling, offering full scholarships, a car, a clothing allowance and an apartment for when their dad and I visited.
  • I'd swear that I didn't care: "I'm not going to check your grades anymore! I'll just wait a few years: either you'll be in college or you'll be working at a fast-food restaurant, serving your friends who are home from college on spring break. I don't care!"  
  • Threats followed by pathetic bargaining: "Don't think you're going to flunk out and live at home! I'm looking forward to my golden years; I don't need some punk-ass living in my basement. Let's make a deal: I'll give you $100 for each A!" 
  • Pleading: "You're too young to know that grades MATTER now. You're not in Oz anymore, Dorothy."
  • Depression: "I'm a failure as a parent! I don't deserve to have children! I shouldn't even be raising the pups!" Hiding from friends for fear they would brag about their no-neck kids. Trying to score Valium from tired-looking women at Kroger.

 When we got their grades this semester, I was so mean that I made my youngest cry and she basically asked me, "What's wrong with average?" I was totally ashamed and couldn't answer her.

It helped that a friend told me about a friend who went into deep debt because he wanted a degree from Harvard -- a teaching degree. His friend is now making $30,000 a year and probably planning a trip to South America so he doesn't have to pay back his crushing debt.

Keep Your Kids On Their Toes

Perle Mesta had two sleepovers last weekend: one here with her friend L. and then she and L off to spend the night with A. They went to the mall, where I was to pick her up on Sunday. She called her dad to let him know she was there, but when I texted, I didn't get a reply. Of course, I knew she had been kidnapped and was being used for medical experiments. But instead of going to crazy town, I decided to go to the mall and do some shopping (I was looking for a blue spring cardigan) and either I would bump into her or she would text me. I wasn't there long before I spotted the three of them, strolling arm-in-arm. They turned around almost immediately, and the look on my child's face was priceless, as they say: I couldn't hear her but read her lips: "Oh my God it's my Mother."

Before the mall incident.

It was great entertainment, but I also learned a lesson: it's not a bad thing for both of them to know that I might appear anytime, anywhere -- their Guardian Angel who can ground them. Which reminds me of a true story: Tia spent the night at our house many years ago, and she and said daughter had been back in our bedroom (because they loved our water bed) for a long time. I decided to spy on them - were they talking about boys yet? Instead, I discovered them going through a dictionary. I think they are as wise (and lucky) at choosing friends as I have been.

As I write this, Gwyneth told me that she has invited a friend over on Sunday. Sometimes you win.


  1. Gwyneth is lucky to be happy enough with herself that she can be happy by herself. It took me decades to get there.


  2. You are too funny! My daughter just got a cell phone for her 14th bday and I find myself snooping in her texts all the time. I make sure she knows this will continue as long as I pay the bill! :) Good thing is that she doesn't seem to mind (yet.)

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