I can see the future news headline in our local paper: “Mother of Thirteen-Year-Old Boy Turns into a Parrot.”
It’s true. As a mother of a teenage boy, I unintentionally transform into a parrot each time I have a face-to-face encounter in our house with my son. As we meet up in the kitchen for breakfast, I ask, “Did you brush your teeth yet?”
He responds, “It’s only 10:30 in the morning, Mom.”
When it’s time for lunch two hours later, he emerges from the depths of his bedroom and I confront him again. “Did you brush your teeth?” I inquire.
“I’m getting to it, Mom!” he answers as a cloud of green vapor floats out of his mouth.
It’s not just the teeth. As he passes me in the hallway, I sniff the air like a hunting dog and ask, “Have you taken a shower in the last 14 days?”
“Geeeeez Moooooooom, what is the problem?” he answers. “I’ll take a shower eventually, just not this minute!”
“LOOK!” I yell after him, “YOUR SOCKS HAVE ALREADY PACKED UP WITH YOUR UNDERWEAR AND MOVED TO ANOTHER STATE, AND YOUR JEANS WALKED TO SCHOOL WITHOUT YOU YESTERDAY!”
“It’s really not a big deal if I don’t shower every other day or even every few days, Mom! I’m a K-I-D!” he spells out for me (just in case I didn’t know) as he shuts his bedroom door.
I stand outside the door and knock. “It’s the hygiene police,” I say. “If I don’t hear some water running out of a faucet in the next three minutes, you’re grounded! And I’d better not hear any sighing because if you exhale air out of that mouth again, I might pass out!”
He opened his door. The sudden stench pushed me back into the hallway. “Good grief!” I shout, “WHAT DIED IN THERE?”
“Mooooom,” he whines as he pushes a strand of greasy hair out of his eyes, “I promise I will brush my teeth this afternoon and I will definitely take a shower tonight.” He slams his door shut again.
“WELL OKAY THEN,” I yell to the door. “AND USE SOAP THIS TIME!”
This kind of stimulating conversation has become the norm in my house these days. In fact, it’s become so second nature to me that I’m using these questions as preludes to cocktail party small talk. “Did you brush your teeth today?” I asked the bartender at a charity fundraiser last month.
He looked at me horrified, “Yes, I brushed them this morning.” He placed my overpriced drink in front of me and haughtily stomped away from the table.
As the waiter placed my filet in front of me, I asked, “Have you showered in the last 14 days?”
He gasped in shock, “Look lady, if the steak isn’t done to your liking, please just tell me. You don’t have to insult me with those kinds of questions!”
I turned to my husband who was chewing his steak innocently next to me. “Did you put deodorant on before we left?” I asked.
Silence hung over the table as all the guests stared at my husband. “Nice,” he whispered through clenched teeth, “Very nice touch.”
Louder he said, “Why yes, honey, of course.” He smiled at the other guests who picked up their forks, unsure if they should start eating again or plug their noses. “We have a teenage son,” he informed them. “You know how it goes.”
They all nodded knowingly. One obviously experienced mother leaned over and said, “It’ll get better,” she said. “Wait until he meets a girl he likes.”
“How long will that take?” I asked, desperate for some sort of realistic timeline.
“Oh, it can take years,” she answered cheerfully.
Polly needs another cocktail.