“My friend Erin’s mom is such a bitch!” XUP Jr. declared over lunch on Saturday, apropos to nothing at all.

“Oh? Why?” I ask, always eager to hear about the problems other parents have with their teenagers.

Erin is one of the many kids who lives one week at her mother’s and one week at her father’s. Friday was transition day and apparently Erin had left her mother’s house a bit of a mess that morning. So, Erin’s mother had left Erin a message on her cell phone telling her she had to come back to the house after school and clean up the crumbs and jam and stuff she left on the coffee table (where she wasn’t supposed to be eating anyway) and she had to return her mother’s t-shirt and make-up brush that she’d borrowed without asking.

So, this, according to XUP Jr. was petty and mean of Erin’s mom and just a little crazy because what’s the big deal about a few crumbs? Plus it would mean that instead of taking the bus to her dad’s after school Erin would have to go to her mom’s first and then WALK for 40 minutes to her dad’s.

“Oh boy,” I thought. “What a great opportunity for a long-winded lecture mother-daughter discussion.

As I commented to Dani the other day on her blog, it seems like almost overnight your kids become grown-up. Parents with young children, like Dani often feel that their lives seem like a never-ending round of getting them up, getting them dressed, hurrying them up, feeding them, cleaning them up, helping them with homework, ferrying them to soccer and music lessons and friends homes, attending their school events, reading them stories, playing with them, taking them on outings, wiping their tears, fixing their boo-boos, forcing them into the bath, putting them to bed, etc., etc. — all while trying to manage all the regular stuff a human being needs to do to conduct a life.

And when you’re in the middle of that cycle of chaos it often seems so endless and completely overwhelming, but in retrospect, it was over so quickly. Children claim their independence little by little without you really noticing until suddenly one day you realize that your entire parenting role has changed. Yes, you still have to set some rules and boundaries and they might even want you to wipe up a tear or two now and again or mollycoddle them when they’re not feeling well, but other than that all they really want you to do is:

  • Fork over money;
  • Keep the fridge stocked with food; and
  • Provide transportation occasionally

What they don’t want you to do, but which you really feel like you have to do is inundate them with advice because it dawns on you that there’s a lot of stuff you might not have yet managed to fully drill into their heads and soon they’ll be out in the big world all alone.

So what I talked to XUP Jr. about regarding Erin and her mother is this transition time. This weird time when everything changes quite rapidly for both parents and kids. Kids are demanding to be treated like adults…or at least their vision of what adults are – being allowed to come and go as they wish; making their own decisions without interference; indulging in adult vices, and so forth. And parents are delighted to have their own lives back; to come and go as they wish.

I told XUP Jr. that we would love to be able to treat our teenagers more like adults, except – they don’t behave like adults most of the time…or at least not the type of adults anyone would want to live with. 

A person does not want to come home to find that another “adult” in the house has borrowed their clothing without asking and not returned it. A person does not want to come home to find that another “adult” in the house has left the place a mess.

“So you see, “I said to XUP Jr., in conclusion “We really, really don’t like treating fully grown young women like toddlers. It would be good, for example, if we didn’t have to keep cleaning up after you.”

We’ve had variations on this discussion probably about a million times, but it just doesn’t seem to sink in. For instance, whenever I go grocery shopping I ask her if there’s anything in particular she wants me to get and she always brushes me off with an “how should I know” because, unlike a real adult,  she only thinks about food when she’s actually hungry. At which point, of course she complains that there’s nothing good to eat in the house.

Also, I always do laundry on Sunday morning and every Saturday  night I have to remind XUP Jr. to put her laundry in the hamper if she wants it done. This Saturday night I forgot to remind her, mainly because she wasn’t home, so her stuff didn’t get washed.

Boy, you’d think I’d sold one of her kidneys while she was asleep the way she carried on about having to do her own laundry and why didn’t I remind her and now she has to waste her day off on Monday doing laundry, boo hoo hoo.

And on that note, may I’d like to wish everyone in Ontario a happy Family Day. I hope you all get to spend it doing something really nice with your family — unless of course you’re  a federal government employee who — even though everyone else in the province gets the day off —  don’t get Family Day off because it’s not a federal holiday – boo hoo hoo.


FAMILY DAY UPDATE: On my lunchtime run today I was really heartened and gruntled to see so many, many families, of every possible configuration, skating on the canal and careening down the various designated and non-designated snowy hills . I only wish (yes again) I’d had a pair of camera sunglasses so I could have captured all the family joy going on out there.

24 responses to “Transitions

  1. Happy Family Day to you and yours. We don’t have that holiday here because we don’t give a crap about families in the USA.

  2. What is it with girls and their laundry? My daughter had to do her own laundry from the time she was in middle school and she was not very good at keeping up with it. She is now 25, living on her own for years and she is still not very good at it. She is always complaining about her laundry and it is one of the things that she and her boyfriend fight about. Geez, just do it when you have a load. I don’t get it.
    I really love how you hit the nail on the head. They want to be treated like adults but they do not act like adults you’d want to be around. That’s so perfect.

  3. XUP, was it truly a “discussion” or was it more like what was the norm in my house, where my mother would go into a tangent, and I would almost immediately tune her out and sit there silently, because I knew she wasn’t gonna be on my side, and so I would pretend I was listening, but the entire time I was just thinking about dreamy mike or what color I should paint my nails, etc.

    geewits, I’m nearly 50 (gulp) and still not very good at laundry. Mind you, the past two places I’ve lived at involved going outside to enter the basement in order to do it, and you know, sometimes it’s freezing or raining or…well, it’s always easy to come up with an excuse. I hate to admit it, but a couple times, I’ve actually gone out and bought more underwear or wash clothes just so I didn’t have to do my laundry right then.

  4. Family day is hte last thing that I am worried about.
    As I don’t have one the only thing about family to me is that it was another day that I got to pay my employees for not working.

  5. Yup. I hear ya!
    “Borrowing” things like money and expensive perfume.
    Leaving her room in complete mess.
    Going out and and staying over somewhere when she was explicitly told not to.
    Sigh. Yeah, if adults really behaved like teens (and some do), we’d be living in some sorta Mad Max post-Apocalyptic world right now.
    Re – Family Day – My youngest daughter asked me yesterday why I had to go to work on Family Day. I told her that since our PM was a robot, and robots don’t have families, then those who worked for the robotic overlord weren’t allowed to stay home.
    I wonder if these tales will one day result in expensive therapist bills…

  6. What! She still has both kidneys? I see another wasted opportunity here and by now she is probably connected to them and won’t want to give one up.

    As for doing her own laundry or whatever, how would you like living with an adult that was always telling you how to manage your life.

    I know this goes both ways but I see it all the time. A kid doesn’t behave as the parent wishes and the result is described as not adult like.

    You have in fact hit on the correct method here. If she doesn’t do as you want re laundry in the hamper then she gets to be adult about it and do her own. Same applies to almost anything else.

    Set the rule and ignore the histrionics when she dislikes the repercussions.

  7. Dr. Monkey – It’s only the Ontario provincial government that cares about families. The federal government doesn’t, which is why all us feds still have to go to work. But thanks.

    Geewits – I don’t know what the big deal is either – except that all her clothes are layered about a foot deep on her bedroom floor so it’s probably difficult to figure out which are the dirty ones and which are the clean ones. It’s not like she has anything else to do today. Everything’s closed and it takes like 5 minutes to throw everything in the washer, a minute to toss it in the dryer when it’s done and another minute to throw it all back on her bedroom floor. Big deal.

    Skye – No, it was a discussion. And I think she was actually listening because she contributed to the discussion and even admitted that she sort of saw my point. But we have had the type of “discussion” before where she tunes out, so I think I can spot when she’s actually taking it in on the rare occasion when it happens!

    Lebowski – Okay, Uncle Scrooge. Just because you decided not to procreate you can’t be all bitter about the people who did.

    Trashy – Ya, this Family Day thing isn’t working out if one of the biggest employers in the country can’t get on board with it. Would it kill the federal economy if we made Family Day a national holiday – we could really use a break somewhere between Christmas and Easter.

    Dave – I’m saving the kidney as part of my retirement plan. It should fetch enough for a nice cottage by the sea. I’m keeping her on a good healthy diet and making sure she drinks plenty of purified water during the day.

  8. now she has to waste her day off on Monday doing laundry, boo hoo hoo

    What, does she have 70 loads to do that it’s going to take her all day poor thing? You’re an unfit mother you are.

  9. My not-quite-but-nearly-teenage son shouted “Shut-up, Mum!!” in his sleep about 3am last night.

    Goodness knows what it was that I’d done. Probably something I’ll do when we’re both awake in the near future.

  10. I’m playing the world’s tiniest violin for lebowski who has to go through another entire day not making money off his employees because of this family day thing. Bad bad governments for making it impossible for businessmen to get rich.

  11. Happy Family Day! I took the day off even though I’m not entitled to it.

    Freakin’ stupid! Everyone could use a holiday in the middle of winter!

  12. Jazz – I know! Like I said to Geewits, it’s about 7 minutes of actual laundry-related activity and some waiting time. Happy Birthday, by the way!!

    MisssyM – You are absolutely now entitled to say something which will mortify him enough to want to yell Shut Up at you, but rules of sleep-talking dictate he’ll have to bite his tongue no matter how much you go on and on about it.

    Dave – Well, government actually does make it almost impossible for business people to make a good living in this country, but giving employees a day off now and then can only be good for business all around.

    Pauline – It’s a perfect time for a little break and I would have taken it off too if I wasn’t already taking Thursday and Friday off! Wooot for me.

  13. Hmm…would love to hear a post from XUP junior. Personally I think parents also need to be ‘raised’ in a proper way by the children. If the child manages to raise his/her parents in a respectable fashion, situations like Erin’s can be avoided.

    In response to the general child bashing around the blogsphere, there is a bit of parent bashing at my end:-

  14. Cedar – Well, good for you. I loved being 16.

    Ramble – Dude, I’m going to assume you have some language issues because I was most definitely NOT bashing my child. I do NOT bash my child figuratively or literally. And children do not raise parents – I have no idea what you mean by that. We certainly learn from each other, but there should be no mistake who is the parent and who is the child in the relationship.

  15. Actually, I think making her do her laundry was great. But, why do you have to remind her every week? Just tell her that if her laundry is in the dirty clothes hamper that you’ll be happy to do it, but if she forgets, she gets to do it! Let her make the choice for herself…….they learn fast when there are consequences, either good or bad!

  16. So how did XUP jr respond to everything you said? I’m curious because as you know I’m raising two girls and I can use all the help I can get!

  17. Great post. I laugh when I think back to being a teenager, specifically about how unaware I was about how much time laundry would demand of my schedule. Too true.

  18. been there, done it with the constant hounding of “do this, do that” with the kids.

    based on my experience of daughter living elsewhere, it would seem that all that nagging does pay off, something in their brains kick in and you see that they retained the information.

    i know for me a lot of what my mom taught me, eventually kicked in. so it does pay off, eventually 🙂

  19. I have an observationally-derived theory that, legal and anatomical definitions aside, many humans these days don’t seem to reach a semblance of adulthood until their mid-20s or 30s.

    “Adult” being a malleable term, and mileage varying under actual conditions.

    Certain semi-mythical coyotes, on the other hand, didn’t grow up until they were about 4,000 or so. . . see Paragraph 2, above.

  20. And the extra fun thing about having your children become grown-ups is that you realize that they’re just flirting with grown-up hood, but haven’t actually made a commitment yet. Even after they move out, they have laundry emergencies that cause you to find them using your washer at 3 a.m. while they drink all your beer and cook a 12 course meal in your kitchen because they don’t have any food at their place.

    So remember, Parents: Get the key back when they move if you actually want any of that beer for yourself.

  21. Susan – Mostly I remind her because it’s more economical to have a full load of washing rather than 2 half loads.

    Betsy Mae – Well, like I said she went on and on about how unfair it was, then she tried to make me feel guilty for going to work on Family Day then she grumbled some more, but she did do her laundry eventually. I always wanted to do my own laundry when I was young because my mum would shrink all my stuff or drown in it Downy which I hated.

    Kim – Ya, she doesn’t realize that I spend most of my weekend doing errands and chores and housework and stuff. She thinks her weekends are sacred and only for fun.

    Leah – It does pay off and it does eventually all sink in. You’re right.

    Coyote – So true. Often I’m not quite sure if I’m an adult yet. There are so many things other, more responsible adults are doing that I don’t think I ever want to do because they’re so…. grown-up…

    Ev – Hey – nice to see you back again. I will make a note of the key/beer thing for sure. These are important things to know.

  22. >>I have an observationally-derived theory that, legal and anatomical definitions aside, many humans these days don’t seem to reach a semblance of adulthood until their mid-20s or 30s.

    I agree with that completely. And the root cause, in my estimation, is that we shelter kids so much… literally treating them like babies until they’re in their late-teens and early 20’s that they don’t learn any of the skills necessary to function as adults until they can finally cut the strings – usually by moving away for school or work.

    I hate “when I was a kid” stories, but sheesh…

    – when I was a kid, I could hop on my bike and ride half-way across town (let’s call “town” equivalent to Nepean in this case) as long as I was home for supper at 5 PM.
    – I had no GPS or cell phone for a parent to keep tabs on me. My parents had a sense of trust in me, and I learned that I could function without mommy looking over my shoulder every second. That’s a valuable life-lesson.
    – I played hockey in the street, and survived to adulthood without ever getting hit by a car.
    – I got bullied all the time, in fact, to some degree, we all did unless you were the biggest kid in the class, and even then everyone might pick on you because of your size. Instead of bitching and moaning about how the teachers weren’t protecting me I learned to stand up to the bullies. A skill that serves me well as an adult to this day.
    – I got taught respect and manners. It’s a personal bugbear of mine that children are generally, in my opinion, not taught respect and manners today. Calling adults by their first name, without explicit permission, is disrespectful in my opinion. Yet many people I know say that it is disrespectful of the child to expect that. Sorry, but the child is not my peer. Similarly, please and thank you seem to be relics of yesteryear.
    – The concept of delayed gratification is history, it seems, as far as kids are concerned. Children seem to be brought up in a “satisfy me now!” world. Unfortunately, being an adult is all about delayed gratification of wants, so those same kids are missing out on an important life skill that I, and most people my age, learned at a much younger age.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. I’m just an old, child-hating curmudgeon at 44 I guess.

  23. Squid – Holy crap! Have you taken up permanent residence on my blog today or what? Not that I don’t appreciate all your thoughts and comments — I do! I’m just surprised. Anyway, to respond to your comment – in some cases the world is a very different place than it was when you were a kid; a much more dangerous place where bullying doesn’t mean wedgies and having your face pushed in the mud, but getting shot or knifed or otherwise seriously injured. A couple of decades ago pedophiles were way, way underground; today they’re all over the internet banding together (strength in numbers) figuring out new and exciting ways to get kids. Years ago, hearing about a kid getting approached by a stranger was a once in a lifetime thing – now it happens almost on a daily basis. And it’s not only pedophiles we have to worry about – it’s other kids and traffic. There are more drivers, more reckless/impaired drivers; angry drivers on the roads, faster cars. It’s just not as safe as it once was. I’m sorry.

    The manners thing I agree with.

    The delayed gratification thing? Are you kidding about adults having to live with delayed gratification? Why do you think everyone is up to their eyebrows in debt? Everyone has to have bigger cars, houses, boats, electronics. People have so much friggin stuff it’s not even funny. Go check out the suburan garages and basements. People can’t stop buying stuff – in person, online, by phone. Did you get $2,000 worth of Christmas presents every year? I understand that’s a conservative average for kids these days.