Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense. Now, some parenting purists out there might say, “A parent should never be on the defense!” Those people feel completely in control all the time, and they probably never feel pinned to the parenting wall. For me, it works a little differently. My professional life is sort of a Frankenstein-type mish-mash that includes regular employment as an editor, freelance writing and editing, and of course, hooking (fishing). And I have a lot of teenagers; in fact, on any given day the number changes, and then sometimes it changes again. Most days I have to take a poll so I know how many I’m feeding for dinner. So when it comes to winning parenting strategies, I’ve learned that if I want to be successful, I’ve got to plan early. That’s why the first thing I do every morning is wake my husband up and say, “Coach! Coach! What kind of defense are we running today??”
Some days, it’s all I can do to keep it all straight and still find my way home from work at the end of an exhausting day. Those stairs are killer! (Is now a good time to mention that I work from home and that at this moment, I’m in a recliner with a heated lap blanket? And in my pajamas and slippers? At 1:15 p.m.?)
But on other days, the plan is a definitely one of attack. Ah, hell; let’s just call it what it is: torture. In one form or another, all parents need to be reminded that a healthy dose of horrification is just what the doctor ordered for teenagers. When I can’t take another moment of being yanked to and fro, I like to get the teenagers on the ropes. I can’t sustain it like Ali did back in his heyday, but I can manage to dance like a butterfly and swing like a one-winged bee for about 12 seconds. And it’s a really satisfying 12 seconds.
My offensive moves came about by way of a parenting epiphany I had recently: I am not torturing my children nearly enough, and even more importantly, I’m running out of time! In three years, the last two will be off to college. For all the pain and anxiety they cause me, some more than others, I should be really giving it to them every chance I get. So I came up with a list, which I’m willing to share. Some of these are gender-neutral, and some are not, which should be obvious when you get to the one about the menstrual supplies. (Hey, are you a guy? Did you just emit a little groan when you read those words? Exactly. I slipped that in on purpose.)
How to Horrify Your Children (with points, adjusted for variables)
- Put on a pair of your daughter’s favorite boots, preferably while you are wearing your pajamas in the middle of the afternoon (this is quite simple for me). Be at the sink washing dishes when she gets home from school. When she demands to know what you’re doing with her boots on, say, “I wanted to see how they fit. I just ordered the exact pair online today.” (5 points; 5 bonus points she happens to have a friend with her.)
- The next time you’re in a store like Walmart with your teenage son, who will no doubt be following you around with his head in his phone, discreetly pick up a box of tampons while continuing to walk so as not to alert him that there is a reason to look up, then swing your arm into his stomach gently so he instinctively grabs what’s in your hand. The second he has made contact, walk away fast so he can’t give them back. (10 pts; 5 bonus points for each witness, 10 for each teenage girl.) Note: The same thing can be done with your teenage daughter and a box of condoms, but for some reason, it doesn’t seem as funny. But that’s your call.
- At the next school function or sporting event, lean right up in your kid’s face, look quickly to the left and right and whisper, “Do I look drunk?” (15 points; 5 bonus points if someone overhears you, 10 if it’s their favorite teacher.)
- This one takes a little bit of preparation. Have your cell phone up to your ear, across the room with your back turned to the door when your kids come in the room. When you know they are within earshot, but before they start asking you to do shit for them, say loudly, “Hey baby, want to play the quiet game tonight after the kids go to sleep?” (10 points; 20 points if they have a friend with them. If your husband is with them, -50 points.)
That’s about all I’ve come up with so far. If you decide to use one of them, be sure and let me know how it goes. If you have some of your own to share, by all means, send them my way.