what now son?!

March 29, 2013


what now snotty son?!

1. my boy at 4, he looks just like my sister
2. my boy at 6
3. my boy 15, who will now not let me take and/or publish photos of h

When my kids were little I remember commiserating with a friend about parenting a toddler.

You may be familiar with the frustrations of toddler logic:
If is see it, it’s mine.
If it touched it, it’s mine.
It I want it, it’s mine.
If its yours, it’s mine.

Her advice was, “Just make sure that when someone walks in on you dealing with your toddler, it’s clear which one of you is the toddler.”

Oh how these words have been echoing in my head as I parent my teenage son. He frustrates me so much sometimes…I’m not sure it would be clear to someone walking in on us arguing, who is the teenager and who is the parent.

We are taking a photography class together two nights every week at the community college. We now keep at least one seat between us so we don’t get into any more arguments during class.

I am sure just my presence- that I exist- often drives my son up the wall. It’s the way I felt about my own parents at his age. I remember blaring the Elton John song “The Bitch is Back” when I was mad at my mom. I’m sure it was prompted by her telling me to clean up my bedroom. What a brat I was. (Sorry mom! You know I adore you!)

My friend Suzanne’s daughter is a junior in college and her daughter, with whom Suzanne has a great relationship, recently said to her, “I don’t know why I couldn’t stand you when I was in high school. I really don’t understand what my problem was.”

I do get it, this need for independence. I think it’s tricky for my son because I know he actually likes his parents. He has told me that he likes taking the photography class with me…though I never would have guessed that by his snarky behavior toward me during class. But I get that too.

Last night I was trying to help him format a paper for school and he was frustrated and stressed with how much more work he had to do. He has some crappy word processor on his computer and I was trying to help him figure it out.

I told him there was likely a formatting window, like there is in MS Word, where he could just put in his parameters, and he wouldn’t have to “eye” it. He told me in a mean and snotty way that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that he WASN’T using MS Word! There IS no formatting window!!! His subtext: You’re an IDIOT and I hate you.

Guess what I found a few minutes later. The formatting window.

OH! What now son?!!
(I didn’t actually SAY that, but I THOUGHT it. And he knew it. See, what I mean about not being able to tell who is the teenager? )

This negative interaction went on until I finally said, “Forget it. You’re going to treat me like this while I’m trying to help YOU? Nope. I’m going to bed.” A few minutes later I heard him meekly call down the hallway, “How do I make a citation?” My reply, “Google it.” And I went to bed.

I felt badly lying in bed not helping him when I know he needed help. I knew he was stressed and frustrated, and none of us are at our best when we are stressed and frustrated. But trying to help seemed to only fuel his frustration, and mine.

He and I both need to figure out how to better handle these situations. Sigh. Is it possible to teach your teenager who both loves and hates you how to treat people civilly even when they are completely stressed out? And when I say people, I mean me.

Luckily his ever-patient father arrived home and helped him with the rest of the paper.

My son is a really good guy. He is funny and loving. He apologizes when he should. He marches to the beat of his own drummer, which I admire. He is dyslexic and dysgraphic, so school can be challenging—but he works hard and does very well. He loves learning. He is comfortable with himself. He is comfortable with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. He still gives his grandmother and aunts and uncles full-on, sincere hugs when he sees them—often towering over them while doing so. I do adore this man-child.

It is tricky business parenting a teenager, and I imagine it is trickier business being one. I supposed if my biggest challenge with this kid is to get him to treat me better when he is tired and frustrated and needs my help…I have it pretty easy.

But I’m not sure that is my biggest challenge with this kid.

My biggest challenge is how I react to his behavior…Ugh. More wine please.


sketchy discovery

March 27, 2013




sketchy discovery

1. rocking chair at crystal lake
2. parking meters at train station
3. batman
4. 7th birthday party invitation
5. flowers and note on a cozy evening

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to add more artistic endeavors in my life. Last night I had an hour where I could have folded laundry, cleaned a bathroom, read a book, prepped for tomorrow night’s dinner…or made art. I have an unused box of colored pencils given to me for Christmas, sitting forlornly on my dresser for the past 3 months, so I went looking for drawing paper.

In the back of my closet I discovered some old sketchbooks from 8, and more, years ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since I really drew anything other than doodles when I take notes at work. It was a trip down memory lane.

I was taking a drawing class at the Ann Arbor Art Center when I did the pencil drawing of the rocking chair. I don’t really enjoy making realistic drawings of things—I am way too impatient for that, and I like wonky. Besides, if I want a realistic image, I have a camera. But I do think drawing a photo-like image is a good exercise. It helps develop a sense of line, proportion and shadow for other, more wonky, artistic endeavors. And for me, I hope it helps develop some much-lacking patience.

I remember exactly where I was when I made nearly all of the drawings in my sketchbooks.

The rocking chair: done one summer when we were spending a week at my husband’s family cottage on Crystal Lake in northern Michigan.

The parking meters: I was in my car at the train station on a cold winter morning waiting for my friend Cathy to arrive for a visit.

The batman: I drew years ago when I was trying to come up with a cool idea for my son’s Valentine’s day card.

The birthday party invitation: for my daughter’s 7th birthday.

The writing by the flowers says:

Coloring with Z & T
They’re working on
Penny Pioneer coloring
contest…choc chip cookies
just out of the oven..raining out
mmm…nice cozy evening

(Penny Pioneers was a club at our credit union for kids.)

I never did end up drawing with my colored pencils last night! I was too distracted by my sketchbooks, and then by a phone call…Making time for art is a tricky business!