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Raising teenagers means taking nothing personally

By   /   February 1, 2012  /   Comments Off

Brett Buckner is an award-winning freelance newspaper/magazine writer who was raised in Albany.


I’ll admit to being wounded. Though I’ll never be confused as being overly sensitive in the weepy-power-ballad sort of way, I do have feelings, and they can be easily hurt.

Despite what most teenagers think, parents are people too.

Granted, I could’ve avoided such heartache had I only left the bedroom door closed, ignoring the mess within, but there was something on the other side whispering to me … “Come and see.”

Allow me to explain.

My Lovely Wife is a social creature while I’m as outgoing as the Unabomber, but compromise is what successful marriages (at least the ones that last longer than an episode of Celebrity Wife Swap) are all about. So I use cleaning as a coping mechanism for any welling anxiety – such as extended visits from her family, which is where our story begins.

The house doesn’t NEED to be cleaned, but it’ll make me feel less anxious, not to mention avoiding the temptation to open a frothy adult beverage hours before anyone arrives.

I dust. I vacuum. I piddle and pick stuff up. I arrange and rearrange. I fluff and fold laundry, wipe down countertops and scrub toilet bowls until I feel settled and ready to entertain.

With everything else finished, my eyes are drawn to the only closed door in the house. With fear in my heart and an armload of cleaning supplies, I take a deep and enter The Diva’s lair.

I’m not suppose to go in there, not out of some sort of “It’s her room and she deserves privacy” pledge. It’s because her room makes me itch. It’s almost impressive the mess that child can generate in such a relatively small space.

But because it was the day after it had been her duty to do so, The Diva’s room was supposed to be clean. I simply wanted to clean it better. If cleaning is an art, then The Diva still works with finger paints.

I’m lousy at parental discretion. I’m more like an atomic bomb, only instead of collateral damage I leave the scent of Lemon Pledge in my wake.

After dumping the paraphernalia of the teenager – dirty Q-tips, face-scrubbing pads, electric hair straightner – into an open drawer, I was about to leave when something caught my eye. Tossed in a dark corner was a family photo, one of the last pictures taken before Jellybean’s arrival.

But something was missing. In a fit of anger, The Diva had torn off my head.

I had known this day would come, though my imagination hadn’t conjured up this scenario. I assumed it would be her shouting, “You’re not my real father,” during an argument or waking up duct-taped and my bed on fire after asking her to clean up the dinner dishes.

This … was mean.

The night before, after dozens of reminders, I took her phone and TV privileges. This was met by huffing-and-puffing before finally being punctuated by the slamming of her bedroom door.

She’s still cute, even when acting possessed. But she finished her chores and got her phone back. I assumed that was the end of it.

I tried to laugh it off, putting it back on the night stand, like a warning. “Now you know that I know.” That was sure to keep her up at night.

But I had to let it go. Raising teenagers means having a short memory. Besides, next week it’ll be My Lovely Wife’s turn to be focus of The Diva’s rage.

Guess I’d better hide the family photo album.

Contact Brett Buckner at brettbuckner@ymail.com

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