What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon

Chapter 15

[p.43]My four younger sons and I were in the car, waiting for the fourteen-year-old who lives at our house to materialize so we could finally leave on our little weekend trip. At last he emerged, laden with the items he needed to insure that his journey was a safe and pleasant one. In one hand he carried a bag of treats from Sinclair not to be confused with anyone else’s treats from Sinclair, while in the other he had a stack of CD’s not to be confused with anyone else’s CD’s. Also he was in disguise—baseball cap and sunglasses—so that no one would recognize him and thereby realize he was actually doing something with his family.

When he got to the car, he announced that he was the guy riding shotgun and kicked everybody else out of the front seat except for me simply because I’m the one with a license even though he already knows more about driving than I ever will. Then he assumed control over the various sound system knobs in our car and leaned back, settling his brain for a long winter’s nap and so forth.

Well, ever since that trip I’ve been very busy keeping a mental list of all the little signs that say we have a fourteen-year-old boy lurking about the premises. Here’s what the list looks like.

1. Every radio in every room is turned on full blast even though he’s in the family room watching ESPN.
2. That pack of 500 frozen Lynn Wilson bean and cheese burritos you bought yesterday is already gone.
3. It’s twenty below outside, his coat is still hanging in the closet, and he’s out there.
4. The phone is never for you any more.
5. He flinches if you accidentally touch the hair it took him twenty minutes to blow-dry.
6. There’s a trail of shoes through your house that look like they belong to Big Foot.
7. He fills up a whole couch when he sits down.
[p.44.]8. The only time he notices anybody else in the family is when they do something to irritate him. Like breathe.
9. You never even saw the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue this year.
10.  The living room lights flicker whenever he makes a pretend slam-dunk in his bedroom upstairs.
11.  There’s no hot water left for you to take a shower in the morning.
12.  Every radio in every room is turned on full blast even though he’s in the family room watching ESPN with a full gaggle of teenage boys who look just like him.

Actually, I’m not really complaining. As teenage-type people go, my oldest son and his friends are very nice ones. About the only time they get on my nerves, in fact, is when they patronize me.

Patronizing adults, unfortunately, is something adolescents do as naturally as turning on a radio, then leaving the room. They think we’re all big dorks. We wear dorky clothes and listen to dorky music and hang out with dorky friends and have dorky jobs to pay for those dorky cars we love to drive to dorky destinations such as the beauty shop to get dorky haircuts. We’re just too dorky to live, don’t you know.

            So, as I say, teenagers have no choice but to automatically patronize dorks like us. Take what happened to me the other day. I was in the kitchen throwing an unusually fine fit (my fits overall have improved with age, I’m pleased to report) because the house was such a wreck. Well, my younger kids were responding appropriately—i.e., groveling and promising they’d never leave knives with peanut butter all over the counter again, when the fourteen-year-old walked in and observed my performance. Finally, in a completely calm and thoroughly patronizing voice he said, “Gee, Mom, you’re being such a psycho-wench right now.”

            This pretty much stopped me cold. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but this was the first time anybody had ever thought to call me a psycho-wench.

            I confess at first my feelings were hurt. I did a quick review of the Great Psycho-Wenches of History and felt that to be included in their company was hardly flattering. Take Aunt Esmeralda in Bewitched, [p.45]for example. Now there’s a psycho-wench for you. As you’ll recall, Aunt Esmeralda is Samantha’s goofy relative who keeps doing things like accidentally turning Darren’s head into a lamp shade and so on. Frankly, she’s not somebody I wanted to be when I grew up.

            The more I thought about it, however, the more I liked the name. Psycho-Wench. It’s kind of snappy, kind of out there, don’t you know. Also, people might respect you if you had a nickname like that. They might not give you any (a) lip or (b) sass because who knows what Psycho-Wench will do next. You could even start a club with other mothers of fourteen-year-old boys and call it Psycho-Wenches-R-Us. You could all show up in matching jackets and scare people at soccer games where nobody will ever dare make you feel bad because you forgot the half-time treats again.

            Yeah. I’m beginning to think this has definite possibilities