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Raising a Teenager

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It’s time to leave for my vacation: a warm beach, the hot sun, and Corona with lime. A much-needed break from my parental responsibilities.
I knock tepidly on Richard’s bedroom door, and enter with his consenting grunt. For an 18-year-old boy who favors tattoos and can fit 17 straws through the holes in his ears, it’s fairly clean. It’s the mystery of what’s hidden in drawers, boxes and under the bed that entice me but keep me from searching. Better not to know.
In my left hand is his list of reminders; the boy does have ADD tenancies.

My goal is to make sure he hears me and understands me, then to place the paper securely where he will have frequent access to it–the refrigerator door.

On my list is the following:
1. In an emergency, call Aunt Dawn.
2. Feed the dog. Daily.
3. Prepared meals are in the freezer. They are microwaveable. Do NOT use the stove.

Richard nods. He rolls his eyes at me and tells me, “I got it.”

One week later, I’m home. Tanned, relaxed, and ready to resume the role as matriarch of my beautiful yet challenging offspring. The house seems in good order, possibly the result of a well-cleaned-up party in my absence.

I go downstairs and knock on Richard’s bedroom door. No answer. I grasp the doorknob and gently push. The room seems safe enough. In my head, I’m going over what I learned in first aid class about the primary survey of the scene. Is the environment safe to enter? If I enter will I cause harm to myself or others? I prepare myself to witness and aid any injuries or casualties.

There is no Richard in sight, but I see a fairly clean room and a rumpled attempt at making the twin bed. I kick a grey hoodie out of my path and it exposes 24 circles indented in the beige and white berber. On my knees now, palms down, straddling either side of the perfectly aligned circles: four rows of six. Using my forefinger, I trace the indent of one circle. It’s crusty, blackened. This requires a secondary survey of the room at floor level. What on earth would leave these marks?

My eye catches sight of a cookie tray under his bed. Pulling it out, my stomach turns. Soggy, brown triangular nachos covered in baked-on shredded cheese. Cooked and then hidden. Reaching in again, I pull out a clear plastic bag with black print. A bag I recognize from a dollar store purchase.

Richard enters only to find me flat on my stomach, in one hand a silver baking tray of moldy baked nachos and cheese, in the other the bag of 24 singed tea lights.

Richard shrugs and states simply, “You said not to use the stove.”

Heather Sharpe is the mother of four of her own and one foster daughter. She has been a daycare teacher, a resource teacher and a parenting class instructor for over 30 years. Now that her children are grown she enjoys looking back at both the challenges and the love.

Photo: Nanquim

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