I’m coming to a place where I believe the teenage brain may indeed be so hormone-addled that basic connections of common sense and cause-and-effect are suspended until further notice. MRI imagining would reveal that teen brains light up when shown caramel brownies, but those same brains can look at unfinished homework and angry teachers and ask what’s on television, and also, hey, are any of those brownies left?
You would think that having once BEEN a teenager would allow a parent to better understand this phase, but you would be wrong. I can’t follow their logic, no matter how hard I try. And for some odd reason, calmly asking one of them if maybe, just maybe, they’ve suffered brain damage since you last conversed is not seen as nurturing or helpful.
I’m not sure they even understand each other, unless “understanding how to piss each other off” is a manifestation of said understanding. And I used to think that was just a sibling thing, but now I’m hearing about it amongst supposed friends, so I don’t know. Basically they’re all playing from a secret rulebook that changes constantly, but we’re the stupid ones for not knowing the rules.
[Sidebar: Things which make more sense to me than teenagers include nuclear physics, chin hairs that weren't there yesterday but are now two inches long, my dog's penchant for eating cat poop, PR folks who want to offer me the "exclusive opportunity" to interview people I've never heard of, and this eyelid twitch I recently developed.]
Lately it’s become clear that I am not to be informed of anything that happens at school that is so BORING and MUNDANE as things like tests, grades, or any actual learning, but if someone gets kicked in the nuts, WELL, that’s worth reporting. Obviously. Why would I want to know if work is being completed when so-and-so just got a mohawk? Geez, MOM.
Similarly, the fact that both of my children are finishing up the exact same science class—Chickadee at the high school, Monkey via Virtual School—and said class is one of those ones with a state-mandated standardized final exam DOESN’T MEAN that they could POSSIBLY work together or quiz each other or in any way at all acknowledge that they’re both preparing for the same test. Why would I even SUGGEST that? CRAZY TALK! (Chickadee is affronted by the mere suggestion that her brother could possibly be helpful to her. Monkey has pointed out that “Chickie hates it when I know stuff she doesn’t.” Totally looking forward to those test grades because I’m sure whoever scores higher is going to torment the other one for months.) (And my money is on… HA. Yeah, I’m not that dumb.)
Last night the kids and I sat down to dinner before Otto got home, because he was out for his weekly have-a-beer-and-unwind session with some of his colleagues. Being academics, they refer to this as their weekly colloquium, which is amusing to all involved. When I called the kids into the kitchen to eat, though, I was treated to a stark study in the difference in processing between my children.
Monkey arrived first.
Monkey: Why are we eating before Otto gets home? Oh, right, he’s at colloquium.
Then Chickadee arrived.
Chickadee: Why are we eating before Otto gets home? Oh, right, he’s out getting drunk with his friends.
For the record: I’ve known Otto for 23 years and I have NEVER seen him drunk. Quizzing my darling daughter as to why she felt the need to suggest that a single drink with his colleagues was tantamount to a random Wednesday kegger, it became clear that she was enjoying my reaction. Point to the teenager.
We sat down at the table and commenced with dinner. And then things got interesting.
Chickadee: Buddy says there was a random pube in the water fountain today.
Monkey and I both paused, mid-bite, to stare at her.
Chickadee: What? I’m just telling you what he said. And that apparently at my school people put pubic hair in the water fountain.
Monkey: What is wrong with you?
Chickadee: I’M MAKING CONVERSATION.
Me: About pubic hair. At the dinner table.
Chickadee: I’m just telling you what Buddy said. How do you think it got in there?
Monkey: How does he even KNOW it’s a pubic hair? Maybe it’s a regular hair.
Chickadee: I think he can tell the difference, dude.
Monkey: But how?
Chickadee: Pubic hairs are different! They’re shorter. And really curly.
Monkey: Mom’s hair is shorter than yours. And really curly.
(Did my son just insinuate that my head looks like it’s covered in pubic hair…?)
Me: Monkey. It’s different. You know that.
Chickadee: Maybe people were having sex on the water fountain.
Me: That sounds… unsanitary. Also uncomfortable.
Monkey: But no, really, how does he KNOW it’s a pubic hair? That doesn’t make any sense for one to be in the water fountain.
Mind you, up until this point, my teenagers are HAPPILY ENGAGED in this COMPLETELY DISTURBING conversation. But then I had to go ruin it.
Me: Monkey! C’mon, you know pubic hair is different. YOU HAVE PUBIC HAIR. IT’S DIFFERENT.
Chickadee: LALALALAALALALAAAAAAALALALA PLEASE STOP TALKING.
Me: What? He does.
Chickadee: LALALALAALALALAAAAAAALALALA NEED MORE THERAPY OHMYGOD STAHP!
Me, to Chickadee: You’re being ridiculous. You have pubic hair, too.
Monkey: LALALALAALALALAAAAAAALALALA STOP STOP STOP NOT LISTENING.
Me: Really? You are BOTH being ridiculous. EVERYONE HAS PUBIC HAIR.
Both: LALALALAALALALAAAAAAALALALA CAN’T HEAR YOU NOT LISTENING MAKE IT STOP I’M DYING. (etc.)
Apparently we can conclude that (in case you were wondering), “random pube in a public water fountain” is somehow LESS gross than the idea that your sibling (or—worse!—your mother) has pubic hair.