My Teenagers’ Friends

My best friend is very likely still my best friend because she was nice to my younger sisters. When she invited me to the mall or movies, she assumed they would tag along. Never in our entire friendship did she ask ”do they have to come?” or act annoyed that they dragged out their sleeping bags for our sleepovers. She just embraced being the fourth sister – as responsible for my sisters as I was.

I guess that’s why I judge the friends of my two teenage boys by how they respond to a little brother in their midst.

He’s ten. He’s loud. He wants to play. He thinks he’s one of the big dogs… but really, he’s still the little guy. He might cheat. He might even cry.

So, I love teenagers who are good to him, and his two older brothers seem to hold onto the friends who are.

Last night, a long-legged teenage boy ascended the stairs from our basement brandishing a nerf gun. My ten-year-old was at his heels. The teenager – a friend of our eighth grader – wore a too-small army helmet and a knight’s silver armor from old Halloween costumes. The little guy wore an orange ski helmet, goggles and a grin from ear to ear… because they were playing his game, on his terms.

And it struck me instantly, as it has before, that this lanky teenager is a great kid. I’m glad he’s my son’s friend.

It was hours later, trying to fall asleep, that something else entered my mind. Does it ever cross his mind to say, “Do we have to?” Because I realized it never crossed mine, as we were trying to be cool teenagers, that my best friend might not want little sisters tagging along. And…

She was ten. She was loud. She just wanted to play…

Dinner with Teenagers

When you first have children, you look at them and think how absolutely beautiful they are. You want to hold them, smell them, make them laugh. But as they grow into teenagers, you start to see who they might become with their own set of passions and beliefs. And you see the day when you will learn from them.

They are suddenly interesting. Sometimes more interesting than your colleagues or friends because they are willing to talk about anything, pushing the envelope on your thinking without being afraid that they might offend you. Wondering about things you might not have thought to wonder about. Not knowing any better than to ask the questions you’re not supposed to ask “in good company.”

“Can I try a sip of that?”

Tonight, sitting around the fire pit, the conversation with our thirteen year old morphed from what happened at school today to whether a college education is important and if there is a difference is between Stanford or Harvard or Princeton and a school no one’s heard of. We discussed the education of the last few generations in our families. Left the old country before high school was done and worked as a bus driver. First to go to college. Focused on a premiere college because that was your guarantee of a better life. And now here we are, calling college an expensive IQ test and almost expecting it to implode before our children’s children think about applying.

A week or two ago, we talked about both sides of the abortion issue. Mom and dad, do you guys agree on this one? The black, white and gray of a complex, emotional issue.

And for the last two weeks, our fourteen year old lectured us at dinner on the complex and resilient history of Germany. We helped him strategize about how to win WWII in his-school assigned role as the leader of the evil Axis. How did you get Germany?

Then when we are tired of academic banter, the teens catch their breath, readying themselves for the next argument about the NFL Draft, because a night doesn’t go by in April without analyzing every move made by our favorite Packers, Falcons, Broncos and Chiefs this year and for the last ten years.

Because that’s fun at dinner too.

We Can Do Whatever We Want

My house echoes with the school year’s constant whining that school and homework “get in the way of life.” My older two boys couldn’t wait for summer, so “we can do whatever we want.”

On the last day of school, I said to a friend, let’s see how quickly “whatever we want” turns into “we’re bored.”

And the sun rises on Day One….

I sat on the edge of the pool chatting with my thirteen year old, who had been floating alone, looking up at a clear blue sky, occasionally glancing at his brothers at swim team practice.

“Mom I am soooo glad it’s summer.”

“Me too,” I smiled.

Pause. Dramatic sigh. “But I’m bored. I’m happy. It’s just that… I don’t want to do anything at all for the first month. No reading anything, no exercise, no golf, no work at all. I hate running. Don’t make me run.”

Running was the deal if he didn’t do swim team.

“And don’t remind me to do my summer journal.”

Last weekend, he passed his test to be a golf caddie, which he was thrilled to do soooo many days ago, when he sought a distraction from exams.

“And I’m not going to caddie.”

“Yes you are.”

“Why? Because I invested so much time in it?”

“No, because you were sooo excited about it two days ago.”

Sigh. “I’m bored.”

Ahhh, teenagers.


Boy Humor at the Dinner Table

As my boys enter adolescence, dinner conversations go awry. Humor has shifted from goofy giggles over burps and farts to socially aware but unacceptable quips.

One night at dinner, don’t ask me how we got there, but… somehow we were talking about two kids in the same family with different mothers. No one we know personally. Just the concept.

“He’s my brother of another mother.” Lots of laughs.

I glared at them. “Where did you hear that?”

Everywhere,” said my sixth grader.

My husband, happily joining the fray, pointed out that “my sister from a different father” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so melodically.

“How about ‘sister from a different mister?!’”

High fives from the teenagers.

Frankly, I prefer burps and farts. And last night, no one even laughed when the seventh grader burped loudly after tacos.

Word for Word: A Preteen Monologue

Remember when I asked about deodorant? Well, can I start using it? I really need to. It’s important. I’m a preteen now.

And now that I’m a preteen, it’s really important that girls like me.

If you could get a grade in popularity, I would want a B. Not an A. If you get an A, the girls swarm all over you. I just want one or two girls to like me. That’s a B.

You know when you are a preteen like me, you start to get hair under your arms?

I don’t get why boys’ bathrooms don’t have stalls. Especially for teenagers when they start to get embarrassed, and it’s so important to be popular.

I need to go on a diet. I am going to do ten push-ups and ten sit-ups every day from now on.

And I can’t take showers with my brothers anymore. It’s not weird, because they’re my brothers. But if my friends find out, they’ll think it’s weird. Because when you’re a preteen, you have to shower by yourself.

And if you get a C or F in popularity, other kids pick on you. That’s why I need a big dog. Just in case. Teenagers can be really mean.

So I need to start using deodorant. You can’t smell bad.

And you’ve got to be cool. But not an A if you only want one girl to like you.

The real-life monologue of my ten-year-old son after reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Can I Borrow Your Deodorant?

The other night, my ten year old asked if he could borrow my deodorant.

And so it begins!

“Do you know why people wear it?” I asked.

“Because they smell bad.”

“You know you don’t smell bad, right?”

“Yep, but I thought I could try it.”

“Sure. Are other kids at school starting to wear it?”


“Do they smell bad?”


“You can try mine then.”

He has not tried it or mentioned it since… but it’s clearly time to start sweating about those dreaded teenage years.