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Not By the Hairs on My Chinny Chin-Chin

Teenagers are breathtakingly honest when it comes to their appraisal of your shortcomings as a parent, as a human, as a participant on the planet. This starts right about eleven, when girls are suddenly getting periods before breasts have put in an appearance and boys are surrounded by silverback apes in the changing room when they should all be trading Pokemon cards.

So perhaps it is understandable that when I commented on our teenager’s peach fuzz a few years back, “Your mustache is coming along nicely,” he answered, “So is yours.”

That would be around the time I tried every waxing technique available and invested in an electric razor. Damn him.

They don’t hold back. If they don’t like your new shirt, the lip curls, your new car, “it’s a girly car,” dinner “Oh.” Even when you know better than to request comment, you feel like you should enter a room with your head ducked for the expected blow. And never, ever, attempt to pat yourself on the back for a job well done, because that guarantees a sucker punch to the self-esteem.

Admittedly, we say stupid things. We ask about friends they had in preschool as if they might still be talking. We suggest they go to movies they wouldn’t watch in a million years. We mention their asthma or academics or acne in line at the grocery store, when anyone might be listening. Worse, we could come up with a good idea and then our teenagers might be tempted to take us up on that, implying that perhaps we aren’t as stupid as they make out, which would take a toll on their fragile egos. So, in the interest of a consistent self-regard, they pass.

Don’t you remember doing that? I do.

Fortunately the “everything I do is stupid” phase only lasts so many years, and unless you’ve spaced your children out in the exactly wrong way, you might have a break from idiocy for a few years, or if you’ve gone the economical and expedient single-child route, your period of unintelligence might be brief. A mere six years or so, maybe ten if your teenager is stubborn or you continue to make remarks about academics and acne in line.

Not that there aren’t good reasons for teenagers to knock us off our pedestals. They put us there, after all, innocently admiring our seemingly endless knowledge during the formative years when knowing a handful of dinosaur species was awe inspiring and God-like. It isn’t really fair that kids come into the world knowing so little, and we appear all-knowing at first, giving us an unfair advantage when it comes to board games, trivia and memorizing all the characters in the Marvel pantheon.

I expect that there are anthropological reasons for our increased idiocy during the teen years. They need to believe in their abilities to separate, grow up, move out, and we need to want them to. Later, when they’re setting up house, our resumed intelligence comes in handy during lease or mortgage negotiations, wedding planning or childcare (17 percent of children are raised by their grandparents, so does that make us dumb or smart?).

I’m enjoying a mixed-bag of god-like abilities to our seven year-old, reduced IQ and zero cool-factor to the fifteen year-old and vague pity from our eighteen year-old, getting ready to go out on his own and show us just how much smarter he is than we’ve ever been.

I’ll take it. Just don’t mention the hairs on my chinny chin-chin.  

 

Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting, ehow.com, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (berendemotier.com)