3.29.2011

Weekend With Teenager



I grew up in one of those lived-in houses. We didn't have a separate living room filled with white carpeting and furniture that wasn't allowed to be sat in. Every inch of the house was constantly being utilized by not just us as kids, but by all of our friends who seemed to live at our house almost as much as we did. There were books, backpacks, crayons, toys never far from sight. More than anything, though, there was the wonderful sound of life and happiness and love and laughter! There was noise! "Want to do something this weekend?" as a teenager translated to do "want to come over this weekend?" We never didn't have people over at our house. My mom was never not in the kitchen making meals for our friends or schlepping us from point A to point B (and C, D, E and F) in her car. My mom's car almost served as a charter bus taking us from lesson to class to friends house to wherever-we-needed-to-go. This wonderful kind of chaos became a strangely comforting feeling and one that I missed immensely when I moved away for college.

Needless to say, when my parents asked me to "babysit" (is that term even still applicable?) my 14 year old sister from Friday through Sunday while they went away on one of my dad's business trips together, it seemed like a challenge I could definitely be up for. What I totally neglected to think about, or fully grasp, was the fact that as chaotically busy as I was as a teenager, it was nothing compared to how busy my sister is. What do I mean? Well, for starters, she dances on two (not one, but two!) hip-hop companies, takes a teen hip-hop class, takes acro, jazz, tap and stretching, has a math tutor and gets picked up early from school due to a PE exemption for all of the dancing that she does. That in itself is a lot to throw into a day where school takes up a great deal already, but factor in meals and homework and you've got yourself one busy day. (Understand my sister is 14 so you're also throwing in hair, make-up and an intense wardrobe selection and you've got yourself one heck of a busy day.) Suddenly I found myself behind the wheel of my mom's car, chauffeuring my sister from point A to point B with that same frantic behavior I knew so well. Suddenly I understood what my mom would freak out about when it was 6:00 and dinner wasn't on the table and we had to be somewhere in fifteen minutes, oh my god. (And suddenly it wasn't very comforting. Suddenly it felt like a nap came before food on the priority list.)

I lost track of how many relatives or friends called to say "how are you liking it?" or "enjoying life running around with a kid?" or otherwise laughing at the crazy fiasco that I found myself in when my parents called to say dad's car broke down, he got sick and they'd be returning a day late. Really? The answer was yes. I loved the chaos. I loved fighting the exhaustion that took over my eyelids as I begged her to please just get ready for bed, tomorrow is school. I loved the meatloaf cupcakes and the guess-what-happened-in-school-today and the taking her and her friend for ceramics painting and Mexican food. I loved the history homework and the teenage freak-outs in the grocery store over popcorn chicken. (The only part I didn't love were the torrential downpours we had here on Monday evening, though that is no fault of anyone other than the cruel weather gods.) It was busy, frantic, fun and a few times frustrating -- but at the end of the day, as I was laying in bed, she called out, "thank you for everything!"

...And suddenly it got a lot less frustrating. Suddenly it got a lot less tiring. Suddenly I didn't care that we didn't eat dinner until 8:00 at night or I wasn't able to get to the grocery store before round 500 of dance class.

Now I find myself back in my own quiet house, with four quiet kitties and a husband still at work (we'll save that for another entry called Why I Hate Being Married To An Accountant This Time Of Year) and it's back to being eerie. There's no one to drive to four thousand dance lessons. There's no one to fight with about taking a shower and getting into pajamas. There's no one asking me to help her decide what elaborate outfit she should wear to school the next day or to straighten her hair over breakfast.

Then that little baby in my tummy rumbles around and delivers a swift kick and I know that it won't be this eerily quiet for long. Those days of familiar chaos really, really aren't that far away.

(And I'm glad. Even after my sister asks me where we left the container of ice-cream that didn't wind up back in the freezer, I'm glad.)

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