Politics & Policy

Trouble with a Teenage Padawan

A disturbance in the force.

My daughter is a good girl. That’s why it’s such a shame that she has hormones. Ryan, her “boyfriend,” might be a good boy too. I don’t know since he’s not allowed to call our home or really, even, to exist on the planet with my daughter because, you see, he has hormones, too. And, I have reason to believe that he is trying to turn my daughter to the dark side.

We found out that our 14-year-old daughter had a boyfriend the old-fashioned way. We read her journal. Before you tsk tsk me, you should know that she left it in plain view and the first line read: “So. . . I guess I have a boyfriend.” We decided this was an obvious plea for help, and so read on. We found out that Ryan had declared his love and that our daughter thought it a bit much. We discovered that Ryan did not think he could live without Elizabeth and that Elizabeth reasoned if he’d made it the first 15 years without her, he’d surely manage another. And, to our celestial delight, Elizabeth wrote that if Ryan thought he was “getting any” from her, he was a fool and in need of another girlfriend. We learned, in short, that we were excellent parents and that the Force ran strong in our family.

Then Ryan’s mother called. Did I know that they were meeting at the movies, the Promenade, and at school dances? I did not. Did I know that they were talking via Elizabeth’s cell phone until after midnight? I did not. Did I know that they had been kissing? Oh god, I did not! Did I consider myself a good mother? I did not.

But I was also not easily defeated. She may have the verbal agility of a teenager, I thought, but I am a mother — and it is time for Elizabeth to hear me roar.

“You will not see him unsupervised!” I bellowed. “Supervision is defined as parents being within ten feet of you and your beloved.” I cautioned. “You will hand your cell phone over at 4 P.M. every day,” I commissioned. And then I patted myself on the back, joked with my husband that we were now in the driver’s seat, and went to bed.

Only to be awakened by the ring of our land line. It was Louise, Ryan’s mother, wanting to know why I had suddenly decided it was okay for the twosome to meet at the movies. And, by the way, even if Elizabeth didn’t need to study, Ryan did, and the 10 P.M. phone calls had to stop.

Apparently I had only meowed. Did I even know how to roar? I, who could use my Jedi mind tricks to stop a two-year-old tantrum in its tracks, or turn a distracted fifth grader suddenly studious. Maybe the Force didn’t run strong within me. I’d battled four year old clones and two year old droids and always won, but this apprentice, this was something new. If Elizabeth was going to battle me with the ferocity of a Darth Maul, I’d need a better plan.

And then it hit me. I had to disarm her. I had to get her light saber — and destroy it.

In typical Jedi fashion, Elizabeth kept her glowing pink weapon at her side. If I asked her for it, she wouldn’t defy me. As much as it pained her, she had to recognize herself as still part Padawan learner. And so, last Tuesday, at 3:00, when I expected her home from her all girls’ Catholic high school (don’t tell me I’m not trying!) I waited, sedately, on the porch for her arrival.

Looking darling in her khaki skirt, white knee highs, maroon sweater, and classic loafers, Elizabeth climbed the front stairs and flashed me a smile that told me her world was running way too smoothly.

With steady eyes and a controlled voice, I commanded, “hand me your cell phone.” The pink razor was obediently pressed into my palm, upon which I opened it and saw, for the last time, the glow of the miniature screen, before I broke it in two and threw it away.

Last night I got up at 1:30 in the morning to use the restroom and grab a chocolate covered pretzel to munch on my way back to bed. Elizabeth was nowhere to be seen, but the kitchen light was on, the computer was glowing, and there, on the screen, was Elizabeth’s latest communication:

Ryan: “Your mom sucks. What a *#!*!.”

Elizabeth: “Whatever. See you tomorrow.”

Jennifer Kaczor lives in Los Angeles with her husband and seven children.

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