The Teenage Twilight Zone

I have few fond memories of being 15, I think I blocked most of them.  One of the main things I remember is sitting behind the fish tank in Biology class.  The teacher was punishing my father, an administrator, but little did he know, I loved my seat.  In fact it raised my popularity a few points because I had one of the best seats in class.  I remember hanging out with certain kids, but not much else.  I was transitioning from glasses to contacts at the end of my sophomore year (see post titled Don’t Cry For Me Middle School) and trying to figure out how to fit in.  I made it through HS, but would never go back.  I’d redo college in a heartbeat, but all those movies about going back to high school?  NO WAY!

Imagine my joy at getting to relive it in a manner that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud.  It is surreal having a 15 year old daughter.  First, she is much prettier than I ever was in school.  No dorky glasses to push up helps immensely.  She gets along with people like I did, but sometimes just seems to be searching for where she fits.  I get it, the social hierarchy in high school is cut-throat.  And I know it is just a stepping stone for the prodigal daughter.  But getting her off this stone and onto the next one is killing me.  When she shares a story with me I hear the music from Twilight Zone in my head.  The monologue goes through my head with a few changes.  Here is my version:

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to adults. It is a dimension as vast as a school hallway and as timeless as a yearbook. It is the middle ground between sports and academics, between popularity and geekdom, and it lies between the cut of a teen’s hair and the cost of their clothes. This is the dimension of high school. It is an area which we call the Teenage Twilight Zone.

This is where I live.  And I am just waiting for the birds to show up, but that’s story for another day.

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Teenage meltdown #3859

The movie The Hunger Games came out at midnight last night.  The prodigal daughter has been counting down to this moment for about 3 months.  Her room is full of homemade posters, her ipod has every movie poster/screen shot she could find downloaded, and we have been treated to in-depth analysis of actor choices.

Before you ask, yes we have both read the books.  Multiple times.  And loved them.  They are that well written.

I, being a brain dead mom, told the prodigal daughter I would transport a group of them to see the movie today.  She immediately invited seven friends.  Which is great, but the Acadia only holds eight and she casually informed me that one mom was going also.  When I learned how to add, that equaled nine, one too many for the vehicle to fit.  In prodigal daughter world that means you just cram one more girl in and talk about how squished you are the whole ride to the theater.

When I left for work yesterday morning, this was the plan.  When I got off the scholastic team bus at 6:55pm after a meet, it all fell apart.  I called Coach to alert him I would pick up the kids from practice and he gave me a heads up.  There had been a meltdown at dinner.  Someone shared with the prodigal daughter that all the tickets were sold out.  All of them.  For the whole week.  A massive, tear-filled meltdown unfolded.  The ONLY reason she had gone to school this week was because of the movie field trip.  Apparently I missed the institution of “optional schooling depending on social activities” in our house.  I think she confused her life with Katniss’, the main character in the book.

I saw no evidence of this meltdown when I picked her up.  She seemed pretty upbeat and chipper.  Then JMumbo decided a stage whispered, “She had a meltdown at dinner” was appropriate.  Way to read the situation JMumbo!  Evil daughter surfaced and began to growl.  I exerted my powers as the Supreme Decision Maker of the Universe and shut down all conversation regarding the movie until we arrived at the house and could call the theater.

One phone call later, I discovered that not only were the tickets not sold out, there were plenty for the show time we chose.  The young lady I spoke to suggested we arrive a half hour early to make sure we could sit together, but didn’t see a problem with ticket supply.  Several phone calls and texts later, everyone was set, I had a passel of girls headed to the house after school to create puffy paint “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” t-shirts, because they are girls and all of them are rooting for Katniss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meltdown controlled, but somehow I still ended up alone in the car with a bunch of teenage girls.

A Brief Moment in Camelot

Being the mother of a teenager isn’t easy.  Your “How to Embarrass your Teenager” handbook is constantly being thwarted by the “Being a Teenager, the Sullen Years” handbook your teenager received at 12:01 on her birthday.  Teenagers live to be sullen and uncooperative.  The prodigal daughter spends a lot of time being angry for things I didn’t even know I did.  She barely tolerated the time spent playing a game with me and JMumbo today, hanging her head, peering at us from under her hair, like we were sucking years of her life she might never get back.

But sometimes, once in a while, it all comes together and you experience the movie scene moment.  You know the one, where mother and daughter connect with laughter and meaningful conversation.  Well, we didn’t really have the meaningful conversation, but the laughter was there.  We were meeting Coach at the theater so he and JMumbo could see the 3-D version of Star Wars I.  The prodigal daughter and I bought tickets to a later movie, “The Vow”, and headed off to Wally World to pick up a few things.  It was time to find a bin that would hold the American Girl stuff and put it away.  This is not an easy task for me, it means I really have to admit she doesn’t want to dress up her dolls anymore.  She isn’t going to wear a Snow White dress again and sit on my lap while I read Franklin books to her.  Years of make-up, hemline battles, and broken hearts lie ahead.

We found a bin after a brief search and a few choice comments about me talking to myself and me responding that I brought her along for a reason.  (This is in the handbook mentioned above – mumbling out loud so your teenager can hear and be embarrassed for you.)  She mocked my sock choices, told me certain bras looked like “what people your age wear”, and bribed a new magazine out of me.  There were some smiles and one or two laughs.  It felt like heaven.

In the movie theater we shared a popcorn and periodically she leaned her head on my shoulder.  I pretended to cover her eyes at certain points and she giggled.  We agreed it was a good movie and she understood how wrong the parent’s reactions to the situation were.  Love conquers all, a bit of residual princess theme, still resonates with her.  We sang along to The Wiz on the way home.  It was a moment and I’ll try to hold onto it when sullen girl makes another appearance, testing my patience.  That for one brief moment, the prodigal daughter and I were living in Camelot.

Closet Mania

Have you ever cleaned out a preteen girl’s closet?  I have for several years now.  It never gets better.  I spent part of my morning doing just that.  I did smarten up this year and have her sort it out ahead of time.  Then we went through the “rejects”.  Some were too small, some were hand me downs that she didn’t like, and some were clothes that she HAD to have, but never wore.  She argues that she wore them, but once doesn’t count in my book.

We do this every spring and end of summer.  The spring is easier because most of the clothing we pass on she has outgrown.  The end of summer is the tough one.  Many sighs from both parties accompany this expedition.  M&M sighs because her ridiculous mother doesn’t understand that these clothes belong to last year’s look and couldn’t possibly be worn again in the new season.  Please understand we live in a small town that averages a two to three year lag behind the fashion world.  A place where flannel never goes out of fashion and steel toed boots are a work necessity, not a fashion statement.  Fashion to the prodigal daughter is related to Quinn on Glee and what the Sunday flyers advertise for teens.

Mom is just tired of spending money on clothes that we don’t really want or need, but fulfill the desire of all 12 – 18 years old, BUY ME SOMETHING!  They don’t always care what it is and sometimes what appears just right in Florida, a cute embroidered skirt and embellished tank style top, doesn’t work in the world of snow and ice.  So she wears it twice at Disney World, brings it home, and hangs it in the closet, where it migrates slowly to the back until it is unearthed in the end of summer haul out.  Then we argue about it.

“Nothing matches it.” states the prodigal daughter.  No blue in her closet that looks like an ocean because of the BLUE tops hanging there.  No yellow like in the striped tank top that must belong to someone else.  NOTHING to match a WHITE skirt.  Hhmmmm…

I give up and three bags later have a nice assortment of clothing for the friends we share with.  Her closet still has more clothes in it than mine and Coach is worried that she doesn’t have enough.  *sigh*

Don’t Cry for Me Middle School

A few nights ago the prodigal daughter had one of her famous meltdowns.  Tears and slammed doors led to Coach heading to her room to stem the torrent before it overwhelmed all the women in the house.  He listened and then came down and shared a bit with me.

JMumbo was visiting a friend, so it was just the three of us at dinner.  I addressed the issue Coach shared, that she didn’t want to go to school here anymore.  M&M (the prodigal daughter) felt she had few friends, and the ones she had, we were keeping her from.  Kids weren’t always nice to her.  She had been picked on a bit, or in today’s world, bullied.

Now I don’t hold with bullying.  No one deserves singling out for not blending.  Life isn’t about being a lemming and following the pack off the cliff.  Unfortunately in Middle School this is one of the reasons most kids are bullied, they don’t fit the mainstream.  It could be a flannel shirt, black nail polish, too short or too long a haircut, the list is endless and subject to the whims of teenagers.  Teenagers who tend to work within the constraints of a mob mentality.  You’re either with the mob or against them, and if you’re against the mob, they make sure you know it.  It’s a poor lifestyle for kids.

You’re thinking I gave M&M my sympathy.  I did, to a point.  Middle School sucks.  It always has.  I would never go back and am not enjoying reliving it through my daughter’s eyes.  That said, she has to get through, and it’s my job to give her the skills to survive until High School.  It isn’t easy.  The opportunities to stray and jump off the cliff with the other lemmings far outnumber the opportunities to be true to yourself.

What did I do?  I took her on a trip down memory lane.  My memory lane.

This is me in sixth grade.  I would like to remind you that I truly am a female, something that a waitress didn’t realize in a restaurant one night when she asked my brother and I what we boys would like to eat.  It may have been my stunning haircut or complete lack of curves.  The glasses?  Bifocals in an attractive octagonal shape.  My best comeback for two years when called four eyes was “No, I have six.”  So clever and witty at such a young age!

Welcome to eighth grade.  Two years have made a tremendous difference, especially in the eye wear department.  They are still bifocals.  I didn’t lose those until tenth grade when I prepared for contacts.  The frames are a bit more stylish.  Remember, late 70’s folks, and yes, the haircut is the infamous Dorothy Hamill.  Somehow I have ended up with variations of this cut through most of my life.  Please note the plaid shirt with matching string tie and contrasting vest.  High fashion in the junior high world, or at least I thought so.  By this point I had found some like-minded, book-loving friends whose number one priority wasn’t boys.

How does that song by Barenaked Ladies go?  “This is me in ninth grade baby.”  Yep, it’s the beginning of a mullet.  Any teen to 30 year old who lived during the 80’s knows what a mullet is.  We aren’t talking fish folks; we are talking rock star hair.  Shorter in the front, longer in the back.  It is nicely offset by a terry cloth sweater.  Stylin’ people!

 

 

This photo is my favorite.   It conveys all the angst that goes with being a sophomore in high school. Talk about not reallyfitting in anywhere.  You’re just doing time at this point.  I particularly like the crooked glasses that the photographer didn’t bother to mention.  My best guess is I was just another face.  That or he thought they showed the reality of tenth grade.  At least we took group photos for the yearbook.  Only family and friends were privy tothis one.

Tenth grade was the year I took Biology.  We only had one teacher for it and I found out years later that he disliked my father.  Didn’t I tell you?  BOTH my parents worked at the school.

Dad was an administrator and Mom substituted.  But back to Biology class.  The first day I was in the frontrow, in the middle.  The teacher was asking what seven things indicated something was alive.  He was learning names as he went.  By the time he called on me all the easy answers like breathing were taken.  I have no idea what I said, but it wasn’t what he was looking for.  So he moved me.  To the end of the front row, against the exterior wall.  Behind the fish tank.  The HUGE fish tank.  A classmate, Rocco, sat behind me.  She and I agreed we had the best seats in the room.  This was confirmed by our classmates who tried to get moved next to us.

I don’t remember much Biology, but I watched a lot of fish that year.  My parents could have complained and forced him to move me, but I didn’t want to move.  I learned to cope.

 

The last two years of high school were easier.  I lost the enormous glasses, trading up for contacts.  My hair settled down and I got a perm to help with the “Big Hair” craze that was to become synonymous with the 80’s.  I became more comfortable in my own skin, making some choices that were good and some that weren’t so good.  My parents had one of the first VCR’s, a Beta, and we all hung out in our family room late night.  My mom always knew who was there based on what was missing from the kitchen and refrigerator.  One night they ate a whole pot of soup!

 

I was still on the fringes in many ways, but was comfortable with it.  I knew there was more out there and was ready to go find it.  College more than lived up to my expectations, but that is for another day.

Am I sorry M&M is having a hard time?  Yes, but I want her to learn to diffuse the situation and walk away.   At this point she wants to go to UVA and become a vet.  She won’t remember most of this.  Bullying is wrong, but so is feeding it by giving it the spotlight.  Tolerance is a difficult lesson to teach, but I think I’m up to it.

Broken Jars

The prodigal daughter has Art class this half of the year.  They were starting a painting project dealing with fore, middle, and background.  They were going to paint on different mediums, not paper or canvas.  I thought it was a great project, then I realized what the above mentioned aspects meant.  I had some work to do.

The photo she wanted was one from our Disney trip.  No big deal, they were all in one place because I am like that.  They were on the flash drive labeled “Disney Photos”.  Where else would they be?  Except for one.  The one I actually ordered from the Disney photographers and framed.  The one that was packed away while I redid the living room.  And surprise, surprise, THAT was the one she wanted.

I managed to find one from our camera that was clear enough she could use it.  One down, one to go.  What to paint on, what to paint on.  The prodigal daughter wanted my stool.  The stool I actually use in the basement.  One of the only seats that was high enough for my craft bench, which is what I bought it for.  I dug a board out of the garage.  Not good enough.  I suggested a glass canning jar, quart size.  She scoffed and headed out the door.  When she returned home that afternoon, the jar became the best thing ever.  Because the Art teacher said so.

I did find a glass jar purchased before marriage and children, back when Pier One actually had cool stuff.  It was designed to look old with a big cork instead of a lid.  I gave up my funky jar for the art project.  I would have taken it into school for her that day, I started in her building, but she’s a tweener and I knew if I suggested it, I would have been rebuffed.  So I shut my mouth and headed to work.

Where I found her in the back hallway.  With part of the jar.  The other part?  In pieces on the floor.  It had broken on the bus.  Which SHOCKED me.  A large glass jar, in a backpack, on a school bus.  And it BROKE?  WHAT?!?  How could this have happened?  Which is what the prodigal daughter wondered aloud as we cleaned up the chunks of glass.  I just shook my head.

She still did the art project.  I had a matching jar at home which I transported to the art room the next day, and the Art teacher and I had a giggle.