Situation normal. Within about ten minutes of their return from school today, both my kids had cracked the shits with me. One had stormed off muttering. The other was sitting at the dining table staring out the window munching on seventeen slices of sourdough toast and a jug of chicken soup.
Crime Number One.
Miss 14 has applied for a middle-school leadership role. This is very big deal. Trust me. You have no idea quite how BIG. The pressure’s not coming from me. Yes, I want her to have all the opportunities for growth that come with assuming responsibility. Yes, if she deserves it, and works for it, then I want her to have it. Of course I do. I want her to be all that she can be.
But I really honestly and truly do not give fat rat’s rear-end about what Bitchy-Miss-X or Loud-Missy-Y or even the Amazing-Zedster might have to say about who should get what. And although it’s clear that the sky WILL fall if Prissy-Britches is declared House Captain, and the earth WILL stop turning if Teachers-Pet-Lad is made Middle-school Captain, there’s buggar-all I can do about it. But of course that's not the point. Not the point at all.
And I was listening. I swear I was. I even thought I was making a sympathetic of-course-I’m-listening kind of a face. But obviously I wasn't. Very obviously I wasn't. Because it seems that I "oh dear"ed when I should have "gee wow"ed. At which point she paused for just long enough to give me the exact look she would wear if she stood in dog poo.
So I smiled to try to placate her.
And before you could say “One Direction suck bad" she was stomping towards the stairs trailing a muffled ‘Oh just don't even worry about it then' like wet toilet paper from the bottom of her shoe.
Note to self: Next time just nod. Say nothing; do nothing else. Remember Rule 652 in The Handbook for Parenting Girls: when confronted by a disgruntled teen-princess, do not speak unless there is a pause of at least 5.6 seconds duration in her oration.
And above all, never... never... forget Rule 651: No uninvited smiling. Ever. It does not placate. It provokes. Uninvited smiling creates the impression that you do not believe there is
any genuine cause for upset and said smile will therefore be construed as a barbed and vicious criticism of the distressed speaker.
Never smile at a teen-princess who has lost her gruntle. You WILL be punished.
Crime Number Two
Mr 16 likes to disconnect himself from all other living things by means of ear-buds whenever possible. This minimises the likelihood of being drawn into another meaningless discussion about the need for study or any further annoying reference to the smell of fermenting socks coming from his darkened room.
He also likes to lounge about watching ESPN (simultaneously playing a game on his phone and social networking on his computer…or vice versa) while enjoying his after-school ‘snack’.
Today, I asked him not to take his food with him as he headed for the sanctity of the television. And I gave him two reasons for my request. Firstly, his father, having just returned from an extended business trip to the other side of the planet, was sitting at the kitchen counter and would love to have a chat with him.
Response to reason number one: ‘Hmph’.
Secondly, as my 657 million requests to use a coaster/placemat whenever he put a glass/mug/cup/bowl/plate on the hand-carved wooden chest my now-deceased dad gave me for my 21st birthday had been ignored, and said hand-carved wooden chest now has an irreparable stain bleached into it, I was hereby banning his taking of food into the immediate proximity of the aforementioned chest.
Response to reason number two: ‘Hmph’.
And then he filled his ears with buds and headed off to the dining room. Not the kitchen counter. The dining room. This was clearly designed to piss me off. I was meant to follow and complain that he knew it was inappropriate to have his after-school snack alone in the dining room when he could have been sitting chatting with his father in the kitchen so that he could pretend he couldn’t hear me because he was listening to music. But I did none of that, because I remembered Rule 427 from The Great Big Book of Raising Boys: Never come between a hungry adolescent male and his after-school snack. Never. Not ever.
So, there it was, situation normal. Grumpy kids scattered to various parts of the house and me, star pupil of Bad Mothering 101 the criminal responsible.
I was left with only one possible course of action.
I poured myself a chilled pinot grigio.