Well, folks, it's time for our latest edition of: Teenagers...Can't Live with 'Em...Can't Lock 'Em in Their Rooms. (Not because there's anything wrong with that, but it's not much of a behavior-shaping tool if their phone, iPod, personal library, and collection of Sports Illustrated Kids magazines are in there with them...and who knows, with my child, he may even have a hidden cache of snacks buried under his t-shirts. Hey, on second thought, maybe it would be more of a punishment if I took over his lair, and he had to go sit in the boring old family room...yeah, now we're onto something...)
Anyway, our adolescent madness began innocently enough, with a conversation revolving around...interior decoration, believe it or not. You see, I'd purchased a new shower curtain for the Young Gents' bathroom, since the previous one was persistently exuding a displeasing mildewy odor, even after repeated spins through the washing machine. I was actually quite pleased with myself, as Bed Bath & Beyond happened to carry one in the exact shade of lilac-ish matching the paint in that room. When I hung it, I thought the effect was rather harmonic and soothing, in a...lavender...sort of way. Then Derek arrived home from school and followed his normal routine of immediately "using the facilities". (The way he sprints up the stairs every day to take care of business, I swear it's like they don't allow peeing in Middle School, or something...) Afterwards, he huffed into my office--um, "corner chair with laptop...area"--and railed, "What's with the purple shower curtains, Mom? They're so...girly!" I just peered up at him silently, somewhat bemused by his outburst; so he seized the opportunity to continue, "I want one with...pictures of BACON on it...and...and...it should smell like...BBQ! You're totally ruining my showering experience!" Oh. Good. Grief. (I understood that he was kidding, and I really couldn't formulate a response to this nonsense at the time, so I took the easy way out and shooed him off to the kitchen for a snack. Problem solved.)
Next up, we have the Science Project Complication. I already related the story about how last weekend the brothers did their big Sleepover Switch with their soccer Coach's sons. When returning Derek to us the next morning, Coach mentioned that his 8th grader needed to spend some of his Sunday addressing an ongoing long-term project that would be due in a few weeks. "Ohhhhh?" I replied, "I don't think I'm aware of this. Tell me all about it." You should have seen Derek at that point...a wide-eyed baby deer...facing down an oncoming, speeding 18-wheeler...could not have looked more startled, confused, or petrified. And I instinctively knew, it wasn't about the assignment itself--oh no, it was totally about his parents being slipped into the loop, so they'd be able to get right up on his case about it until the very due date. Mwah hah hah!) Of course, I proceeded to grill him about the pertinent facts: when does it have to be turned in, what materials do you need for it, have you formulated a plan for completing it on time? And most importantly: when, exactly must we procure these items in order for you to build the model ahead of schedule? He provided the answers grudgingly, in muttered monosyllables, with the bare minimum of details...and a whole lotta attitude.
But that's okay, because now I could be on top of the issue, and browbeat him--I mean "gently encourage him"--to keep ahead of his deadline...thereby helping ME avoid a last-minute rush to the store for construction supplies. With a pretty full agenda on the Team WestEnders calendar for this weekend, I reminded him a few days ago to let me know what needed to be accomplished, to keep this thing moving along. Then I got an email from his teacher, updating all of us parents about one step in the process that students would be required to complete for the coming Monday. I thought I'd wait to see if Derek brought it up himself before I confronted him with my new intel. (Okay, okay, I sat on the memo for a couple of hours, at most...did I not say we are distinctly lacking in extraneous "goofing around time" this weekend?) Then I asked, "Do you have anything to tell me?" He appeared to be wracking his brains for a response, so I gave him an assist, "About your Science Project?" His face brightened, "Oh, yeah! I've gotta bring stuff on Monday!" With gritted teeth and fuming countenance, I inquired, "Have you and your partners discussed how you're handling this? What are you, specifically, supposed to contribute?" He stared at me blankly for a moment, then replied in a quizzical tone, "We made a list. I'll just bring those things." I resisted rolling my eyes (or...not) as I shot back, "Are you all going to cart in exactly the same items? Should you divide up the list? Do you want to maybe, I don't know, call them and make arrangements? What's. The. Plan. DUDE?"
As my voice inevitably escalated in volume (and probably in pitch, as well...and sternness....) Derek seemed to reach the limit of his tolerance for this Mom-quisition. He mumbled something incoherent and shuffled from the kitchen with a stormy face and drooping head. I presumed he'd gone to his room to sulk. However, a short while later, he emerged with a satisfied, confident expression and a sheet of paper which he handed to me for my perusal. On the page, he'd drawn a diagram of his eco-friendly structure. He'd labeled all of the features, including what specific material he would use to simulate each of them. To the side, he'd clearly indicated what we needed to buy. In a separate section, he'd explained the various "green options" he intended to include in his finished model, and the benefits of each. It was, in a word, fan-freakin'-tastic. Clearly, that 13-year-old brain is indeed capable of functioning on all cylinders....with the occasional kick-start from a Parental Unit to get it in gear. (Just to be clear, there was absolutely NO literal "kicking" of offspring during the incident...)
I was proud. I was impressed. I still had to drive him to Michael's to obtain the necessaries to make this awesome project a reality. But, since soccer was cancelled due to the continuing downpours and swampy conditions of the fields, it turned out that we had ample time to make this happen, after all. And so, in the end all was well in the academic world. But...just to be safe, maybe I should go check the online School Notes right NOW to alert myself as to when the next Big Thing is due...