At last count we had two teenagers in the house. Now, plenty of families have three or more teenagers. My parents nearly had four. I did some rough math the other night, and I think my younger sister was twelve and three quarters when my brother turned twenty. My long-suffering parents nearly had four teenagers living at home at one point. Let the record reflect we gave them a run for their money, and it's not without reason that my mother has a bit of a nervous twitch.
I have friends who will one day be able to say they have five teenagers under the roof. Hello, Rachel! Click here to get Rachel's observations on life with teenagers. You can survive and even thrive, though your grocery budget may not.
Yes, it's true. They eat everything in sight. The grocery bills are astounding. Their clothes aren't cheap. Their shoes cost even more. So all of you moms of littles who hit the yard sales and consignment stores, keep it up. The pickings are slim once puberty sets in. You don't often find a bargain on size 11 men's shoes.
Here's a typical scenario:
Nameless Teenage Boy: Yeah, well, we're all working on our t.v. commercial for Civics and it's worth 900 points and it's due tomorrow and we have to get together and we're headed to the river and it's totally fine with all the other parents and we're leaving in a few minutes . . . oh, they're here right now, so can I go?
Bewildered Parent: ?????Note that every Agenda has three required components:
1. It's Now!
2. It's New!
3. You're the only parent in this limitless solar system who has ever had the slightest qualm, misgiving, catch in the old spirit about whatever it is.
Let's examine these points one by one.
1. It's now!
Nothing is ever Next Saturday or The Day After Tomorrow. No, no, no. It's now or never. The future tense barely exists for the average American teenager. They are in the driveway, revving the engine, late, late, late for a very important date and the only thing gumming up the whole works is YOU.
2. It's New!
New is far more troubling than Now. This age is chock-full of Firsts. Deodorant, driving, shaving, braces, acne, checking accounts. Now Firsts can be nerve wracking at any age. I remember when it dawned on me that John really, truly could walk two doors down to the neighbor's to borrow a cup of sugar without any fear of repercussions from the Department of Family and Children's Services. I recall when John and Ainsley could play in our backyard without me hovering over them. When Kolbe could ride his bike to a friend's house.
3. What's Your Problem?
To hear a certain nameless teenager talk, no one else in the state of Georgia spends Sundays with the family. No one else is expected to dine at home on a regular basis. No one else is hampered by such trivial matters as homework, orthodontist's appointments, piano lessons, chores, sleep, Mom's sanity, the family budget, etc.
Every other parent -- and I mean every. last. one. of. them. -- is a-okay with (insert something never done before, something you've never even envisioned your child doing).
(Here I should admit that there is a slight element of truth in this, just a shred. Tim is an oldest child who is friends with a whole bunch of youngest children. Many of these parents are grizzled veterans. Been there, done that, don't sweat some things that are, in Tim's vernacular, epic to his uninitiated parents.)
I remember running a youth ministry event when I was young and single. The phone rang. It was my good friend on the line. Her oldest daughter was en route to the party and was driving alone for the first time ever! Would I please call back and tell Mom that Daughter had arrived and do it all clandestinely so that Daughter wouldn't know that Mom was on her knees with a rosary and a box of Kleenex wondering how Daughter had graduated from a Barbie bike with training wheels to a mini-van in the blink of an eye and who on earth decided that sixteen was a reasonable age to issue a driver's license and Saint Christopher, patron saint of travelers, pray for us.
I get it.
My dear friend Bob V, father of many, had a stock response when his kids would come to him with the dreaded Agenda: I'll let you know in ten minutes. Ten minutes. Enough time to ask the question: Am I crazy or is he? Enough time to confer with the spouse because if there's one absolute in parenting it's United We Stand; Divided We Fall. Enough time to assess other priorities and to offer a Yes that is confident or a No that is reasonable and not simply a knee-jerk response to the fact that, ready or not, you're going where you've never, ever gone before.
Teenagers, plural. Just hang on.