Being Quarantined With My Teenager Is Driving Me Bonkers

by Clint Edwards
Being Quarantined With My Teenager Is Driving Me Bonkers
Scary Mommy and SaimonSailent/Getty

I think it would be best to begin this essay by asserting how much I love my son. I really love the heck out of that little guy. I was the first to hold him in the hospital, and I’ve been his champion for 13 years now. I will do anything for him, and I always will. But I will also say right here, and right now, that I need a break from that young man, and I honestly don’t know when I will get one.

I haven’t drank in a decade, but homeschooling my 13-year-old has got to be why liquor stores are COVID-essential. He refuses to do his homework. It’s not that he can’t do it. It’s that he doesn’t want to do it, so managing his bitching now makes up approximately 20% of my professional responsibilities.

Now that I work from home, I put a desk in his closet because it was the only available space in the house (he has a huge closet). I sit at my desk, closet door open, Tristan working in his room just to my right. I keep one eye on my laptop answering emails; the other on my shaggy-haired son who just stares at his schoolwork like it’s a hate crime.

I try to accommodate with timers and goals and short breaks, and he argues and asks for snacks or screen time, and all of it feels like this quarantine is going to lower my life expectancy. And to be real, I’m not 100% sure how much work the kid has, or where all of his resources are. Just the other day my wife asked Tristan if he’d checked his school email, and he said, “I have an email?” Sure enough, he did, with a seemingly-endless list of unopened messages from his teachers.

Then there’s the yelping. He is constantly making this horrible yelp that reminds me of those plants in Harry Potter that kill you when they scream. I know this sounds dramatic, but trust me…it’s not. Every time he does it I feel like I’m dying. It is the backdrop of my life, it is the soundtrack to my Zoom meetings, and it is the sound I want played at my funeral so everyone will understand why I died before the age of 40. Naturally, we have discussed this sound. I have asked him why he does it, and what is the significance of it, and if he is actually possessed. And his response is always the same, “I do it because…” followed by the sound, as if the sound itself is the only explanation needed to justify making it. All of it makes me feel like I’m living in a Kafka novel, only Kafka got to turn into a bug, which I must say sounds pretty okay right now.

Then there are the fights to get in the shower, and to get out of the shower, and to change his clothing, and brush his teeth, and to do his chores, and him saying that everything all the time, constantly, is “stupid.”

But honestly, I’m confident I’m driving him crazy too. I mean, come on, he’s 13 years old and his father is around him 24/7, working out of his own closet, and expecting him to do actual productive things. That has to be pretty painful. In fact, I know I’m getting under his skin. Yesterday I asked him to put his Rubik’s cube down and focus on his math homework, and I swear to you, he rolled his eyes so hard our clocks lost one hour.

And you know what, he was the exact same before the stay at home order. He has not changed at all. Nor have I, for that matter. This is just who he is right now, at 13. The problem is, the situation has changed. I used to be able to send him to school, and I would go to work, and we could both take a break from each other. Or when he’d make that yelp, I could push him into the neighborhood to go yelp with the other 13-year-olds down the street, all of it sounding like some prepubescent mating call.

So much of this is situational. I know that for a fact.

So what am I doing about it? Well… there isn’t too much I can do, outside of constantly looking on the bright side. I remind myself that he’s not a bad kid, because he isn’t. He’s actually a pretty nice young man. His teachers like him, and he has loads of friends. I remind myself that in so many ways, he’s my buddy. He’s my main man to talk about Marvel and Star Wars and Harry Potter. I honestly love the little guy, and the fact that I have every intention of continuing to support the kid in all aspects of everything — even when he drives me bonkers — should be a testament to that fact.

But the reality is, he may be in the most irritating phase of life right now, and it just happens to coincide perfectly with a pandemic, and I don’t know what I did to deserve this particular level of hell, but here we are. So if your teen is driving you bonkers right now, I get it. I’m with you. Try to remind yourself of the good times, the reality of who they are as a person, and fingers crossed, we will be able to hold onto our last shreds of sanity long enough to send these little yelpers safely back to school someday.