A housewife's interactions with her teenage children and her musings on their characters.
|I look up from the dishwasher as he walks into the room, his blond hair tussled, rubbing sleep from his eyes. God, he looks so young when he's just woken up; I can still picture him waddling in with a sagging nappy and a soother in his mouth. I didn't even notice the time pass.
"I'm just about to get started on breakfast, you want eggs or cereal and toast?" But of course he barely grunts, reaches for a cereal bar and holds it out to me in answer.
"Going out", he mumbles, pulling a baseball cap low over his face. Before I even have time to think, much less ask where he plans on going or who he'll be spending this already balmy June morning with, he's picked up his skateboard and the kitchen door bounces closed behind him.
I guess at this stage I should sigh; go after him maybe, and demand answers, after all he has barely turned 15. I wonder if this is what some other mother somewhere else would do? But the truth is, I've been here before, know that all my questions would be met with would be sighs, grunts and unintelligible mumbles and I'm too tired. So I finish unloading the dishwasher.
She strolls into the kitchen as I'm finishing lunch; already fully made up and looking more like a grown up than her 17 years should allow her to. I stay in my seat finishing my rapidly cooling soup, and watch her make her way to the coffee pot wordlessly. I wonder if she's even noticed I'm here, how long it will take before she speaks if I don't find a safe conversation topic first.
"Where's Dad?" Ah, good, she got there first! My mind was whirling with topics that wouldn't incite her typical annoyance or derogation. Relief floods me.
"He's gone to that insurance conference he's been talking about, he'll be back on Thursday."
"So," my cheeriness and smile belie my weary temperament, "what have you got planned for the afternoon?" I am certain that I can actually see her mind turning, wondering what she should say and how much to tell me.
"Not a lot, just going out. Actually, I'm late to meet Jen already, I'd better go." I don't get up as she runs up the stairs, and I don't question the banging and slamming I can make out coming from her bedroom above the kitchen. After many years of experience I can be pretty certain that my guess will be correct; she's misplaced some 'vital' item which she obviously could not leave home without. I wonder if this time it's her ipod, or maybe the iphone she somehow talked us into buying for her last birthday? Anyway, she must have located it under one of the varying sizes of clothes piles that she seemingly uses as some sort of a storage system. She doesn't come to say goodbye.
The dishwasher is on it's second load of the day, the clothes have been washed and hung out to dry in the warm gentle breeze. I prepared a casserole for dinner (which I may very well be eating alone), and I've cleaned every room to which I'm allowed access. I turn on the coffee pot yet again, mainly so the dripping from filter to jug will ease the silence. Once it's ready I pour a cup,make my way to the porch overlooking the back garden and curl my legs underneath me in my beloved rocking chair.
I watch the dog running in circles, leaping with a snapping mouth as his attempts to catch a wonderfully blue butterfly are continually futile. I wonder what the kids are doing now while I sit here. I wonder if all mothers of teenagers sometimes wish they were invisible. I sigh as I imagine how great it would be to know what kind of people I gave birth to, who they are and what they do when they're away from me.
I'd give anything I could for it to be possible, for even a few hours, for me to see where he goes with that skateboard. I fear that he takes risks, he was always such an adventuring little boy, always poking at things he shouldn't and climbing to see what was beyond his reach. I have always hankered to observe, from a distance, him with his friends and reassure myself that he's safe and happy, that he's beginning to turn into a young man I can be proud of, and can boast to my friends about, rather than pacifying them with the usual vague reassurances that he's doing well at school and is a well behaved child.
I know nothing of her life anymore. Sure, I've met one or two of her friends and they seem like nice girls, well mannered, but can I be sure that when they leave here they act the same? I remember being a 17 year old girl and I know the lies that are told, I know all about the deceptions and the cover ups, the boys and the parties. I worry about her more than him, maybe because my memories of my own teenage years aren't all that great and I can empathise. We've discussed our desires to be able to follow her when she goes out at night, to be sure that she is telling us the truth and is always where she says she is; that, whatever she's doing and whoever she's with, that she can look after herself and not have to rely on the whims of others her age.
Oh, to be invisible for just a few hours! Maybe if I knew them I would stop feeling so awkward and tense all the time. I have to shake my thoughts away as the dog, having given up on the ever elusive prey, belly flops to the ground next to me, nudging me with his noise. At least I know the dog well enough to realise that this signals that he wants his tummy rubbed! I may not be actually invisible to my children, athough I know they don't really see me either, but at least the dog knows I'm here. I guess I'm not completely alone.