I Like Teenagers

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Babies are cute and cuddly. They inspire us to make goo-goo sounds and say things like, “Precious, just precious!” But we all know those little bundles of joy do nothing but lie around all day. We act like babies are so smart that they invented duct tape or something. But they didn’t. A person who can’t go pee pee in the potty could never invent duct tape. But, despite that, most of us think babies are pretty remarkable.

Do you remember having a 4-year-old son or daughter? Everywhere you went people said things like, “Well, look at this little cutie pie! Aren’t you just oh so smart and adorable. I could just eat you with a spoon!” Evidently there’s something about cute 4-year-olds that makes us want to eat them with spoons. I think it’s best we not over-analyze that.

When we lived in Texas, we invited a new couple to our home for dinner. When one of our boys sneezed at the table, he said, “Mom, when I sneezed, rice came flying out my nose and into the green beans!” Yeah. Everybody thought it was adorable…because he was four. Every 4-year-old is a comedian with a lisp. Maybe that’s why people want to consume 4-year-olds with blunt eating utensils.

But then come the teen years. No one ever stops your pimply-faced 13-year-old in the grocery store aisle to say, “Goo-goo. Goo-goo. Aren’t you just precious?” And no one wants to eat your 15-year-old with a spoon either. Nope. It seems by the time your kids are teenagers, most people have completely lost their appetites.
Oh, and if your child is old enough to have facial hair, the whole “I sneezed rice into the green beans” bit will go over like a lead balloon. Let’s face it. Teenagers are a lot of things. But they’re not cute and cuddly. They’re not comedians with lisps. They’re…well, teenagers.

I don’t know about you but I’d rather be dragged through an ant bed covered in extra thick Aunt Jemima syrup than to be a teenager again. Just the thought puts chills up my spine (and not the good kind).

Both of our boys are teenagers. And I’ve made a remarkable discovery. I like them. They can get a little mouthy or moody. They’re not cuddly. They definitely don’t smell like baby powder. They smell like, well, like a combination of tortilla chips, stale locker room, and Axe deodorant. They make mistakes. They’re not over-achievers. But I like them. A lot.

A mom recently asked me the secret to getting along so well with teenage children. I guess my boys weren’t being too mouthy that day so I felt the freedom to answer. Say “yes” every time you can. Try to keep your voice down. Apologize when you don’t keep your voice down. Keep things in perspective. A bad grade is not the same thing as a DUI. So don’t treat it as such. Take a deep breath and count your blessings. At the end of the day, remind them that the world may try to hurt them or bring them down or discourage them, but not you. You’re on their team. You believe in them.

I no longer have a baby to cuddle. But that’s OK. I’m awesomely blessed. I have teenagers.

Let’s Redefine “Normal”

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I have a mission for the summer of 2014. I want to help people redefine “normal.”

I’m 50 years old. During my growing up years my parents were teachers and we lived a very all-American middle-class lifestyle. Like most young girls, I had posters of Donny Osmond and Davy Jones hanging in my room, knowing I would eventually marry one of them. I loved Donny fiercely but was partial to Davy’s British accent. I mean, what country girl didn’t want to marry a British pop star and have children with a British accent? Some things never change.

But a lot of things have changed since that era. Growing up, I didn’t know one person who had ever been on a cruise. Not one. Cruises were for movie stars and I didn’t know any movie stars. When “The Love Boat” came on TV, we gathered around to observe the lives of the rich and famous. I never remember feeling cheated because we couldn’t sail the open seas.

I didn’t know one woman who had ever had a professional manicure. We didn’t even know what the word pedicure meant. I would have assumed it had to do with cross breeding hunting dogs.

I knew we were rich because we went to the dentist once a year. Most kids didn’t. I knew very few kids who had braces. If you did have braces it meant your parents had so much money that they could afford to care about your teeth being perfectly straight.

A huge house was one that had two bathrooms. One bathroom was considered normal. Eating out was for special occasions. I remember hearing my granny say, “Nowadays, people go into town and eat. They pay a lot of money for it too. Why in the world would they do that?” She figured they must have more money than sense.

Let me be clear, friend. I have no objection to a cruise or a mani/pedi. Eating out is wonderful and I suggest you support all our fine local eating establishments. But do yourself a favor. Don’t go in debt to do it. And let’s not pretend these extreme blessings are “normal.” They’re not.

Oh, and here’s the thing that will probably get me in the most trouble of all. Braces? If your kids’ teeth are horribly crooked or bucked to the point of being a distraction or health concern, absolutely. But do all loving parents have to plunge thousands of dollars into debt because perfectly straight teeth are the new “normal” in America? No. Feel free to buck the system (pardon the pun).

Marketers have even created terminology to support our inflated sense of “normal.” I mean, when did we start calling perfectly fine houses “starter homes?” When did we start convincing newlyweds that their modest home is fine as long as they don’t finish there? Guess what? My grandparents actually finished life in their “starter home.” They never even realized they should have been miserable.

I love the readers of this column enough to tell the truth. Don’t spend money you don’t have trying to be “normal.” Create your own “normal.” Be more like my grandparents. Live free.