Thursday, August 18, 2005

T.O. ing!

This week I am T.O. ing … which translates into “Teenage Observing”. As a single, who has never had children, and never has had the desire to have or rear offspring, I find it interesting that people will still ask me to spend time with children … especially their children. It’s not that I hate children, it’s just I’m not particularly adept at dealing with them – and I don’t enjoy them over much. Although I will say my favorite age range to interact with (when required to do so) is high school through college age. Of course there are people who do so much for me, that I would do almost anything to repay them for their kindness. Which explains why I’m this week. And really, seriously, it’s been a good experience. Until last night. Of course I should know better than to brag when something is going well. It’s Murphy’s Law, right? Say something’s good or going okay and all $#@% will break loose. So imagine me, out with a group of women from my Sunday School Class for our LNO (Ladies Night Out). There I am saying, “Really, I’ve enjoyed watching the X kids. I view it as just having very young roommates. I just show up each night to make sure everyone has made it home by curfew and make sure the house isn’t a wreck.” “The kids have been great, they haven’t asked me if they can do something I know they’re not to do, and they haven’t snuck out once they’re in for the night. At least they haven’t snuck out that I know about.” Now imagine my face at 10:30 pm last night as I drive up the street where the X Family resides. See the puzzled look when I notice 15 cars on the street. “OUR” side of the street, in front of “OUR” house! Yep the look of disbelief is what you’re seeing. Surely Boy X (the teenage son) doesn’t have a house full of high school friends KNOWING I’d be home sometime after 9:30 tonight! But oh how wrong I was. There were kids. BOYS and GIRLS!! Downstairs, playing pool and listening to the stereo – LOUD. Surely everything will be ok I say to myself. “Do not act like a grumpy old maid!”, “Do not try and be their friend!”, “You are the adult – be responsible”, is the inner conversation I hold with myself as I head through the front door. Just inside the door I encounter Boy X. He greets me and tells me he invited some friends over – he’s going to close the door and tell everyone to “keep it down” so they don’t disturb me. And by the way he asks, "How soon will I be going to bed, and when should everyone go home?" I look at my watch and say I think everyone should be gone by 11:30 pm. And, "yes, they should be quiet". Internally I don’t know if I should give myself brownie points for not loosing my cool and yelling, “Everyone out of the house NOW, Damn It!” or demerit points for not uttering that phrase. I’d like to think I did it right … didn’t over react to the situation. So I go upstairs to “my room” (really Mr. and Mrs. X’s bedroom and T.V. room). I sit in the T.V. room with Girl YY, the younger teenage daughter. We watch TV – she tells me she in here watching TV, "‘cause it’s too noisy with the music and the door opening and shutting to go to bed". I feel like a whimp. Yet that inner voice is saying to me, “Remember what it was like when you were that age”, “And really, what’s so bad about him having some friends over”? As I’m stewing about, “Am I in control?” or, “Am I a whimp?” I realize I haven’t checked my cell phone for messages. So I look, and there, on the little display, is the message, “1 missed call”. Damn, once again I’ve put my cell phone on silent. I know I’m going to regret not knowing someone was calling me. When I look to see who the message is from my instinct is right. A message from Boy X at 8:30 pm. The message, is this, “Hey Mit_Moi, this is Boy X. I know you’re going to be coming home in a little bit and I just wanted to let you know that my friends and I WERE going to go to the movies tonight ... but, ah, they've changed their mind, and we’re just going to hang out at the house instead. And, ummm, I’m driving to the bank right now to get some money – so, um, I’m not at the house, but my friends are there. So it’s gonna only take me about 10 minutes to go to the bank, so if you, ummm, come home, and there are all of these kids at the house? And I’m not there? Umm it’s okay, because they’re my friends and I’ll be there in just a few minutes.” Well, now what to do? Boy X tried to call. I didn’t answer. Of course his friends wanted to hang out at the house with no adult supervision! And as a teenager how do you tell your friends, “No?” I so clearly remember those days of my youth. Wanting to be cool – but not wanting to get in trouble. Knowing what was right, but wanting to impress my friends – no matter the consequences to myself. So the dialogue I have with myself is this. “Okay so it’s a little noisy. He did call (although it was after the fact)". “You should go down there and see what their doing!”, “And what’s to be gained by going down there? If there doing nothing wrong, I look like I don’t trust them. If I do find something wrong, am I really ging to make a point by telling everyone “Get out of here now!”? Cause I know kids are sneaky. They’ll deny everything. So there I sit. Soon Girl Y gets up and goes downstairs because a friend of hers has come by. “Oh great", I think to myself. “Now, not only do I not have rising seniors partying in the basement, but I can deal with a crowd of rising sophomores too!” Thankfully that fear turns out to be unfounded. Within 5 minutes Girl Y is back in the T.V. room. “What’s goin’ on down there I ask”?, feeling like a fool. “It’s all under control”, she reports. “I think they’re going to stop playing pool and start a Texas Hold ’em game.” “And actually, now that it’s more quiet, I’m going to go ahead and go to bed ... so you can watch what you want on T.V.” (As if I had really been able to concentrate on the T.V.) A couple of times I hear voices in the backyard. A door slams. Girls giggle. My, how ominous those two things sound together! At 11:30 I start to head downstairs and tell them, “Okay, it’s 11:30, you’re all suppose to leave now.” But I want to give Boy X a chance to handle this on his own. At 11:40 I am tired – I want to go to bed, but I know I’ve got to go downstairs and check it out. Waiting for Boy X to report, “Everyone’s gone”, just doesn’t seem to be the right way to handle the situation. So down stairs I plod. I open the door. There are fewer kids than originally, but still the room isn’t empty. And where is Boy X? It’s embarrassing to know that I don’t know him well enough to spot him immediately. I have to peer at each face and think to myself, “Is that Boy X?” “Nope not him”. Finally random girl volunteers, “Boy X is out back”. Just as I start toward the sliding glass door, here he comes. He looks sheepish. He says, “I know it’s noisy when they close the front door. I’m trying to get them to all leave this way (through the sliding door) and be quiet.” “Okay", I say, "I just wanted to make sure everyone is leaving now.” “They are, they’ll be gone in just a little bit”, responds Boy X. I go back upstairs. I lurk out the front room window to see how many cars are in front of the house and how many kids are milling around outside. From my viewpoint it’s too many cars, and still too many kids. But they are walking towards their cars. They’re driving off quietly. No one is peeling out. "That’s good", I think to myself. I go back to my bedroom. I really want to change and go to bed, but also don’t want to face Boy X in my pajamas. I mean, how dignified and authoritarian can you be in cotton baby-doll pedal pusher pajamas? So I sit back down and try and watch “Iron Chef” on The Food Network. After 15 minutes at 11:50 I give up and go back downstairs. As I walk into the room Boy X tells me he’s, "just cleaning things up. He needs to take out the garbage". “Okay”, I say. “Make sure this is all picked up and all the glasses and dishes get upstairs and washed. I’m going to bed, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Upstairs in my room I wonder if I should have done an inspection of downstairs to make sure everyone is really gone. But I want to trust Boy X. (Smart? or stupid? my inner self argues with me.) Now it’s morning. The house is quiet. I take a shower and go downstairs on the pretext of putting my towels in the dryer. I take a look around. Boy X’s bedroom door is closed. The pool room is picked up, although there are chip crumbs on the floor. The garbage can by the refrigerator isn’t empty. Hmmm that’s weird I clearly remember the, “I need to take out the garbage”, comment from last night. And yet, here’s garbage … still in the garbage can. Next to the refrigerator. The refrigerator that I know had A LOT of beer in it when I first got here on Sunday night - at least a half of a case - Plus two long necks. And also in the room? Another case of Bud Light sitting on the floor. Why do I know this? Because I had one beer myself. And because I was scoping everything out. So I look over where the case of warm beer was. It’s still there – not opened. “Good” I say to myself, “See Boy X didn’t abuse my trust.” Then I glace at the trash can … it’s oooh so tempting to want to dig through the trash. But, "I will NOT!", I tell myself. I hate suspicious parents. (Now I’m a parent!) ...Then I do it. I can’t help myself. I open the refrigerator door. Well, all the beer isn’t gone. But I’m pretty sure some of it is. “How much?”, I ask myself. “Well I don’t know, it’s not like I counted them!” I reply. (Double “Oh great”, now not only am I identifying with being a parent, I’m talking to myself now!) One long neck is gone. There are two liter-sized bottles of Dr. Pepper trying to hid the fact that on the lower shelf there are only 7 or eight beers where I’m sure there were at least 20. And the shelf where the two long necks were – next to some canned beer? Yep it looks a little more “shelf-ier” if you know what I mean. Damn, damn, damn. Now I’m going to have to confront this. How will I do it? I decide I’ll leave a note for both children. I’ll make no mention of last night in this note. I’ll request that Boy X sweep up the floor downstairs – and get the dishes done, that aren’t. Plus empty the garbage. I ask for the upstairs kitchen to be cleaned by whoever used the dishes that are sitting in the sink. I tell Girl YY I’ll be home in time to take her to soccer practice. (Now I’m a soccer MOM!) And if anyone wants, I’ll make a family dinner after practice. Downstairs I leave a private note for Boy X. I tell him I’d like to talk with him about last night. That he should make no plans for tonight once he’s done with football practice and/or work. When he gets home, I’ll expect him to come and get me and let me know when he’s ready to have the discussion. Mentally I make these review notes. 1. There’s nothing wrong with having friends over. 2. He did call me. 3. Nothing was broken. 4. Everyone left about the time I said they needed too. Then I list the things that weren’t good. 1.) It was noisy (they’re kids) 2.) I think beer is missing (they’re underage – no acceptable excuses here, but also I don’t’ know FOR SURE beer is gone, so this is a tricky one) 3.) He didn’t call ahead to ask (He called after the fact.) So what are to be the consequences of last night? How do I let him know how good he had it, and what a stupid mistake he’s made? Will he even hear anything beyond, “You’re in trouble”? This is the plan I devise: I’ll ask him to tell me about how last night came about. I’ll ask him what things about the night HE thinks HE handled correctly. Next I’ll ask him which things HE thinks “weren’t right”. Then I’ll tell him MY opinion what he did right – and where he messed up. Finally I’ll tell him he must call his Mom and Dad X and let them know what happened. I won’t call them and say anything to them until he’s spoken to them. But if they don’t bring up the topic once they’ve returned I will tell them. I think it’s better that way, because then he can’t say, “She didn’t tell it to you right.” Or “She got it all wrong.” Plus, it’s up to him to determine what they know and what they don’t know. Further, I get out of having to meter out the punishment. This way Boy X’s Mom and Dad can determine which things are punishable offenses and which things aren’t. Feeling good about my “” skill I prepared to leave for work. As I leave the house and walk to my car I encounter the next door neighbor who has been away since my T.O. ing has begun. Her family is not just a next door neighbor to Family X; she's a fellow church member, and Sunday school class attendee, and also someone who I know well. Not only do I know this woman from church, and like her, but she’s been described by other LNO participants as “Mrs. Kravits” when it comes to Family X. Wonderful! No way of getting out of the responsibility at the T.O. now! Of course she couldn’t wait to tell me what she and her husband observed last night. I think the worst part was her repeating, “I kept asking Mr. “Kravits” if I should come over to the house and help you out.” **Shudder** Thankfully Mr. “K” continued to remind her this was my responsibility, and it was up to me to handle it. (Thank you Mr. “K”.) I told her my plan of action and asked her to not contact Mr. and Mrs. X and tell them what had happened. I told her I thought it was Boy X’s responsibility to inform his Mom and Dad of the outcome. So me, I’m gearing myself up for “the talk" ...

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