Boys are jamming in the office – J on the drums, Friend 1 on the lead guitar, Friend 2 doing the vocals. The music is loud with a heavy-on-the-crash beat. They’re playing the Ramones. M is near me in my room and she’s trying on various boots and shoes from the closet, asking me every so often, “Am I beautiful?” I’m preparing for class – typing out an outline for Civil Procedure, a chapter on examination of physical evidence. A is playing a video game in his room, kicking back against a tiny futon couch. The DH is reading the paper as he eats a turkey sandwich, mustard only. Sassy, the dog, is sitting on the bench at the table, watching the DH’s food as it travels from the dish to his mouth.
Normal, normal as can be.
The sky is cloudy, gray-blue-yellow light breaking through the lace in the kitchen. The hours click away as I move from the outline to a short story to grading a couple of papers, back to the outline. The kids change activities – boys are outside skateboarding, A has moved to the computer, M has begun to watch a movie, and the DH is doing laundry.
My sister calls, upset at me about something insensitive I said the other day. This is a rarity – we never do this. I find myself tearful because what upset her had nothing to do with her, but was all about me – my own bitterness sneaking out. She caught the underlying hurt, but still took it as a personal attack which it hadn’t been. We resolve the problem but the disruption to our constantly smooth relationship sticks to the roof of my mouth.
The friends leave, J alone now and on a tear for permission to go to the movies with a girl. She’s in seventh grade and we don’t know her or her parents. Although we don’t suspect this is a “date,” we’re not open to the idea at all. He’s furious with us, throwing things, breaking something, saying he doesn’t like us and wishes we were normal because, you know, every other parent lets their seventh graders hang out with their friends of the opposite sex in public, darkened places in bad parts of the suburbs unsupervised.
We are abnormal.
The DH escalates the fight, beginning to rage himself, which always sends me in the opposite direction – I get hyper-calm.
J has come running into my room, hiding from his angry father, as I sit on my bed with my laptop, tapping away. I’ve been ignoring the battle in the living room. I glance up and he turns to me, his longish hair standing on end with tension, “When are you going to be normal parents?!”
“When you’re normal, dear.”
Sounds bad, sounds like I’ve said an evil thing – sounds like I’ve gone against every parenting manual out there. I throw in a soft, reassuring, “Honey, look, you’re just in a phase right now where you’re making poor decisions when outside our watch.”
“I don’t care about getting in trouble!”
“I know you don’t – which is why we’re stepping in and caring about you getting in trouble for you. We love you much too much to let anything happen to you.”
“Who cares?! It’s my life!”
“Not until you’re 18. In the meantime, any bad choice you make comes back to us. Fines, parenting classes, even jail time. Your want your parents in jail? I didn’t think so. Who’d buy you your decks, your $38 t-shirts, your Hot Cheetos? Your decisions affect us, affect our home. So we have to make sure you don’t make bad decisions. Until then, you’re home today due to your refusal to do your weekend homework and your rude talk to us.”
There is some more raging but soon the house quiets. He retreats to his room and flips on the television. The DH starts cleaning out the boys’ dresser. M and A battle over computer time. I peek in on e-mail messages, get something good, but can’t answer because “Alphabet Express” is on. I chase A off the computer – he’s had plenty of time on. M sits happily and starts to play, asking for snacks and a drink in the most princess-like manner. I serve her and go to the bedroom for continued typing of the outline on my laptop, interrupted required work with the writing of this blog post and more playing around with a short story.
Normal, normal as can be.