This Is Quarantining With Teens

by Diana Park
girl using her mobile phone while lying on sofa with her dogs
Rebecca Nelson/Getty

Listen, everyone is having their struggles through this quarantine. I had three kids very close together, and if we were going through this when they were one, two, and three, I’m not sure how I’d be handling myself right now. All I know is this: I have three teenagers who are 13, 14, and 16, and I’m here to tell you about the shitstorm that is my life right now.

It is not to say I have it harder than anyone else. It is to say this is fucking hard for me, and I lose my shit pretty often because having smart-ass teens in your rear all day with no escape isn’t a fucking Disney ride.

Yes: They are self-sufficient, can clean up after themselves, and make their own meals. That doesn’t mean they do it, though, which can drive any mother to tears. I’ve legit stood in front of my teens at least 20 times in the last month with tears streaming down my makeup-free face, asking them why they are doing this to me.

Why are they leaving so many food particles on every surface? Why aren’t they washing their clothes, just leaving dirty garments in piles on the bathroom floor? Why are they eating all the food in a day and complaining we have nothing to eat? Why do they think this is a vacation while I get out of bed and my heart starts racing about all I have to do? Why do they keep telling me I look like I’m sick just because I don’t have mascara on? Why?

On day one of online learning, I told my kids this wasn’t a vacation and they were expected to hand in all their work on time. I reminded them that I can check up on them thanks to the parent portal, and they better comply, or else.

My oldest said, “Or else what? We already can’t go anywhere so I don’t have anything to lose! Also I don’t have any school work. My teachers said to enjoy my vacation!” Then he plopped on the sofa with his phone, a pile of microwavable mozzarella sticks, and one hand down his pants.

Parents of teens can’t get away from their smart-assy-ness no matter how hard we try, and we lost our sense of humor about it long ago.

Not long after that, a storm blew in and took our power with it. My house was cold and dark and I wasn’t able to go anywhere to escape because of social distancing. Almost 24 hours later when I realized we probably weren’t going to get power on after all, it hit me that the hundreds of dollars of groceries I bought for my three teens (who have three cheeseburgers for a snack) had spoiled. I’d also waited in line for 45 minutes to purchase said groceries but, no big deal.

If you want sympathy for your mom-mistakes, don’t go to your teenagers. I broke the news to them. They asked me how I could forget such a thing (they were staying with their dad, who had power) and told me how sad it was I wasn’t able to get it together and save the food.

I could have reminded them it was because my brain was shot from all the worrying and anxiety this pandemic has caused, but I didn’t bother.

I could have told them it was because all my energy stores were being used on trying to keep their asses in the house and the arguments we’ve had about why they can’t hang with their buds right now even though “everyone else is doing it.”

I love my children so damn much, but they literally don’t fully understand what is going on here. Not to mention seeing outside of themselves and their lives isn’t exactly their strong suit right now.

They don’t get that this isn’t a free-for-all, and going rogue in their beds with candy, cookies, and a box of Cheez-Its isn’t helping me out at all.

Speaking of Cheez-Its, the other day I noticed a trail of greasy, orange crumbs leading my son’s room. I opened the door to see the horror known as a teenager’s room during quarantine. It’s the only place my kids can go to get away from me, and they are keeping their doors closed for a reason.

I lost my shit and was angrily grabbing things to throw away when I came across a water bottle in his dresser drawer. My first thought was, There’s probably mold growing in here. Oh great, another thing to add to my list of problems.

Only my list of problems was about to get a lot bigger. To my surprise, it was the cleanest water bottle I’d ever seen. So clean, in fact, that it was the perfect place for him to hide the three joints he’d stashed in there.

If my kids thought they’d seen the worst of me during this quarantine, they were wrong. They’d seen nothing yet. I marched up to my son and told him he’d really done it this time, because I found three joints in his room — and I made him watch me flush them down the toilet.

This will really show him!

He handed me his phone and said, “Here, take my phone,” and walked away. He was calm, cool, and collected. He knew there was nothing else I could do. All his other freedoms have been taken away.

I realize now he was high and happy and didn’t really care if I took his phone. I also thought I was an idiot to flush those joints. Clearly I need them more than anyone else in my house. If only I could go back, I wouldn’t have said anything to my son — I’d have lit it right in front of him to show him what he was missing, and that really, the joke was on him.

It would have been a lot more effective than taking his phone away and would have at least made me feel better. But I had to do the “responsible parent” thing, which is never as easy … as every single day of this quarantine with my teenagers is demonstrating.

If you know someone who has teens during this quarantine check on them, please. They aren’t okay.