The evidence is mounting that I am unprepared for the impending teenage years. Also happening is an acute sense of dread for those same years.
Last week Riley had a band concert and a softball game on the same day. Initially we thought the band concert would run long enough to prevent her from making it to the softball game. Because of this initial impression, Rye went ahead and planned some after concert activities with her band friends. These plans were reinforced by the band director who, impressed by the kids’ performance, suggested the kids all be taken to Menchie’s for frozen yogurt. Menchie’s is the cool new place to go.
Okay, a few things here. First, the kids don’t need help from authority figures to nag their parents to go get Menchie’s. The proficiency at which they nag us for Menchie’s is only rivaled by the ability of East Germany to cheat at Olympic women’s weightlifting. Second, our initial observation that the concert and softball would occur concurrently was flawed. This meant we had time to get Rye from the concert to her game before she missed much.
Note to self as I prepare for the teen era: Rye doesn’t like surprises or changes to her plans.
Let me set this up for you. Right after the fourth song, Rye has a sax solo. A sax solo I missed despite fracturing a few traffic laws as Bails and I sped from her softball practice to the concert. Concert goes well and unexpectedly fast. So I take Bails and Kinz home and get Rye’s softball stuff ready to go.
Mom gets home with Rye shortly after us. And Rye is in tears. Big ol’ fat tears! She’s whining about not being able to go the Menchie’s, stomping through the kitchen and pretty much doing a decent impression of a moody, emotionally volatile teenage girl. This did not please me and it took nearly every bit of self control for me not to give her the verbal equivalent of what the 49ers did the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.
So she does what teenagers have been doing for centuries when they don’t want to do what they’ve been told to do. She mutters comments under her breath while stalling and whining. Like Chris Matthews on election night 2010. She grumpily gets dressed for softball. At one point in the truck on the way to her game, she dropped a couple of comments about unfairness and how she didn’t even like softball.
We make the game, Rye plays well even though she doesn’t get a hit, and by some oddly enough even seems to have a good time. After the game she gathers her gear, jokes with a few of her teammates and asks if she can get something at the snack bar. And it was in that “What, you’re still mad about that whole meltdown thing I did an hour or so ago?” tone.
I tell her, yeah let’s get a snack. As soon as she gets it I hold her back a bit from the crowd walking to the parking lot and in a reasoned but stern approach I give her this:
“Riley, you are part of a team. Just like you are part of the band. You have an obligation to show up, play your hardest and support your teammates. Doesn’t matter if its softball or band. If we skipped softball, your team would have been down a player. If we skipped band? It would have messed up the whole concert because you had to be there for your solo. We had the opportunity to do both. So here’s the deal – I don’t care if you want to be on the softball team or not. You’re on it. So you are going to show up, play hard and support your teammates. Nobody is blowing their obligation to their team. You don’t let down people who are counting on you. Plus, you have all summer to do to Menchie’s with you friends. Got it?”
The emotional me-first crap rampant in teen behavior is going to kill me. I swear to the Dear Lord above I’m going to have take up kick boxing or learn how to use explosives in order to alleviate the stress and pressure.
The worst part? We think Riley is the most reasonable and grounded of the three girls. So witnessing this meltdown over frozen yogurt gave us a short but clear glimpse into our future. I suspect it was the same sinking feeling that Luke had when he discovered that the Emperor had intercepted Han and Leia’s strike team on the Forest Moon of Endor and that the deflector shield would be quite operational when the Rebel fleet arrived.
So…I kinda feel like I did when the girls first came home as babies and we were completely going on instinct and trial and error. Just when you kinda think you got some things figured out somebody gives you the wrong instruction manual. I mean I feel like somebody gave me the sound track to “The Last Days of Disco” on the way to a Poison and Def Leppard concert. Going to that concert this summer by the way. Just saying.
Worse than Riley’s meltdown was Kinsey’s a couple days later. And Kinsey is in fourth grade. Last year Kinsey’s softball team ended up being pretty good and she was playing great – including smacking the crap out of the ball on a regular basis. If she struck out, she was nearly physically incapable of concealing her outright rage. She was like Stallone in the original First Blood…”you just don’t turn it off!” This season, however, she’s started a bit slower…
Her team lost their first two games by a combined 14-3 and she struck out in all four of her at-bats. So after game #2 she’s crying on our way back to my truck. She gets in in the passenger side and she’s taking slow deliberate deep breaths trying to get a handle on the crazed fury about to unleash itself. Unsuspectingly, I get in on my side and made the typical Dad mistake of downplaying her disappointment. What happened next burned what little hair I have left off my head.
“Dad I’m supposed to be a role model to the third graders! How can I do that if I’m the only one on the team that doesn’t have a hit?! Even Ellie who is the tiniest girl out there has a hit! My team is the worst! Do you know how embarrassing it is to be on the worst team and have everyone laugh at you! I hate softball! I don’t even want to play anymore!”
So it was right here when I realized exactly how Indiana Jones felt when Belloq sealed him in the Well of Souls with all those snakes. Trapped…in the truck with a blond, 4th grade, enraged wolverine sitting in the seat next to me.
Well, I decided to stick with instinct…and since I kinda had already had it with the meltdowns…I told her to stop feeling sorry for herself, be tougher, and get ready for her next game. We’d do some practicing on our own and she’d be ready to go. That, along with what I can only assume was exhaustion brought on by the breakneck speed at which she delivered that rant, calmed her down long enough so she could get a shower and go to bed.
So all I’m saying is sometimes getting a glimpse of the future isn’t really a win.