Parenting a teenager isn't always easy, especially when that teenager is a sophomore and thus exhibits the corresponding sophomoric behavior. I think that part of my constant exhaustion comes from working very hard to raise The Teenager into an upstanding young man. Over the past couple months that The Teenager has been living with us, we've seen remarkable improvement in many areas -- he laughs more, can be more respectful toward others, sometimes does his chores without being told, and he seems more relaxed and happy.
That's not to say that life is all wildflowers and kittens. No. In fact, often we have some sort of struggle, like this past week when I insisted on making sure his essays were edited several times before he submitted them, or last Monday when I tried to explain that using rude and harsh tones in public is not appropriate. The Teenager has not had much guidance or consistency or reasonable expectations (and support to reach them) in his life, so this is a learning process for all of us. Sometimes, I get so frustrated that I break down and cry because I want him to be successful in life, I want him to turn into an admirable man, but sometimes it seems I'm fighting a hopeless uphill battle. Sometimes. And sometimes I see glimmers of success just beyond the horizon and that is enough to keep me going.
Parenting a teenager is rarely "fun," but it can sure be funny! Take last night, for instance. Wait, let me back up a minute and explain that the men in my family have very bushy eyebrows. Or eyebrow. All of the brothers take different approaches in handling this. Music Man lets his brow grow free, Tin Man shaves a bit around the edges, My Baby gets hardcore and a bit extreme with the tweezers (but at least he has two brows and they are neat). Up to this point, The Teenager has ignored his brow(s), although he's acknowledged they need a bit of help. He doesn't like tweezers because he says it's painful to have one's face plucked, and so a few weeks ago I mentioned waxing as a solution. He seemed, I thought, open to the idea because he responded with a teenage non-committal grunt. And so, last night as I was setting up a brow wax appointment for myself, I set something up for him. Then I told him.
"What?!? No way, I'm not waxing!"
"Come on," I say, "it's not even a full wax of your brows. It should only take 30 seconds and then you're done."
The Teenager was not buying any of it, and so I told him it was okay, I wouldn't force him to get it done, and I walked out of the room. I heard the bathroom door open, close, and a few minutes later open again and I was greeted with this:
I knew that The Teenager tends to do some pretty extreme things just to see what kind of reaction he'll provoke (he is a teenager, after all) and I knew that he admires Marilyn Manson's hairless appearance, but I didn't quite think he'd do this. At least not during the school year.
A few minutes later I walked downstairs. "Okay, Mr. Manson, I'm off to get Honey and I'll be back in about 45 minutes."
"I scared myself when I looked in the mirror."
Of course I had to start laughing again, but The Teenager just continued talking. "There are pros and cons to this. On the one hand, I'll never be able to look at myself in the mirror again. But at least fewer people will try talking to me and I don't have to get waxed."
"Um, sweetie, I told you that you didn't have to go if you didn't want to."
"Yes, before I left the room I told you that if you really didn't want to go I wouldn't force you."
"Oh. Well. I guess I didn't hear that part."
By this point I was laughing so hard that I had to pause for a minute before I could say, "One day you will learn that unless it's something that I feel will impact your life long-term, like academics, I'm not going to force you to do things you don't want to do."
The Teenager's response: "Well lesson learned now!"
We're all having a good idea with this, although I am cautious because I know that with teenagers there's a fine line between good-natured teasing and something that bruises their tender egos. This situation does make for some funny comments, though. Like this morning, as we were leaving for school. I was talking about one of the cats and made a silly remark. The Teenager's response? "The guy with no eyebrows thinks you're weird."