Teen Speak: Three Things To Remember When Your Kid is Hurting

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It’s inevitable. As much as I’d love to take my  kids and bubble-wrap them from any sort of physical or emotional pain, it’s just not possible. Life happens to all of us, and sometimes it’s an all-up-in-your-face free-for-all that results in their pain.

Many times I never see it coming. A breakup or a giant fight with a best friend seems to come from nowhere and it’s intensely personal. It’s so, so difficult to remain a responsible adult when these things happen, meaning NOT going over there to give that brat a piece of your mind.

Yes, kids need to work out their own relationship issues…blah blah blah. Tell me that again when it’s two in the morning and your kid hasn’t stopped sobbing and it’s just heartbreaking.

Sometimes, it’s unavoidable and I can see it coming from a mile away. That’s the worst, I think. When I know when the day or event is coming that’s gonna cause emotional fallout and there’s just nothing I can do about it.

Sometimes I can help, gently suggesting solutions (if there are any) or hiring the Mafia to take care of the problem. Isn’t it infuriating when all you can do is watch someone mistreat and manipulate one of yours, knowing that despite your advice and pleas, it’s up to them to finally see the truth? It’s times like those I wish I had The Godfather on speed dial. “You come to me, on the day of my daughter’s wedding…”

Sometimes, though, there’s nothing I can do to fix the pain and that is an anxiety-ridden few days–or months–when I have to stand back and let things happen.

It’s so hard. I don’t want them to hurt.

But so very many things are out of my sphere of influence. When a best friend moves away. When a relationship breaks up leaving your kid as a casualty.  When those hard things life throws us hit us right in the eye and we can’t see for days because of it.

Here are 3 tips to help you through this time with your teen.

1.Be still, dear Parent. God loves your sweet teen even more than you do. He can see the bigger picture and he’s in control. Give your teen more hugs than usual and a bit more leeway than you normally would. Let him or her know that you are available to talk anytime.

2.Be available. Take him for ice cream to get out of the house. Invite another friend over to distract him. Be silly with him–watch a terrible movie together and laugh. Don’t be afraid to help him laugh.

3.Pray with him. Remind him of God’s presence. Pray for him also, basking them in the Spirit and speaking joy over them.

And for today, everything will feel a tiny bit better. And again tomorrow, a bit more, until the pain is in the form of a shadow rather than itself. The sun will shine again, and when it does you’ll know. Your kid will smile and you’ll see it, just there. See it?

Teen Speak: Waking and Communicating With Your Teen Before Noon

Whenever I try to talk to Mancub before noon, it’s always a crap shoot. Whatever happens, you must be prepared for the worst.

Sometimes, I’ll speak to him, and though it appears he heard me, nothing happens. It reminds me of those Ghost Hunters shows where three grown men walk around  in abandoned hospitals in the complete darkness with night vision goggles and their EVP equipment. Seemingly on edge–which I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact that they are poking around in an abandoned mental hospital’s morgue or a supposed haunted hotel–they attempt to break through to the voices “on the other side.”

Sometimes I feel that this is an adequate metaphor for seeking to not only communicate with Mancub, especially in the morning when he’s not fully awake.

Me: “Nate, it’s time to get up and get ready for school.”


Me: Knocking gently. “Nate, are you awake?” Checking my EVP equipment, I notice a possible reading.

Me: Feeling a cold chill coming from underneath Nate’s bedroom door…then, a sound. “Lee! Did you hear that?”

Lee: “Yes! It sounded like “Blerg.”

Me: “I’ll play back the EVP.”

EVP: five minutes of scratching noises, then we both hear it: “Blerg.”

Lee and Me, overjoyed: “Yes! This is tangible evidence that he heard us AND responded.”

Here’s another possible scenario:

I can’t really tell you what to do here, dear parent. Sometimes extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures.

If you’d like to purchase Ghost Hunting equipment, there’s a link on amazon.

On Plato, Hungry Teens and a Super Easy Roasted Chicken




My son Nathan is momentarily experiencing bliss–all from a chicken. “Mom…this is soooo good,” he says with his mouth full. I giggle. It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and I’m home from class, so I thought I should cook something. It’s kind of my thing. So many times I am not here to do the “mom” things for him (I work 30 hours a week and am a graduate English student, a writing tutor and a writer) so when I’m able, I try to make something he likes.

I sometimes wish I had something else to share with this man-child who has grown six inches in as many months, but I tried playing “Call of Duty” and (it’s just sad) ended up blowing myself up. So, I go with my strengths: cooking. That’s how I get him to turn off the video games and chat with me for a while–or as long as the food lasts. It sometimes bothers me that I have such a connection with cooking. It’s so cliché, right? I guess 50 years of feminist rhetoric have done little to change that part of me that equates feeding with love. Did the works of Gloria Anzaldúa and Julia Kristeva (whom I adore) fall on deaf ears? When I read these women, I learn from them, but I find little of me, my soul, changes. They have done little to alter that part of me, inherited from my grandmother, that takes pride in creating something from nothing. It seems confusing, but it’s not.

I am a liberated, educated, American woman who does not need to lean on archaic ideas of womanhood. Except, maybe it’s the misconception of those ideas that distracts us. Maybe the feminists of past and present wrote and spoke not to take away from my freedom to roast the perfect chicken, but rather to keep that freedom to do what keeps us happy. And writing does make me happy–just like cooking. I don’t have to choose. Good writing is cooking, when you think about it. Taking letters, forming them into words, and stringing those words together in a meaningful way, it’s not for everyone. Plato wrote, “[Rhetoric] seems to me then . . . to be a pursuit that is not a matter of art, but showing a shrewd, gallant spirit which has a natural bent for clever dealing with mankind, and I sum up its substance in the name flattery…Well now, you have heard what I state rhetoric to be–the counterpart of cookery in the soul, acting here as that does on the body.” I guess I see the connection: To take an ugly chicken carcass and to baste it in olive oil and garlic and roast it to perfection (that makes my teenage son ecstatic) or writing a short blog, are not so different. Either way, it sure feels good to see my son, who I don’t always understand, get a second plate.

Mama’s Roasted Chicken


1 whole chicken

1 12-oz bottle of Italian dressing

4 cloves of garlic, minced

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Remove chicken from wrap, as well as inside package. Rinse thoroughly and place in a roasting pan. Pour dressing over the chicken, coating thoroughly (I use about half a bottle). Top with salt and pepper, as well as garlic. Cover with foil and bake for two hours,then take the foil off. Bake another half hour then check with a meat thermometer to ensure it’s done. It needs to be at least 160 degrees.

This story was originally published in Story Circle Network One Woman’s Day Blog:http://onewomansday.wordpress.com/about/

Teen Speak: Crime and Punishment Part 1: 3 Approaches to Disciplining Your Mancub

3 Approaches to Disciplining Your Mancub–Bleeding Hearts, Ten Commandment Enforcers and the Middle of the Road


As a mother of a teenage boy who I affectionately refer to as “Mancub”, sometimes I have to decide the best way to deal with the fact that I have been completely blown off by my beloved boy. A rule was set, and quicker than the lifespan of a two-liter of Dr. Pepper in the fridge, it was disregarded.

It becomes inevitable, dear parent, that you may have to enforce punishment upon your beloved Mancub or Watergirl. There are many extremes that can be approached here, but keep a couple of things in mind.

1. Your punishment must fit the crime. There is the far left side of punishment (Bleeding Hearts sign up here) and the far right (Ten Commandment Enforcers). I have been on both sides of this street, my friend. You must find the center, which I like to call A Happy Middle.

2. If you stray too far to the Bleeding Heart side, your punishment will likely be ineffective and frustrating. For example, your Mancub has (as we talked about yesterday) repeatedly ignored your texts/calls. What should you do?

1. Bleeding Heart Parenting

Bleeding Heart parents mean well. They are generally kind people who dislike conflict and love peace. There is a bit of Bleeding Heart in all of us.

Take the above situation, where your teenager ignored your texts/phone calls/smoke signals/neon signs.

The Bleeding Heart sighs, “Oh well…cubs will be cubs! Whatcha gonna do? Here, have a milkshake.”

Now hold on a second, you might say. Who doesn’t love a good milkshake? The line of thought here might be, “We are reasonable people. If I simply tell him my feelings about being disregarded, he will of course apologize immediately and I’m sure it won’t happen again.”

Laaateeedaaa. And you and your Mancub will skip into the golden sunset of broken promises faster than George R.R. Martin kills off the next character in “Game of Thrones.”

2. Ten Commandment Enforcer Parenting

Ten Commandment Enforcers also mean well. More authoritarian in style, TCEs worry that soggy parenting styles result in soggy kids. Maybe “soggy” is not the best word here, but you get my drift. They were likely raised by tough parents, whom they love and respect, and are trying to pass on that part of their heritage to their own kids.

Same scenario. You could not, for the life of you, contact your Mancub via the very phone YOU GAVE HIM. Much to your frustration, he gleefully ignored your many texts/calls/carrier pigeon messages.

The Ten Commandment Enforcer says, “Well, this can’t be tolerated! If I don’t nip this in the bud, Junior end up in a real-life movie set of Gangs of New York or Dangerous Minds. It’s time to bring the heat! Nothing but peanut butter (and not even the good kind–off brand) sandwiches and water for the next three meals, no screen time or electricity use, and you have to sleep in the back yard for two days while you THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID. I’ve also signed you up for two weeks of trash pickup along Highway 271 (here’s your orange jumpsuit) so you can get used to the life you’ve chosen.

3. Happy Middle Parenting

The Happy Middle Parent lives in the middle of the street. Granted, if it was a literal street this would be a bad idea, but we’re talking figuratively. The Happy Middle Parent strives to find the middle ground between the Bleeding Heart and TCE Parent.

If the above situation happened to the Happy Middle Parent, he or she would be just as mad as the others, but would realize that neither the Milkshake punishment (which, come on–it’s only a punishment if you make it an Ensure milkshake) nor the removal of all Peter Pan peanut butter and trash detail punishment is likely to get the results we want.

The Happy Middle Parent says, “Yeah, that wasn’t cool. Since you ignored me, I will keep your cell phone for a few days to remind you that ALL GOOD THINGS COME FROM ME. I will also unplug your computer/tv/Playstation/Serta Mattress (I’m reaching here…) for the same reason.

Join the conversation:

What’s your approach when your teen ignores your texts? What has worked for you, or not worked?

A Note from the Jungle:
A note to parents: I don’t claim to have the answers. I have veered on both sides of the road, sometimes maniacally, and there’s no easy answer. You do, however want to 1. Address the problem and 2. Keep a good relationship with your Mancub. Because in the end, if you are all authoritarian and no personal investment, you’ve also messed up. If you are all warm and fuzzy and little follow through, then the message is “I don’t really care enough about you to have tense moments where I have to be the boss.”
The goal is to raise responsible, kind, funny and successful men and women and sometimes it just gets messy. Your kid is your kid and you are who you are, for better and for worse.

Teen Speak: A Translation for Beginners

Teen Speak: A Translation for Beginners

Tracking Your Mancub/Watergirl

Sometimes, keeping tabs on your Mancub is akin to trying to catch a greased pig in a swimming pool filled with Jello. You know he’s around somewhere—you can see the wake of his destruction—and chasing him SEEMED to be a good idea at the time. I mean, greased pigs can’t stay in pool of Jello (however delicious) for unlimited amounts of time, can they? The Jello itself is not good for you and it’s really messy.

I may be mixing some pretty serious metaphors here. First, don’t think I’m really calling Mancubs (or Watergirls) pigs. “Chasing a greased pig” is an old Southerny-type expression which refers to something that is inherently difficult. It’s also a game that they used to play on Little House in the Prairie, right before Pa took out his fiddle and everyone square danced themselves into oblivion.

But I digress.

Your Mancub wants to be a man. The last thing he needs (or so he thinks) is his Mama Bear or Papa Bear keeping tabs on him. He’ll resist this idea, to be sure. He wants to stretch that bungee cord that connects you as much as humanly possible, with the hopes that it will eventually snap, giving him his desired freedom from your nagging and authority and, through no fault of his own, slapping you in your middle-aged forehead.

There is a happy medium, dear parent, between needy helicopter psycho mom and laid-back “boys will be boys…let’s have some wine…I’ve done all I can do here.”

Not that I’m saying wine is a bad thing. I personally think that a glass of wine a day keeps the crazy away.

It’s true that when I was a kid (oh geez…don’t go there), my parents had little clue what I was up to or where I was at any given time. Part of this had to do with the fact that I was growing up in the 1980s and technology as we know it didn’t exist. Our parents couldn’t debate the pros and cons of kid tracking like they can today because … well, they seemed lots busier then and we were just a lot less supervised. I don’t know why. My best friend Pearl and I used to ride our almost identical bikes around town all day long, and nobody had the foggiest clue where we were. Maybe our parents hoped we would “get lost” like an overwhelmingly majority of my pets did. But we just kept coming back. Something about food and a comfortable bed.

 I didn’t have a cell phone, because they didn’t exist until my late teens, and even those were brick-like appliances roughly the size of a small dishwasher that you had to pull a giant antenna out and look for a signal, much like E.T. trying to phone home.

(Photo: Picture of an actual cell phone made in 1983. It weighed approximately 200 pounds. We were told to never use one, because it was certain that those who used these space-agey devices would suffer from brain cancer or at the very least stupidity.)

It didn’t matter that we couldn’t use a cell phone. Nobody had these unless you were on a Lethal Weapon movie or working for the government or possibly a drug dealer or otherwise “up to something.” So it was a moot point. Our parents could have also said, “If you see a spaceship, don’t go inside.” Having a cell phone of our own seemed at least as possible (or maybe less so) than having contact with alien life forces.

This has all changed. Most kids have cell phones and many have their own computers. Not all, but most. Most kids who have cell phones have smart phones, more powerful than the “computers” we saw in movies when I was a kid—computers that had the power to BLOW UP THE ENTIRE WORLD.

War Games is funny now, but then…it played on our parent’s fears of computers becoming too powerful and taking over human consciousness. Our parents, the Baby Boomer generation, had little trust for government and highly valued privacy. We laughed at their old-fashioned ways and told them that computers would never “take over the world.” I mean, that’s just laughable, right?

Ok, never mind. That’s a different blog. My point is, dear parent, that you should know where your kid is, and if he or she has a cell phone, it’s pretty easy to find them.

The first step is to send a text or call them on the phone you purchased and paid for. In a perfect world, they will always text back when you call them, and respond right away, and never let you worry for a second.

If that’s your kid you can quit reading here, and if you are Catholic, you can start googling “Nunneries Near Me” or “When Your Kid Becomes a Priest.”

Sometimes, though, your Mancub might not call back right away. This is normal for the species. He also might ignore your texts or even PRETEND NOT TO SEE YOU DRIVING UP TO THE SCHOOL so he can say a tearful goodbye to his Watergirl. This is also normal. I’m not saying it’s acceptable. It must be addressed.

Your Mancub may need a gentle reminder that all good things come from you, Mama Bear, (or Papa Bear) or Mother Nature…I’ve used all these to refer to myself. A boy that texts 23 hours out of a given day (he has to eat sometime) can all of a sudden develop “Selective Temporary Blindness/Deafness/Muteness.” This is also a temporary condition that is usually resolved when you locate him and remove the cause of the illness (the cell phone). Sometimes, in more severe cases, you may have to remove all screens (including computer and television) to initiate a complete recovery.

More on Tracking Your Mancub in the next edition of Teen Speak.