There's a 13 year old in our house.
That sentence alone makes me cringe and long for the days when my stepdaughter, M, was a bright and cheery 6 years old. She ate when I told her to, answered a question when I asked it and was crazy for Miley Cyrus (before she become the tongue wagging alien that she is today).
But now? Teenagers be coo coo, yo. One minute they're hot, the next minute they're hotter, then twenty minutes later they're hugging you in the grocery store because you said "yes" to buying them gum. GUM. Like, this gum is suddenly worth a hug?
To a teenager, yes. I don't pretend to understand it.
One of the biggest issues I face as a stepmom helping to raise a teenager is how to know what's going on in her private life. I all but know when she goes to the bathroom during school (the schools completely over-document the children's academic day), but most nights and every other weekend, I'm clueless. Sure, she has Instagram. But cryptic, duck-face selfies with only one eye showing (always with the one eye) that say things like, "I will never get over you. XOXO" can mean a million different things. God forbid I ask for clarification on what a post means. It's like I'm asking her to explain the theory of relativity. And her reply is always the same. "It's just a quote I like, Ruby? That's why it's in quotation marks?"
(Also, everything she says is a question instead of a statement. Can't teenagers just be steadfast in what they're saying? Grrr.)
Anyways, I digress.
My whole point to all of this is, I've struggled to communicate with M the last few months. She's gotten more teenager-y by the minute, and guards her phone like it's a newborn child. (We've talked about this before.)
In the end, I just feel lost and confused and completely out of the loop. I had all but given up on ever understanding her. And then a teeny miracle happened. Remember in my last post when I was taking the kids to buy new clothes via the amazing Sprint/Summer Clothes Plan I created? I finally did that with M. We went out on a Saturday, just her and me, in search of her new spring and summer duds. I envisioned it all going like it used to with my own mom, going to store after store, talking about boys and laughing at the silly fashions.
Stuff like this. WHAT THE HELL.
But it didn't go as planned. As we drove to the first store, M spent a lot of time on her phone, didn't like the music I was listening to (um, Justin Timberlake is awesome, okay?) and kept asking how long this all would take. It wasn't going well. We arrived at Forever 21 and didn't have too much luck. There was a lot me asking, "what about this one?" and "isn't this kind of in style right now?" and a lot of her replying, "no", and "God no."
Twenty minutes in, and I decided this was just not going to go how I had planned it in my head. I gave up. I just gave the hell up. I can only handle snark for so long from a child that's being ungrateful and snotty. I shrugged my shoulders as we walked out to the car, and said aloud, "I'm starving. Let's go eat."
We settled down in cozy booth at a nearby Bo Lings, and I completely ignored M. Not because I was being childish, but because I refuse to spend time and energy trying to be nice to someone who treats me poorly in return. I mean, how many times in your life does someone say, "please let me spend $200 on your new clothes, and in return, you can totally treat me like I have the plague."
So we sat there. In silence. I on my phone, her on hers. We ordered and went back to our phones, the silence stretching further and longer than before. And then it happened.
"So, Ruby?" M asked, shifting uncomfortably in the booth. "Did I tell you about this Evan guy?"
"Nope," I replied, head still buried in my phone. "You haven't told me anything about anyone, really." I resisted the urge to start bombarding her with questions and continued to act as if I didn't care.
"Well, he's this guy that wanted me to go to his basketball game last night, remember? Well, he keeps texting me asking what I'm doing right now. What should I say?"
I couldn't believe it. M was asking me for advice. About a boy. This was monumental. I continued to play it off like it wasn't THE HUGEST DEAL IN THE WORLD for me, and offered my advice. And as they say, "when it rains, it pours." M was suddenly talking to me about a friend she was fighting with, her frustrations with Mama Ex and her new boy toy and a whole sundry of other topics.
It was then that I realized (and remembered from experience) that asking a teenager about their life is not the way to go. Teens get asked questions all the time.
What are you going to be when you grow up? Are you excited about the dance? Why do you have a "C" in Math? Are you going out for basketball this year?
After awhile, those constant questions just become noise and they tune them out. For M, she needed to see that I wasn't there to grill her. I was just there. And in her own time, she asked the questions that were on HER mind, not mine.
After we left lunch, M's mood completely shifted. She was pleasant, communicative, and back to being that bright eyed little girl I met 7 years ago. She let her guard down and we had a wonderful afternoon. It was one of the best days I can remember in recent history.
Until we returned home and she went back to being a teen monster.
But it was fun while it lasted.