The Tortoise had her phone taken away a few weeks ago for being disrespectful. At the same time I put it away, she received a text. I really wasn’t trying to be sneaky, just curious. Maybe it was an important text for school. (Or maybe I just felt like I had the right to look at it since I pay the bill). It went something like this:
The Tortoise: I’m so upset. My life sucks sometimes.
Friend: What? Why?
The Tortoise: My mom is pissed at me again. She’s in a mood.
Friend: It seems like you and your mom fight all the time. Is she always in a mood?
I showed the texts to my mom who was visiting.
“Am I missing something here? She got in trouble because of her actions, not my mood.”
My mom smiled, “Welcome to the world of teens.”
I never said a word about the texts, although it burned a whole in my chest for several days. The weekend came and went. She got her phone privileges back and life returned to normal.
Until Tuesday night.
Tuesday night DW and I found a basket full of wet, sour-smelling clothes in the laundry room. He was looking for his jeans and shorts to pack for a business trip the next morning. The smell was relentless, oozing into the air as I pulled towels, jeans and t-shirts out of the basket.
“What is all this?” I asked DW. He was livid.
“These are the clothes that were supposed to be washed and dried on Sunday.”
“Sunday?” I exclaimed, “That was three days ago!”
In the back of my mind I suddenly recalled hearing the dryer running that morning. The Tortoise told me she had a shirt she wanted to wear to school but it wasn’t quite dry. DW and I approached her immediately, only to get the usual canned response, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”. It’s exasperating to have a conversation with someone who simply pleads The Fifth. Here is what I do know and what I think I know:
- Sunday afternoon a load of clothes went in the wash. The Tortoise was supposed to put them in the dryer and forgot.
- Tuesday morning, The Tortoise realized her clothes weren’t dry and put one of her shirts in the dryer but nothing else. And didn’t bother to tell me that morning so I could rectify the situation.
- Tuesday night The Tortoise did a load of whites (underwear, I guess we learned that lesson). She washed and dried the second load but put the first wet load in a basket to “deal with later”. Again, told no one.
We weren’t angry she forgot to put the clothes in the dryer. We were angry because she didn’t tell anyone her mistake and then tried to say that she thought they were dry enough. (Although I reminded her that she had to dry her shirt that morning, so obviously she didn’t think they were dry enough). Eventually she caved.
“Alright! I needed my underwear more than you needed your jeans.”
She’s grounded this weekend, which is a bummer because it’s the last week of school and there are several fun things she was invited to with her friends. Plus, it was the first grounding she’s had all school year. We had made it almost unscathed. Combating selfishness is a daily task when raising children, but lying? How do parents instill honesty and accountability? Those are character traits that will follow you into adulthood.
When The Tortoise got home from school Wednesday, she was still barely speaking to me.
“How was your day?”
“Did you let your friends know you can’t come Friday night?”
“Yeah…and I told them how ridiculous you are being.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I told them how pissed you got just because I wanted to do my laundry Tuesday night and forgot to put the other clothes in the dryer.”
I held my breath. Don’t react. Only respond.
“So you only told them half-truths. What about the part where you dumped those clothes in a basket, never told anyone about the original mistake and then tried to deny it?”
“The only truth my friends care about is my side. They’re my friends, not yours.”
And so begins our summer. Perhaps it’s not too late to sign up for summer school.