We caught lightning in a bottle tonight.
For many months in our home filled with teenagers, it’s been rather stormy. Raging hormones, sweatshirt hoods pulled down tight, stressing out over college admissions tests and who to go with to prom are the pressure systems of the day. Acne, exhaustion, friend-group drama and what not to wear have consumed our girls. It’s a little unpleasant, let’s just say.
We tiptoe around them and say things like:
“Hey guys, there are no more towels in the linen closet so how about you do some laundry?”
“Could someone please feed the cats when you get home from school?”
“Please bring the garbage pails back up from the curb when you come home.”
You’d think we were asking Sisyphus to keep pushing a boulder up the mountain.
They stomp back,
“I’m so tired, Dad.”
“I worked late last night, Mom.”
“Can’t you see I’m doing stats homework?”
Bedroom doors are closed. Phone chargers are missing from the kitchen. The house is somehow eerily silent while still full of people.
My husband and I sat at the dinner table with our chins cupped in our hands, over-thinking how to help our kids through these teenage years and support each other as we weather these moments where we feel like lousy parents. They’re doing their thing, Snapping their peeps, getting the latest news from Buzz Feed, submitting homework on Google Docs – hopefully.
Are other people’s kids spending a lot of time in their rooms or is it just us? Do other kids also not do what their parents ask them…or is it just us? How is it possible that the dishes in the sink and the socks on the floor don’t belong to anyone?!?!?
We sigh and settle on the idea that our kids are on overload and we do what we can to help them without completely enabling them. We walk this fine line, which I know I’ve crossed too many times to count. We kiss them goodnight and climb into bed, and hope there’s more pep in their step, and in ours, tomorrow.
I now understand the expression, “You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child,” more fully. Maybe they’re not unhappy, but they certainly don’t seem like Shiny Happy People.
Until they did.
As we’re dozing off, we heard giggles. Then metal clanging. The refrigerator door opened and shut, opened and shut. We heard the silverware drawer slide out and back in, and more giggling. Footsteps moved across the kitchen; things fell on the floor. Then it sounded like the Hamilton soundtrack was being sung A Capella in our kitchen, or maybe it was more like Karaoke. We wanted to yell, “Shhh!!!” but we didn’t because a sugary sweetness with notes of chocolate wafted through the air. I gained 3 pounds just by inhaling.
Also, someone was belting, “I’m not throwing away my shot!” and they wouldn’t hear us anyway. We really didn’t want them to shush – we were smiling ear to ear (but since it’s way after 11:00 pm, our ears were smushed on our pillows as the exhausted middle-aged parents that we are).
Singing teenagers who are baking cookies in the kitchen is cool. That our teenagers were doing it was extra cool. We wanted this moment to last longer, to soak up their sweet soprano voices, to imprint their belly laughs in our memories. We wondered if they felt the magic of the moment the way we did – no stress, just pure joy.
Are other people’s kids turning their kitchens into Cake Boss at midnight? Are other people’s kids reenacting Pitch Perfect with their siblings? How is it possible that these are the same kids who give one-word answers when we asked how their day was in school?!?!?
We breathed a collective sigh of relief and settled on the new idea that our kids actually like each other and have fun together, apparently, they’re nocturnal, and are half-way decent bakers. Hopefully these skills will serve them well when they go to college – if nothing else, they can work for Insomnia Cookies.
As the tornado of teenage drama unwound for an evening, we thought for a moment that maybe we’re half-way decent parents, or at minimum, not-so-lousy parents. At least we keep cookie dough in the house – that’s something. I was also secretly wishing that they left us some cookies…
And I hope lightning strikes more than once, and that we’re here to catch it.
Randee Bonagura is an elementary school administrator by day, mom and stepmom of 4 girls by night. She reads, writes, crafts and plays clarinet in a local ensemble, and adopts way too many rescue kittens in her spare time. She lives in New York with her husband. Follow her at https://justaskrandee.com/