Is it possible to be happy when your teen is miserable?
Statistically you have more of a chance of a piano falling on your head or of becoming spontaneously bilingual than you have of keeping your happy vibe around your morose teen—but you can always try and good luck to you.
A moment ago my teen was staring out the window, tracing the patterns of rain rivulets on the glass, and singing Moon River with great feeling when suddenly she jumped up, raced outside, and began turning cartwheels on the lawn. When she returned, soaking wet and laughing to the point of stumbling, she began texting selfies of her drowned- rat look to her friends. Currently, at this moment, now, she is sitting quietly, eating grapes, dripping acid rain on the couch, and looking as though someone has just sucked all the joy from her life with a curly straw.
I am not going to be reeled in, I think, as I try to walk by her quickly so as not to catch her misery—and believe me it is contagious—I wonder if there’s a vaccine? A Teen Angst vaccine? You just go to your doctor and say: “I can cope with measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, typhoid, and hep B, but for the love of God—tell me you have the T. A. in stock?”
Instead of dead viruses, the Teen Angst vaccine would consist of dead hopes and dreams, exsanguinated joy and strangled angst—along with the requisite mercury and formaldehyde just to keep it stable—ha. I wonder…If I spike her breakfast smoothie with formaldehyde, will it stabilize my moody teen?
(This is what I’ve come to after fifteen years of protesting the harmful side effects of vaccines).
I reach the library and sink with relief into my armchair—Dang. I left my book, Algebra for the Utterly Confused, in the den. (As a mother of a teen, I highly recommend this book.)
Desperate to hold on to my good mood, I decide to take a different route to fetch my book and thus avoid my grape eating teen and the whole I hate my life; I don’t get polynomials; school sucks; nobody gets me; I look terrible; my t-zone is all broken out—just like my heart—AND the guy I like doesn’t even exist, and even if he did, he probably wouldn’t notice me anyway— rant.
“I NOTICE YOU,” I shout from the kitchen, forgetting this conversation is in my head, “I CAN FEEL YOU EXISTING FROM THE OTHER ROOM!”
“Does insanity run in the family, Mom?” My teen asks.
“Well, it doesn’t walk!” I snap.
She sighs a great big dramatic I’m doomed kind of sigh.
I open my mouth to say, “What is wrong, Honey?” But to my surprise an emotionally charged diatribe comes spewing out instead.
“WHAT?” I throw up my hands and storm (recklessly un-vaccinated) into the living room. “What can possibly be so TERRIBLE when you were laughing your head off over a text message just five minutes ago? I heard you! I even have it on tape!”—I hold out my mini tape recorder triumphantly—“Aha! This time I’ve got proof! Now what, my darling, could possibly have happened between the laughing and the sitting here like misery eating grapes?”
She looks at me like the tragic heroine of a bad T.V. movie of the week. Fierce tears form in her limpid green eyes as the static-y soundtrack of her recorded laughter plays in the background.
“I’m sorry, Mom!” she yells, “I don’t know what’s the matter with me!!! I’ll just go and feel like I’m losing my mind and my spirit is dying in my room where I won’t bother anyone!”
“Well, do you maybe want to talk about it?” I ask, rummaging around in my D.N.A. for my sympathetic mother gene.
“No—it’s Okay.” She smiles bravely, “I’ll go.”
Now I feel bad. How can I go blithely along my happy trail when my child is suffering and may be on the verge of a psychotic break?
“Is it polynomials?” I ask, nodding sympathetically.
“I DON’T KNOW!” she wails.
“Oh. Is it a boy?”
“I wish. I gotta go now.” I watch as she drags herself off the couch with less energy than my grandmother had on her one hundred and fifth birthday.
“Don’t go. Stay. We’ll talk,” I hear myself saying. (What is wrong with you? Quel est le problem avec vous?— My inner voice is yelling at me in two languages—Shut up! Fermer la bouche!)
She shakes her head. “You can’t help me. Nobody can.”
“I’d like to try,” I say, practically shouting over my inner voice. (Seriously, Get out now while you still have a shred of hope and a soupesance of a will to live! Sortezy maintenant alors qu’il y a encore espoir et un soupesance d’une volonte de vivre!)
(When did my inner voice become bilingual, I wonder?)
She gives me a weak smile, “Not everything is about you, Mom.”
That’s because it’s about you, Ma Cherie. “I just want you to know that I care; I want to be involved in your life.”
“Then buy me clothes!
“I just bought you clothes!”
“Yes. But I’m changing my style,” she informs me.
“Since last week?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says unperturbed. “I was on the brink of changing last week, but I didn’t know I was on the brink when we bought those things.
“Well, I’m on the brink and I still have clothes from 1987,” I tell her.
“We’re just different, Mom,” she shrugs.
“If we’re so different, how come you take all my clothes?” I ask.
“VINTAGE,” she says.
“1987 is vintage? Oh my God!” I am having trouble breathing.
I suddenly feel like all the joy has been sucked out of me and I’ll never be cheerful again. My teen is a Dementor—I need chocolate. J’ai besoin de beaucoup de chocolat…