Using My Lifeskills
May 18, 2005|Posted in: Uncategorized
(Note — bits of this appeared as regular blog entry a few days back…see how it morphs, Aspiring Writers? This appeared in the Alameda Sun May 12, 2005)
If you spend any time with teenagers, you’re bound to get into trouble. We just had a wacky and wild last-minute Cinco de Mayo party in the past week. Though it seemed like a good idea at the time to drag our friend Stella into the living room and do some salsa dancing with her, the children were not amused by this horrifying display of adult behavior.
They peeked in the front door, because teenagers never congregate indoors when there is a front porch to stand on, and gave me shocked stares, rolled their eyes, and laughed derisively with their friends. Later, middle girl-child says to me, “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst thing you could do as a mom, that was a 7 — if you were joking.”
And if I actually meant it? I mean, if I was sincerely dancing and having fun with my girlfriend?
“On a scale of 1 to 10, that was a 13.”
Fortunately, she thinks I was only joke-dancing. God forbid I should do anything to embarrass the teenyboppers. Perhaps she should use her lifeskill of Tolerance.
Do you know about lifeskills? They are taught at our public schools, particularly at Chipman Middle School, from which I have two students. And my girls never miss an opportunity to work on their lifeskills. Unfortunately, as I have not been versed in the ways of lifeskills, they frequently turn it around on me. I can’t say I particularly appreciate that. (Word to Ms Laurie: You have opened Pandora’s Box.)
Although it is popularly believed that I am perfect, I (and my children) can tell you that I am not at all perfect. In fact, I am extremely impatient. That is my vice, my burden, my cross to bear. Whatever it is, I want it now. My middle girl has lately taken to saying, “You need to exercise your lifeskill of Patience.”
Only a parent can understand that I am exercising my lifeskill of Don’t Beat the Child with a Big Stick.
Allow me to illustrate: I am exhausted but it’s a Friday night. I have been running madly all week and just want some downtime. In fact, I want nothing more than my PJs and a Lemon Drop. Furthermore, the BBE (that would be the Best Boyfriend Ever) has those items waiting for me at home. But I have agreed to take the girls on a quick (notice the word is quick! quick! ) run to the video store for a couple of movies.
We get out of the car and they spill into the video store. But can three teenaged girls agree on a movie? Can they agree on two movies? Can they each pick their own movie and not even argue about it? No, no and no. Instead, they drift like mournful ghosts up and down the aisles, picking up DVDs and setting them down, saying, “What about this one?” “That’s too scary. “What about that one?” “I’ve seen it.” Repeat for 45 minutes while I froth and bubble like a snail drenched in salt.
Word to expectant parents: The phrase “Come on!” does no good. Ever.
Middle daughter looks at me with her brown eyes and says, very prettily, “You need to be patient. Use your lifeskills.” Would you not, I ask the jury, reach for the big stick? No? Oh, then it is just me. OK…(beating self with big stick). Later that weekend, middle child sits at the computer and types up all the lifeskills on a paper and puts it into a slip sleeve for me. That way I won’t get froth and drool on it when I’m forgetting to exercise my lifeskills.
For the uninitiated, the lifeskills are Flexibility, Friendship, Patience, Problem-Solving, Curiousity, Cooperation, Organization, Sense of Humor, Perseverance, Integrity, Effort, Inititative, Responsibility, Caring, Courage, Pride and Common Sense.
Nowhere on there is the lifeskill of Chew Your Own Arm Off While You Wait for Children in the Video Store. That would be a good one to add.
My youngest, who attends Alameda Community Learning Center, does not follow the path of the lifeskills. She, in fact, scorns the lifeskills like the other teens scorn parental public dancing. She approached me over the weekend and asked me to exercise my lifeskills of Get Up and Cook Me Something. The BBE and I looked at her and exercised our lifeskills of Humor and Problem Solving by laughing till we wept and pointing her to the kitchen.
Over Mother’s Day I used my lifeskills of Sleeping Late, Buying Stuff and Using Up All the Hot Water. Frankly, these – and the extremely important lifeskills of Buying Shoes and Eating Chocolate – are just about all a girl needs.
I am expecting a call from Ms. Laurie at any second. Can I just say, in my own defense, that I’ve been using my lifeskill of Humor here? Persevering in an Effort to show Pride in my daughters’ Integrity? Being Flexible with the whims of teens, and Curious about what makes these girls tick? I am looking at the sheet of paper with lifeskills typed on it right now. I’m thinking I don’t have too much to worry about – for them.
For me? Ah, well. It’s too late. If you want me, I’ll be in detention.
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.