Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sopranos and parenting

Evan and I have been watching the Sopranos. We both enjoy it in different ways.

I got pulled in over the relationship between Tony Soprano and his therapist. I find the psychological complexities interesting. On the other hand, I regularly have to ask Evan who the secondary gangsters are. Is that the one who was with Tony's uncle before? Evan just likes gangster shows. He is re-imagining his father in the image of Tony Soprano, but that is a post for another time, and perhaps another blog.

Last night we were watching an episode in which Tony's teenage daughter throws a party in her grandmother's empty house (empty even of furniture). Cops are called and the house is full of trash, urine and vomit.

Tony and his wife have a late-night conversation about their powerlessnesss. The mother points out that if they deny her driving priviledges they will have to chauffeer her around. If they ground her they will have to stay home and be jailers. Tony said that phyical punishment is illegal and if they kick her out they will be the ones in court. Early in the episode the aunt lectures the parents about being too controlling. She tells them that the daughter is behaving normally, seeking her own independent identity and that they, the parents, need to accept that and not try to cage her. Later in the episode the aunt sees the house and explodes in rage. How can her parents let her get away with such things? The daughter shows no respect for other people's property. "If she were my daughter..."

Evan found the powerlessness of the adults to be hilarious. I shoke my head and hollered my own advice at the television. "You're not powerless, you lack creativity! Doors come off hinges! Take away her make-up and hair products!" In a calmer moment I said that it was obvious what should be done. The daughter should be dropped off at the house with cleaning products and be told she couldn't leave until the place was clean. (At the end of the episode, Tony finds his daughter cleaning. It is not clear if the mother or aunt made her or if the daughter is doing it voluntarily after hearing the adults argue about how horrible she is and what should be done to her.)

Maria was watching quietly with us and Evan started baiting me. "Yondalla's never done anything to me." "Oh, Yondalla, you know I can get away with anything. You never stop me." And then finally, "I have time. Five weeks left. I should be able to get in at least three strangers before I go." This reference to the sexcapades was about all I could handle. I paused the DVD.

--Before going on, I wonder if you know that if you have two remotes and you hold down the pause button on one of them the other person can do nothing except turn off the machine? --

"Evan, I need to tell me that you will agree to abide by the rules we have agreed upon."

"Yondalla...come on! I was joking."

"I'm not."

He pushes on his remote, frustrated and laughing about his inability to make anything happen. He turns off the TV. "Now no one can watch it."

"That's fine with me."

"You're being ridiculous." He tries to make light of everything. He grins and says, "You know there's nothing you can do to stop me anyway."

I consider telling him that I can cancel his Netflix account, refuse to let him practice driving in my car, help pay for his driving insurance, or I could toss his butt out on the street. I consider telling him that he is nineteen and should not need threats like these to treat other people respectfully. I know that all the bravado is about impressing Maria. As with Jackie, he wants to create the impression that he has no rules here; he can do whatever he wants and I have no control over him. I say only, "I need you to tell me you will continue to live by the rules to which we have all agreed."

He glances at Maria who is trying not to look too interested. Nervously he says, "I don't want to talk about this now."

"Neither do it. Just tell me that you will abide by the rules we have agreed to."

"Okay, okay. You know I would have anyway."

"Okay." I put down the remote and he turned the show back on. He quickly made some other joking comment about the characters, to which I replied in kind; our little way of demonstrating that there were no hard feelings.

Score one for parental authority.

I suppose it is normal for a 19 year old to be a mixture of 25 and 12. He is so responsible in so many ways. More so than many of the kids. He has entirely on his own, got his passport, his visa (that just got approved), and his plane ticket for Scotland. He just now got a job at yet another fast food restaurant. He is large and in charge.

The evening when Maria was dropped off, Evan got a notice that he had over-draft fines. He went on line to discover that with all the clothes that he had bought (for which he will be reimbursed) he had over-spent by $5. This resulted in fines which put him even lower. For some reason they had fined him $30 about a dozen times in the past three days so that he was now $300+ in the hole. He discovered this immediately after Maria and her two workers came in.

His face filled with panic and tears in his eyes he said, "Yondalla. I need your help."

I glanced at his computer screen and saw that he was at the bank web site. "Let me show Maria around and then I will be back."

"No. This is an emergency. I need you now."

"Evan, it is 6:00pm. However bad it is, it will not get worse in the next 12 hours. I will show Maria her room and help you later."

"I need you now."

I patted him on the shoulder, "I will be back." I walked out with Maria and the workers. After the tour, the newer worker said, "Evan is really upset." "Yeah. I looks like a banking thing. He's panicked. I don't know if he understands that it really can't get worse right now. I'll help him in a few minutes." I grinned at her, "This is a good lesson for him."

We all four came back to the living room and immediately Evan demanded that I help him NOW. I asked Maria if she had any questions and took Evan's computer from him. He said he did not know how this had happened. I told him that it looked like it happened $10 at a time. That is the way it usually does. You buy a lunch here, a fancy coffee drink another day, don't write it all down and suddenly you have spent a couple hundred dollars over what you thought you had. The workers and I all assured him that this had happened to us too. I would write him the reimbursement check for all the clothes (even though we would not get the check from the agency for a few more weeks) and he could take it to the bank early in the morning. At the very least, it would put him in the black and stop the piling up of fines. There was more panicked talk about whether they would forgive some or all of the fines, whether he would have any money, whether I could go with him, please? I reassured him the best I could but told him that I could not go with him because he needed to be there first thing in the morning and I needed to go to work.

His social worker called the yesterday to talk about Maria. She said, "I really got to see what you have to put up with all the time."

I was confused. What was she talking about?

"Evan. He was really not able to put his own problems aside at all, even for a minute, was he? I mean he just needed you to take care of him, no matter what was going on or who was there."

Yep. He's nineteen, which means something like a mixture of 12 and 25.


Now that I have written all of this I am wondering what the point was. Am I just babbling, venting the trials of the past couple of days? It started with thinking about the Sopranos and child rearing; something about punishment and creativity; or was it about control versus understanding? I don't know anymore. Parenting is complicated. Toddlers or teenagers it does not matter. They don't need you, until they do, and then they need you NOW.

1 comment:

  1. They don't need you, until they do, and then they need you NOW.

    Truer words were never spoken.


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