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Literary Mama Rewind: Parenting Teens

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We're starting a new series here at the Literary Mama blog- the Literary Mama Rewind! Every few weeks we'll round up some of our favorite essays, stories, poems, columns, and reviews from the Literary Mama Archives relating to a particular theme.  This week we're looking at the ins and outs of parenting teens. All you have to do is click and read....

Almost everyone I know has at least one alcoholic in their family. Ours is no exception. A realistic depiction of our family tree would have some wine, beer and whiskey bottles hanging from it. Mostly my children are shielded from the reality of our alcoholic bloodline. Perhaps my older two have commented that Cousin James is obnoxious or Uncle Burt is odd, but they seem no different from the other family members that congregate on major holidays. Everyone is weird when you're a teenager.

My sixteen-year-old son Will is in the driver's seat and we're bumping along a rural road, just after dawn, heading for a before-school rendezvous with his driver's training instructor. Will's profile surprises me--who is this young man resembling a heroic Greek statue, who only yesterday rode in an infant seat?

"Got phone? Got keys?" I ask, making the most of the four syllables I figure there's time for before he grows antsy. I've come to trust that he hears in my cryptic check-ins all I want to say before sending him into the world. Be careful, enjoy yourself, learn, know that I love you. Today, however, I can't help but open the door and call an out-loud I love you down the hall.

Now as my twin girls take their first steps into adolescence, I find I am sometimes as unprepared and overwhelmed as a new mom, except that instead of colic and problems latching on -- seemingly straightforward issues with available solutions and demonstrable results -- I worry that my response to the occasional eye-roll will land them in therapy, or that their schoolyard squabbles will lead them to worse.

North High School's Key Club, which I'm the president of, co-sponsored a Habitat for Humanity service project during Spring Break. The men who rely on this dwelling include alcoholics and addicts, the physically impaired, the luckless and hopeless, and one exceptional visionary. For an entire day, 12 teen-aged volunteers toiled alongside these indigents. We stripped thick paint off wood, scrubbed mold from windows, and rootered gunky drains with plumbing snakes. At the end of the day, the building shone and looked more habitable, some pampered students were reminded of our socioeconomic advantages, and I had befriended the most influential person of my life.

It's June, it's hot, and the car is small. Annie is a teenage girl and I'm her mother, and on paper this all sounds like a recipe for conflict and disaster, yet she's the easiest traveling companion I've ever had.

It's important to me that my son doesn't know what I'm doing. I don't want him to think of me as a failure, one of those nutty Berkeley women who wander around town in sincere garments and graying hair, who actually check books out of the public library. But he's twelve now and getting a clue.

  • Chocolate by Cassie Premo Steele in Fiction

Jane sat down on the cushioned bench in the kitchen. Again Margaret said nothing about her wet state.

"I was just talking to Christine." Christine was a fourteen year-old who lived down the street. She would start high school in the fall.

"Hmm?" Margaret poured oil into the cake mix.

"Christine says you don't usually like it your first time."

Margaret stopped stirring. There were still light brown, dry lumps in the batter.


Amanda Jaros is a freelance writer and blogger, focusing on nature and science stories. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including Terrain.org, Newfound, Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine, Highlights for Children, and Cargo Literary. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University.


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