Thursday, August 30, 2007

Two Milestones In One Week--Almost More Than One Mom Can Stand

A few weeks ago, while reading the short story collection The Lives of Rocks by Rick Bass, I came across a passage in the short story "Goats" that seemed directed specifically (and maybe even a little eerily) at me:

"I've read recently that scientists have measured the brains of adolescent boys and have determined that there is a period of transformation in which the ridges of the brain swell and then flatten out, becoming smoother, like mere rolling hills, rather than the deep ravines and canyons of the highly intelligent, and that during this physiological metamorphosis it is for the boys as if they have received some debilitating injury, some blow to the head, so that,neurologically speaking, they glide, or perhaps stumble, through the world as if in a borderline coma.

Simple commands, much less reason and rules of consequence, are beyond their ken..."

Though Mr. Bass was writing fiction, I know this to be a fact. Not because I Googled it (although I did because that's the kind of geeky girl I am), but because I've spent the last seven years with one, then two, then lord help me, three teenage boys. I know without a doubt that at some point something goes horribly (and, let's hope, temporarily) afoul inside their brains.

Son-Three was arrested last week, two days before Son-One was dropped off for college. And you thought he was too busy with "Bible study" to get into any real trouble.*

Son-Three had some friends over--they had been at soccer practice together earlier in the evening and then "walked around" together for a little while before ending up in the tent in our backyard. I looked out before I went to bed at eleven and I could see five distinct teenage boy shadows and figured we were good--after all, we'd been good every other night this summer. There's a TV out there and a Playstation, a boom box (or whatever they're called now) and a few old chairs. It's essentially a soft-sided guest house.

Anyway, they were out there--Son-Three and four of his friends: G, C, M and M's foreign exchange student, three days off the plane from Brazil. I went to bed. And was awakened at 3:30 by the local police. Son-Three and one of his friends had been stopped driving the flower delivery van. (The police officer said, "We called Cranky Boss Lady, and she was not aware that they had the van." You think? Um, Son-Three doesn't have a license and it was 3:30 in the morning--were you thinking I thought she gave them permission to drive the vehicle? I don't mean to mock law enforcement, but--okay, maybe just a little, from a respectful and anonymous distance.)

Apparently, the five boys were out there in the tent and S, the Brazilian foreign exchange student, was anxious to meet some "American girls." (In instant messages before he came to the States, S told Son-Three that he had had a girlfriend in Brazil but that he broke up with her so he could "do single in the US.") The only American girl available at 2-something a.m. was NF, of Bible study fame, who lives a long, dark four miles from our house and who happened to have an also available friend staying over that night.

Somehow--and I'm not sure exactly how and the reason I'm not sure exactly how is that asking them how it happened and what they were thinking when they did it seemed the ultimate exercise in futility because was there any answer they could give me that would even approach normal human logic? so I didn't ask--the boys came to the conclusion that the best way to get the girls to our house was to take my shop keys and get the shop van.

I assume the shop van was preferable to the car in our driveway because a) it's an automatic and our car is an aging and temperamental manual and b) the van would be much less likely to be missed during this escapade than would our car. (Son-Three may be an idiot with a (temporarily) unridged brain, but he's an idiot that realized he has two parents with insomnia and three nocturnal (especially during the summer) siblings who would certainly wonder where the car had gone.)

So, leaving the other four boys in the tent, M and Son-Three walked to the flower shop where they used my key to get in to the shop to get the van key. Son-Three had the presence of mind to lock the shop behind him. He did not, however, have the presence of mind to turn on the headlights.

By the time he realized that not only were his headlights not on, he had no idea how to turn them on, a police car was coming around the bend from the opposite direction. Full-on panic must've set in at that moment and Son-Three was pushing, pulling, turning and jiggling every button, knob, and dial within his reach, all to no avail**. He had the windshield wipers waving (front and back), the radio blaring, the A/C blasting and he'd probably turned the overdrive on and off six or seven times. They were pulled over and taken to the police station. After an hour and a half of questioning, they were released to their exhausted parents.

Cranky Boss Lady, in an unprecendentedly uncranky move, declined to press charges so the boys were only charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, which is a misdemeanor but since neither of them has ever been in any kind of trouble before, it's likely to be dismissed as long as neither of them gets into any additional trouble in the next six months.

Here's hoping this etched some deep ridges into their brains and not just some new lines on their parents' foreheads***.

*Yes, I know, and more importantly, so does he that "Bible study," especially advanced, unprotected "Bible study," has its own share of potentially very real "real trouble."

**The light switch is on the dash to the left of the steering wheel. Difficult to find under normal circumstances and, I would imagine, much more so when you're busy crapping your pants at the sight of an oncoming police car.

***The jury's still out on the new ridges, but it does appear as though Son-Three has mono (he's being tested in the morning), which I can't help seeing as a little viral karma.


  1. Thank you for setting in the fear now. My son will turn 4 a week from Saturday. How many years do I have before I have to fear the flat brain phase?

    By the way, I have found that with my stepdaughter, 13, 16 and I am assuming 18 are the hardest years. 13 because they have just officially become a teenager and therefore are grown up. 16 is that magical "Sweet 16" crap which must signify that they are officially old enough to make their own decisions. And I am assuming 18 because they will then officially be an adult (although and adult who still lives under our roof, under our care and therefore still effected by our rules.)

    Aren't kids so much fun!

  2. I'm so sorry you got to have that experience. You're much more calm that I would have been, but maybe blog world is bliss.

  3. Not sure about bliss, but this post is definitely the distilled version--it's been filtered to remove impurities such as anger, fear and extreme quantities of maternal guilt.

    And Cary--my daughter's 13 and I definitely think we've got some compromised brain activity going on. I live in fear.

  4. I found your blog via the January NaBloPoMo challenge, and I'm so glad I did. I have 2 teens (girl-18 and boy-16) and can so relate to your post, having just gone through a year of crazy experiences like this one with my oldest. I've been struggling with how much to share on my blog and would love to know how you balance the honesty with privacy (as well as shame/guilt). I look forward to reading more on your blog!

  5. Welcome, Ann. The teen years are quite an adventure, aren't they? I'm happy to say that Son-Three is now 20 and has not gotten into any trouble of this magnitude again since. Though he is struggling with trying to find a life direction at the moment, which I guess is pretty normal.

    As for the striking a balance with all the honesty/privacy issues and sharing things that might be uncomfortable for myself (and let's face it, others in my family)--I think the fact that I have at least an illusion of anonymity helps. The rest of it, though, is just weighing my intentions in sharing something. If it's just to "vent," I try to do that somewhere privately, but if it's to reach out to others who might be able to share their advice or wisdom with me or maybe even benefit from whatever semblance of wisdom I've been able to gather, then I go ahead.

    It's going to sound all corny and, I don't know, Zen-ish, but I try to post from a calm, centered place rather than out of anger or frustration. Even if that calm place is a little tainted with guilt/shame, etc.