This is an analysis on the correlation of raising teenagers, tomatoes and tomcats. Enjoy and
Raising children is a lot like growing tomatoes. Good food, fresh air and sunshine, enough liquids, and what do you get? With tomatoes, a crop envied by neighbors, with children you get teenagers. Now a tomato is a tomato, but no one raising a baby ever expects a teenager.
Parents are lulled into a false sense of security, forgetting that kittens, too, are cute, but grow up to be cats; aristocratic animals that require sufficient homage. Teenagers demand it.
I had six children, five of them teenagers at the same time. The moment my first child passed her thirteenth birthday the quality of my life deteriorated. As her sisters and brothers followed close behind her into turbulent adolescence, I fought a downhill battle for my sanity and peace of mind.
As babies, they never gave me any trouble. They were lovable, didn’t get around much and except for their proclivity for early morning hours, did not require a great deal of time or effort. Surviving toddlers was relatively easy as long as I remembered that I was bigger than they were.
During their pre-teen years, my children were too embarrassed by puberty and braces to be much of a problem; except for the boys, but that’s another story. Erupting pimples, chronic clumsiness and oily, lifeless hair kept them in line. I was surprised they ever left the house.
Most parents are in their late forties when their children become teenagers, putting them at a distinctive disadvantage. It is no coincidence that’s when a lot of adults are losing hair and teeth, developing high blood pressure and ulcers. Teenagers are in their prime; fit, tightly muscled, and sharp-minded, untainted by the debilitating shades of middle age. And who gets to control these powerhouses of raging hormones? Tired, worn-out parents whose once starry eyes have faded, or at least been fitted for glasses.
My teenagers were not only rough on me, but also destroyed everything within their reach. My home, with a mortgage that will outlive my life expectancy, looked like a demolition site. Stairway walls wore smudged handprints at various heights, and there were deep ruts in the carpet resembling cow paths. The living room, looking anything but alive, was flooded with pizza boxes, soda cans, and magazines, except for the ones the boys hid under their beds.
Houdini, the family hamster, was lost in that room for six weeks and when found, was twice his original size. Whenever I attempted to clean up, someone’s homework was missing and you know who got blamed. I can’t comment on my teenager’s rooms. I never found the courage to enter one.
It was hard to maintain a middle-class status with teenagers in the house. They borrowed on their adequate allowances and ran up my charge cards. I wouldn’t have minded if the money spent on clothing presented them as well-dressed young adults. Instead, the girls looked like bag ladies and the boys like walking advertisements for the local army surplus stores.
And their hair . . . I can’t bring myself to describe it without activating an attack of hives. I often considered the pros and cons of moving away without not leaving them a forwarding address.
The day my children graduated from bicycles to automobiles, I joined a meditation class. One of them misjudged the garage door by two feet and bent the chasis on the car I had hopes of owning until retirement. Grounding this child was a punishment I hardly deserved. He sulked in his room, unbathed and sullen, blasting me into early deafness with his stereo; the stereo that had put my charge account over the limit. I cut his punishment to two weeks, in self-defense.
My teenagers always sensed when they had pushed me to my limit. The house would be mysteriously cleaned. Hand-picked wild flowers would be placed on the table and the dishes done without argument. Sometimes they would serve me breakfast in bed, which always scared me, as that meant someone had done something very wrong or very expensive.
They were lovable, beautiful, and exasperating, the definition of a teenager. They could be perfect angels or something out of the “Exorcist,” and make the change with lightning swiftness.
High school graduation was my favorite event. It meant that another teenager was on the road to maturity. Of course a rose never comes without a thorn. The thorn in my side was the senior prom, every parent’s nightmare.
I stared wide-eyed at my female child, standing before me in a fitted, low-cut gown that made me wince. She walked toward me, a volatile vision of loveliness, leaned over and kissed my lightly.
“I won’t be too late, Mom,” she said and smiled a woman’s smile. I recognized that smile. I had used it successfully most of my life. I knew it was going to be a long night, a night filled with worry, fear and more than a touch of pride. My sons’ proms were no less nerve-wracking. I sat poised on the couch half the night, expecting momentarily to hear that they had been arrested.
It must be true that God never puts more on parents than they can bear. Just about the time I was at the end of my rope, raising what appeared to be young people, but I was never sure, one by one, my teenagers approached adulthood. I was going to survive them after all. They were almost human now, almost responsible adults. They got jobs, went off to College, entered the real world, and some, I note with a chuckle, got married. The tomcats staked out their own territories; the tomatoes mellowed into a sauce fit for kings.
My teenagers, reared with love, stamped with morality, were ready in the years ahead, to become the parents of children. Children who would one day (and this is how I know there is a God) become TEENAGERS!