By Tracy Beckerman
Some kids ease into adolescence with very little fanfare while others seem to slam into it with such force they leave their parents feeling like roadkill on the interstate.
My son fell somewhere in between.
The first couple of years of teenagedom weren’t that shockingly different from his pre-teen years. Although he was definitely inching toward more independence, we still had our say over things like bedtime, clothing, and the amount of time he was on the computer. But as he spent more time texting his friends and killing Nazi zombies on the Xbox, and less time playing Rumicube with the family, I could see the innocent days of his childhood were coming to a close. We insisted that he still attend family dinners because Dr. Oz said this was important, and if Dr. Oz says it is so, it must be true. But we gave our son a longer leash and more texting minutes to show him we understood his need for more freedom.
As he entered high school and started spending more and more time out with his friends, whispers of drug and alcohol use among his classmates started drifting back to us. We knew his friends were good kids and we were confident that he would remember all the lessons we had drummed into his head through grade school. But we also know that teenagers are from Mars and their brains work in mysterious ways. Would he actually say no when presented with some illegal offering just because we told him to, or would he decide to join the party? We weren’t really sure.
Once he got his drivers license, we realized all bets were off. Now he had true freedom, or at least as much freedom as he could jam in before his junior license expired at 11pm, his car turned into a pumpkin and he had to be home.
Still, kids can still get into plenty of trouble before 11pm. So even though we generally went to sleep before he got home, we insisted that he knock on our door when he got back and let us know he was home. We also insisted that he actually enter our bedroom and kiss us good night. We didn’t do this to try to recapture the affection he used to shower on us as a child. We did it because Dr. Oz said it was a good opportunity to smell your kid’s breath and make sure he wasn’t partaking in the sacred herb or something like that while he was out.
Of course we didn’t tell our son we were sniffing his breath. We just told him we wanted to hug him goodnight because we were so happy he was home safely. Better he think we were sentimental goofs than the parental police.
Things went along this way for several months, and although he never missed curfew or smelled of anything suspicious, we kept up the routine. He was never the wiser and it made us feel like we were being good parents.
But then one night he came home, knocked on the door and came in to kiss me goodnight. As he leaned over, he opened his mouth and blasted a big, nasty waft of onions all over my face.
“Ugh,” I exclaimed recoiling from his breath. “Why did you do that?”
“Well, you’re always sniffing my breath for booze and I don’t drink,” he explained. “So I had a huge sub with onions tonight to give you something good to sniff for a change.”
He burst out laughing and went to bed.
I turned to my husband and sighed.
“So, what does Dr. Oz say about onion breath?”
Tracy Beckerman writes the nationally syndicated column “Lost in Suburbia” and is the author of the book, “Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir. How I got pregnant, lost myself, and got my cool back in the New Jersey Suburbs.” (2013, Perigee).
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