On Trusting Your Teenager


We used to read each other’s mind.  I’d leave him in the living room with a stack of blocks and head to the kitchen to get him a snack.  He didn’t know that I was on my way to open the fridge, but he’d yell, “Bwuebewwies, pwease!”

And that’s how it was for years.

It did happen the other day in the car.  We heard a song on the radio and we simultaneously referenced a video we’d seen about an amazing guy who turned a carrot into a flute or saxophone – some orange wind instrument.  Anyway, on occasion, Will and I are actually on the same page.


But now, I might ask, “Would you please water that dirt spot in the front?”  15 minutes later I’ll find him in the back yard, hosing down the curbing around the flower bed and looking confused.  When I ask him what he’s doing he’ll say, “I dunno.  You said something about watering dirt and there was dirt here.”

I need to be more specific with him than I do with Jen.  I need to look him in the eye and demonstrate what I’d like him to do.  And then I need to repeat myself.


He is a teenager.


I hear stories about other teenage boys.  They are into girls.  Girls are into them.  They drink or smoke pot or stay out too late or play video games all day or ride skateboards across town and smoke pot and ride back and stop to get a tattoo on the way home.  They like to stay up late watching movies and then sleep in late and plow through bowls of cereal.

I could make myself sick with worry about what he might be doing, but I know what he is doing.

He takes the car to the golf course and calls when he gets there and then calls, again, to let me know when he’s on his way home.

He takes the car to the river to fish and when his bucket is full, he calls to say he is heading back.

He walks to the neighbor’s house to mow the lawn.

He goes to grandma and grandpa’s to putt on the green.

He likes to stay up late to watch movies that Jen and I couldn’t care less about like The Benchwarmers or just about anything with Adam Sandler.  He only rarely sleeps late and gets mad at himself when he does.

On hot afternoons, he can be found sitting on the couch where he’ll most likely edit a video for Youtube, check in on Facebook, or upload photos to Instagram.  He might be online trying to find out how to get night crawlers to come to the surface of the yard.  He might be searching for the best bait for catching brook trout.  He might be Googling how to get 10 more yards out of his driver.

But he is a teenager, so I do check over his shoulder when he is online, because teenagers get into bad stuff online, or so I’ve been told.

I might say, “What are you looking at?”  He will say, “I’m looking at yardages for different types of golf balls.  Is that okay?”  And I’ll say, “Sure,” and breathe a sigh of relief and send silent thanks to the Universe.


And so it was the other night when I had tucked Jenny in and left her with her Rick Riordan book, and walked out to the living room to say goodnight to Will.  He was on his laptop and queuing up a movie.  I bent down to kiss him and said, “Don’t stay up too late.  Lots going on with fishing, the golf tournament and the lawns to mow.  How about 11?”

“Okay.  Night, mom.  Love you.”

I crashed and woke at 12:15 a.m. to find a light on.  I was groggy, confused and irritated.

I thought, “Why was the light on?  Oh,  no!  What is he doing?  Is he still online?”  I rifled through file folders in a brain that had still not come to full attention.   As I attempted to orient myself between what day it was, what time it was and where was I, I stumbled upon the folders that said, ‘Teenagers’, ‘Late Nights’, ‘Online’.  I added those three folders together in a cloudy brain and came up with ‘Porn’.  My brain screamed, “God!  Does he do that?  Is he surfing the web for pictures of naked girls?  I’m failing as a parent!  I’m sure I’ve ruined him by letting my guard down.”

I holler out, “Will, you said you were going to bed at 11!”

I hear this startled voice say, “I did, mom.  I’m reading in bed like I always do.”

I bark out, “Oh yeah?  Well, tell me, what are you reading?”

In an apologetic voice he says, “I’m reading the 2013 Montana Fishing Regulations cuz I don’t have the current ones.”

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  1. What a kid. Someday he’ll lose that innocence, but hopefully not real soon. Love that story.

  2. Pat,


    p.s. I wish I liked fishing.

  3. You got an amazing kid there Jesse! It’s normal to worry of course, but I think he’s got a good head on his shoulders. You’re a great mom, no need for second guessing ever! And I think when those moments are tested, you’ll continue to do what you’ve always done, and that’s be present and available. Hope you and the troop are enjoying your summer. I can’t believe its partially over. Fall is already in full view. Love & light. Tell Will I say hello :).

  4. Hi Kira!

    I hear so much and read so much about teenagers and wrong turns. All I can do is have faith that we’ve built an excellent foundation – one that will withstand mistakes, and a few crappy choices.

    Will says Hi!

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