If you have teenagers living with you through this pandemic, you know the hell that’s telling them they can’t hang out with their friends every damn day. I know this because I see your posts far and wide as you reach out to other parents asking them what the hell you should do.
My smooth-talking sixteen-year-old thought as soon as his school shut down, it was going to be Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in here. I told him right away that it wasn’t a vacation: He was expected to do his school work, and stay at home.
Exactly five minutes later, he slammed his laptop shut, announced that all his teachers told him to enjoy his vacation, and he grabbed his car keys while telling me he was going to the gym. I wasn’t in the mood for his sarcasm or disobedience, to say the least.
I told him that he was going nowhere and could work out at home. That turned into a 21-day argument (thus far, anyway). Eventually his gym closed, so he gave up on that, but apparently I am the “only parent” in the kingdom who is following the stay-at-home order and not letting him hang with his boys.
According to him, I am overreacting and don’t know the facts — that he is immune to everything and has a protective shield over his body that won’t allow COVID-19 to infect him, so he simply cannot get it or spread it to anyone.
Since that day, I have put my lectures on repeat. Keeping him and his brother and sister (who don’t have driver’s licenses, thank God) was successful until last Friday, when I braved the grocery store. We were down to one roll of toilet paper. Living with three growing kids who eat 45 times a day and poop after each meal is a problem in itself, but I’ll spare you the details.
Upon my return, I noticed his car wasn’t in the garage. I looked at the clock, which said 2:22; where could he possibly be going at this hour? When I called him, he told me he needed to get gas and wanted fast food and would be home in a few hours. “I just can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit in the house with nothing to do.”
That was the first time my son ever left the house without permission.
I told him he needed to get his ass home right then. I also told him he better not be seeing any of his “boyz,” because who knows where they’d been. Then I called his father, who lives in town, and asked him to drive around and look for him.
I didn’t stop there. I asked my two younger kids who stood by and let him leave without doing anything to stop him, why they didn’t call me. I got eye rolls, of course, and was told I was being dramatic. “You bet your ass I’m being dramatic. There’s a universal warning to stay the hell home and you guys don’t think it’s that big of a deal!”
I’ve explained to my kids that keeping them only between my house and their father’s house isn’t a punishment. I’ve told them I want them to be healthy, and they need to do their part in this. I’ve tried to be patient when they ask me if they can see their friends, and they wonder when life can go back to normal.
A lot of things they loved about their life — their friends, going to the movies, going out to eat, long-awaited school activities, have come to a halt and they are mourning them, just as we all are.
If you have teenagers who are beating you down about keeping their life normal, thinking it shouldn’t be a big deal if their best friend comes over for the afternoon, I feel you. This is no small task we’ve been dealt. I often feel like I’m trying to contain wild animals who smell meat outside their cage, and they are getting hungrier by the day.
But as hellish as it is, this is an important job we have: to show them what is right, to think of others, to make this damn thing go away as soon as possible so we can all resume our normal lives.
My daughter wants to have a friend over. She thinks if they don’t touch each other, all will be okay. My youngest wants to hang with his squad at Target — something he’s done for months now. When I tell him no, he argues that the store is open, and says they’ll stay six feet apart and wear ski masks.
I know kids are being relentless because they are hurting and lonely, and really want this to be over just like everyone else in the world. That’s why I have to do everything in my power to keep them at home, regardless of how tired I am or how much I don’t feel like arguing. I told my son if he slips out again, his car keys will be gone for a month — and I’m not fucking around.
So yeah, on top of everything else, we need to worry about keeping our teens at home. It’s hell for sure, but it needs to be done.
As if that isn’t enough, my daughter has been flooding my DMs with videos and pictures of ducks. Ducks in diapers, ducks going on walks, ducks falling asleep on the countertop, ducks swimming in the sink or tub. She keeps telling me since she can’t see her friends, and this summer will probably be the worst summer of her life, she’d like a pet to keep her company.
I love my children. Watching them go through this isn’t easy. Parenting them through this isn’t easy. And if there’s anything I could do to make it easier on them, I would.
I was thinking more along the lines of buying them extra candy, but it looks like we’re getting ducks. Who knows? Maybe those are easier to keep in a row than teenagers.