My apologies if I sound like a broken record
with my needle stuck on the lyric "teens suck."
But it's true. This is absolutely the most horrible
experience I've ever gone through. (Mom, I'm so
sorry for any hair-pulling, anti-depressant down-
ing, top-of-your-lungs screaming I may have put
you through all those years ago.) Ismail has begun
his walk down The Teenage Turnpike a little
earlier than his older siblings. He's not even 11 yet.
Today I went on the balcony to bring in the dry
laundry off the line when some white stuff caught
my eye on my neighbor's balcony (down one floor
in the building next door to ours.) I managed to
focus my non-caffeine-jump-started eyes on the
white stuff and realized it was about 15 to 20
snot-filled tissues. "ISMAIL!" I shouted.
He came out onto the balcony with me and I
asked him about the mess littering my friend's
veranda. He answered with a flip "I dunno." But
I caught a quick glimmer in his eyes before he
looked away. (Tell number 1.) I asked him if he
blew his nose in the tissues and threw them down.
"No, I did NOT," he replied, corners of his mouth
turning up for a nanosecond before scowling again
to show he's shocked at my disbelief. (Tell number
2.) So I looked right in his amber colored eyes and
said, "So, you're telling me that if today was
Judgement Day and you were standing before God
and He asked you about those snotty tissues on
Hayba's balcony you would HONESTLY be able to
answer that you did not do that?" He looked right
at me and said, "Yes (eye shift to the right and down)
I'd be able to answer that I did NOT do it! (mouth
corners up, then down, then eyes up and to the left....
Tells numbered 3, 4, and 5.)
"Go get the broom, dustpan and an empty shopping
bag, NOW!" I got dressed and pushed him ahead of
me to my friend's house. My friend, Hayba, has three
daughters, ages 14, 9 and 5. The oldest has autistic
tendencies and keeps to herself. The two younger ones
are smart-mouthed girl versions of Ismail and LOVE
to antagonize him. In their defense, they did NOTHING
to him....today. I forced him to apologize to Hayba for
littering all over her balcony and then forced him to
go out and sweep it for her.
My brother-in-law saw this when he was coming in
from the street and yelled at him to put that broom
down and what was he? A street-sweeper? And why are
you embarrassing your father like this? Ismail explained
to him that Mom was punishing him because he threw
used tissues all over the neighbor's balcony and she said
that he wouldn't learn his lesson if she apologized for his
behavior and the neighbors don't deserve to touch his
germs. His uncle told him not to ever throw trash off the
balcony again and went upstairs. Ismail went home and
started fighting with his older brother and things just
sort of escalated from there. I'm really too tired and
emotionally drained to relive all of that today. So I won't.
In fact, I was feeling rather depressed about how everyone
around here is going to think I have such a bad son when
I know he's just the posterchild for ADHD and he really
is a good boy.
Then Hayba called me and said that the neighbors
upstairs from her and across the hall all asked why I made
him sweep her balcony. She explained that I force my kids
to be accountable for their mistakes and apologize to those
they wrong. The woman across the hall from Hayba totally
hates me. But even SHE said, "Wow. If all of us did that
with our kids when they are young they'd grow up and be
respectful adults and not throw trash out of their windows
like so many people on this block do." And the woman
upstairs who is really old and cranky said, "Good for her."
Hayba said that she was surprised at their responses because
they are two of the most judgemental people she knows.
That made me feel better.
Maybe I'll survive this ride yet.