Female spirits of justice and vengeance, also known as The Furies
Teenage mess is difficult to live with and difficult to live without. Constant nagging wearies me, but so too does constant mess. I know that I need to get them (teenagers) to change, but how? Nagging doesn’t work, doing it all myself raises murderous impulses and several other ‘good’ plans that I instigate fail miserably. A friend suggests the answer lies in ‘caring less’ and insists that this is the best way to preserve my sanity and stay out of prison. It sounds improbable but I’m desperate so I give it a try, and make strenuous efforts to close off my senses to the chaos in which I now live. I refuse to see the dirty dishes or smell the bins that are not being emptied or hear the slurping sound that follows me around as my slippers repeatedly unstick themselves from a manky floor. I also attempt empathy with my children who, in the middle of significant pruning of their teenaged neural pathways, have only half a brain and virtually no empathy to share between them. Physically they have adult capabilities. Typically they can dress themselves, climb the stairs without falling over and work a toasted sandwich maker. Sometimes, when they’re feeling adventurous, as they were last night, they explore the freezer for ideas. Last night’s idea was apple strudel. At 10.30pm on a Friday night, apple strudel is an excellent idea. No prep, (preheating an oven is for losers) a half an hour wait and you don’t even need a baking tray to put it on. Do you? Best of all, while you wait for it to cook you can go back to more pressing, entertainment based tasks.
I arrive on the scene fifteen minutes later in search of a glass of water before bed. I’m still practicing my ‘I can’t see the mess’ meditation (let’s call it mindlessness) when I meet an apple strudel in the process of collapse, losing its integrity all over my oven. I rush to salvage the situation – to catch and shovel back the syrupy stalactites stretching down through the oven shelves – but no matter how teasing or insistent I am with my spatula the strudel simply refuses to pull itself together. It’s decided it’s not dessert but art. If I didn’t know better I would think it was laughing at me. In my mindless state I don’t know better so I swear hideously and smash it to pieces with the spatula. It’s a bit of a commotion. Various teens appear to bear witness. The strudel is an installation now – multidimensional. It’s still art, but it’s not laughing anymore. I stomp off to bed.
So, is the parent’s answer to teenage mess to make more mess than they do? Doubtful. I wouldn’t propose to add it to a list of good parenting strategies and I’d have to admit that it does leave you defenceless against accusations of being a poor role model. I’d be lying though, if I said it didn’t feel good (especially the next morning when I woke up to a sparkly clean oven and spotless kitchen).
It was the Furies. They made me do it.