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Sun, Nov. 17

Middle-aged Musings: Raising teens: Been there, done that

There are certain rites of passage that a lot of parents have to go through with their children.

I didn’t realize that until recently. I just thought our experiences raising a boy and a girl were unique to us. It’s a relief to know we’re normal ... well, sort of!

My friend has a 12-year-old son. She nearly tore out her hair this past week when her little man hid his report card that he got on a Friday until bedtime Sunday night.

See, he had lots of plans that weekend ... video games, movies, music, time with friends. He knew his mom would take all that away for the entire weekend if she saw some, let’s say, less-than-desirable grades on his card.

I tried not to laugh as she told the story. I swear she could’ve been telling the story about my son. He tried that scam twice. (He thought his parents were a bit, ummm, slow on the uptake.) He was disavowed of that fairly quickly.

My sneaky young man “forgot” his backpack at school, “left” his homework on the bus, “couldn’t remember” if he had an assignment. You come up with an excuse, that kid had it ready. He also had a mom who was prepared to drive him back to school to retrieve that “forgotten” homework. He and Wiley E. Coyote had a lot in common. His elaborate schemes never worked.

Sadly for him, his father is an Army-trained interrogator who didn’t mess around with smart aleck teen boys – mainly because he’d been one of three in a military household. He knew all the tricks. The body-language studies he took to learn how a person’s body changes when they lie served him well in the Middle East and when he was brought in to “break” SERE school participants. It also served him well in the combat zone known as the house with teenagers in it.

That kid never stood a chance. He was about 13 or 14 when we finally told him what his dad did in the military – it was complicated and not exactly for younger ears. “You mean THAT’S why he always knows when I’m lying?” Wow, he was mad. He said we “cheated” as parents and he never had a chance. I’m sorry, but I laughed through his entire tirade. He started laughing eventually and tossed down a challenge that he’d learn to bluff his dad.

Yeah, that never happened. I learned to tell when the kid was lying or hiding something by following my husband’s lead on what to watch for. Sometimes we let him get away with something minor. Afterward, we’d tell him we knew the truth. He’d be shocked.

When he was little, he thought his dad was a wizard – I mean, how else could dad know it was he who moved his trash can to hide the Kool-Aid stain on the rug?

Now at 25, he says he never could get the knack of lying down. I’m glad for that and I feel kind of good to know that other parents go through similar things raising kids.

If I think about it, my parents dealt with a houseful of girls who could lie with the best of them, some of us just weren’t very good at it.

I’m not admitting anything here, but I may have SOME recollection of my mom catching me in a white lie or two or …

Her favorite one to tell friends about was my 6-year-old explanation for how her antique vase ended up smashed on the hallway carpet. I was sliding down the banister (a big no-no in my house) and my foot kicked it. I just slowly backed away and went to watch TV. What I told my mom when she started screeching was that maybe the wind did it. Umm, there were no windows nearby and the door was closed. While she was yelling at me, I then told her the cat did it and I didn’t tell her the truth right away because I didn’t want her to be mad at the kitty. I remember her going quiet and then bursting out laughing so hard, she cried. She told me I got a “pass” on this one for creativity and that if I ever slid down the banister again (she knew??) that I’d get my behind tanned. I remember this incident so well because she told it again and again. Apparently, it was downright hilarious.

I know my friend will have just as many stories to share as her son grows up ... and I can’t wait to hear them!

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