It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m still in my classroom, clearing the debris that is left behind from 100+ 8th graders passing through my door in one day. I’m tired. I’ve been with teens all day, helping and teaching and motivating. Trying, sometimes successfully, to connect. Glancing out the window I notice the sky is turning dark; if I’m lucky, I can catch the sunset on my bike ride home. I consider locking my door – if I’m left alone I can work so much faster. I hate to be that way, but socializing on a Friday just isn’t my jam.
My brain momentarily flashes to mommy mode – I’ve got my own teen to worry about. Surely no good can come from him wandering around on a Friday night without checking in with his mom. Hesitant to call to connect, I text instead. No teenager wants to have a conversation with their mom in front of all their homies. Texting is the ultimate connection tool with teens.
I start out on a positive note – no need to give him the third degree off the bat:
4:48 p.m.: “Plans? I’d like to take dad out to dinner to celebrate.”
5:09 p.m.: “Celebrate what? And I’m with the guys. At Casey’s house.”
5:09 p.m.: “No cancer. And until when?”
5:10 p.m.: “Idk. late.”
His complete disregard for the dinner invitation is so annoying, not to mention his lack of mentioning that his dad’s melanoma hasn’t spread. Sheesh. I try to connect again, this time more directly:
5:49 p.m.: “Do you want to go out for dinner tonight?”
6:10 p.m.: “I was hoping I could spend the night at Neil’s.”
6:12 p.m.: “You know, spend actual quality time with my friend.”
6:13 p.m.: “Neil’s parents are in Hawaii.”
Seriously? Are we texting about the possibility of a 16-year-old spending the night without parental supervision? Does he think I’m not on social media? Does he really imagine I don’t know his parents aren’t home. Surely he’s not trying to pull a fast one…
6:18 p.m.: “He has a babysitter tho and she’s coming over soon.”
Phew. At least he’s honest. Crazy, but honest.
6:19 p.m. “Not this weekend. You’re welcome to have your friends sleepover at our house. That’s totally fine.”
6:20 p.m.: “…”
6:23 p.m.: “I mean we’re hanging out…”
How am I supposed to get any work done with this insane conversation? Correcting vocabulary tests while arguing with a teen while texting pushes multitasking to its limits.
6:46 p.m.: “I can come home too but I’d just rather be with my friends.”
6:47 p.m.: “I mean you’re my mom…It’s up to you but just remember my happiness.”
6:48 p.m.: “I could be one of those kids with no one to play with but I’m trying to make a life for myself. Your choice.”
OMG. Who raised this kid? His logic skills are epic. I think I let him listen to too much NPR when he was little. And seriously. He hasn’t dialed my number yet? We’re negotiating non-negotiable rules over text?
6:54 p.m.: “Don’t guilt trip me. Just bring ur friends over.”
I’m done. The screech of the copy machine just adds to the dull ache in my brain. Should I just call him and get this over with?
6:57 p.m.: “Well they’re already planning on being there so if I come home I’ll be alone.”
6:57 p.m.: “I’m sorry. You can sleep over at Neil’s house when his parents are home.”
6:58 p.m.: “Ok…I don’t see the difference but whatever.”
6:58 p.m.: “I’ll be home soon then.”
6:59 p.m.: “I guess.”
He’s relentless. All I want to do is get home. I want this conversation to be over. I want my jammies and my big glass of pinot and…I want my little boy back.
7:06 p.m.: “Alrighty.”
He’s slowing down. One last text, one last grasp for me to change my mind? Prepare for the silent treatment.
7:18 p.m.: “I’m making my way home/:”
Yes! I held strong.
7:18 p.m.: “Do u need a ride?”
Please, let him say yes. We need car time – we do some of our best conversations in the car, both of us staring ahead.
7:23 p.m.: “No.”
Well, OK then.
He walked through the door about 20 minutes later, heading straight for his room. The door shut with just a touch of attitude; best to leave him alone, I think. How long do I let him sit there? Do I try to connect with him, to give him my best explanation of why there was no way he was sleeping over there tonight? Should I just be glad he’s home and leave him be?
Twenty minutes later I tap on the door. The music stops as he calls, “What?” from the other side. I recognize the tone, and know he’s not quite done being mad, but I’m going in. “What’s up?” I question. “Do you want dinner?”
“No. I’m doing homework. I’ve got nothing else to do.” Oh, the sting. I’ve ruined his social life, so he might as well study. I fight back a smile.
“Ok, cool. Have fun with Macbeth,” I reply, and back out the door.
Pinot, here I come.