by Beau Hebert
Dear The Beauster,
I genuinely dislike my son. He’s fourteen and thinks he’s king of the world. He’s lazy, insensitive and rude. All he does is stay cooped up in his room smoking marijuana, listening to loud music. He gets terrible grades and has nothing but disdain for everyone, especially me. When I ask him what he wants to be as an adult he says things like, “serial killer,” or “crackhead.” His father is long gone, so I’m left to deal with him on my own. He refuses to receive counseling and is basically ruining my life. Any advice?
Northgate Mom at the end of my Maternal Tether
Dear N-Gate M at the end of your M T,
My heart goes out to you. I myself was once a lazy, insufferable fourteen year-old with a hyper-inflated ego. I truly do not understand how anyone tolerated me at the time.
It was the Fall of 1984 when I’d finally rappelled to the last frayed strands of my own mother’s maternal tether and, despite her efforts to love me through my teenage angst, she booted me out of the house. This was probably the best thing for me at the time. The squalor, mildewy carpet, roaches and scary co-tenants of my friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend’s apartment woke me up. Suddenly my mom seemed, well, not so horrid…. And I wanted her spaghetti!
During my period of quasi-homeless vagabonding, Mom took all the energy she normally used for yelling at me and applied it to networking with the parents of my friends. They formed a group called MAPP – “Mothers Against Pubescent Punks.” They’d meet a couple times a week to compare notes on the abhorrent behavior of their offspring.
The MAPP parents were strictly business at first, exchanging information and developing tracking techniques specific to disaffected teenagers. At MAPP’s fourth meeting, a box of white Chablis joined their ranks and the tenor of the conversation changed. The group moved past the fundamental misery of parenting their awful teenagers and managed to find humor in our alarming behavior, brushes with the law, transparent lies, shaved sections of scalp, anarchy symbols scarred into our arms, and godawful decision-making. They had formed a support system.
One fateful evening, a desire for Mom’s spaghetti overtook my bid to annihilate my future, and I decided to return home. As I approached the house where I grew up, I could hear a clamoring within. Stepping into the living room, I was confronted by a pack of fatigued middle-aged women brandishing wine glasses. “There he is!” my mom screamed “There’s the little asshole I’ve been talking about!” A tornado of Mom Fury whipped up in the center of the room, violent with indignation and pent-up rage: “YOU DID THIS! YOU DID THAT! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING! YOU, YOU, YOU!” It was as if I’d stepped into a Roman coliseum of raving, Chablis-fueled divorcees, bloodthirsty in their desire to see me get torn apart by lions. I slumped away and went up the stairs to my room. Behind me, the Mother’s Against Pubescent Punks exploded in a hyena-like symphony of cackles. Their painfully-won catharsis would be the price for homemade spaghetti.
Times have changed and maybe kicking your teenage kid out of the house isn’t as much of an option, but the point of all of this autobiographical detail is that finding a support network is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. You’ll get camaraderie, coping techniques, resources to help you and, hopefully, just enough gallows humor to endure your son’s terrible teens. Best of luck!
Overheard at the bar: “Do you have that blue liquor stuff? I want some of that blue liquor stuff!”
Prescription from the back bar pharmacy at Jude’s Old Town: The Healer – A Ginger-Infused vodka hot toddy with lots of fresh lemon and ginger-honey crystals.”
Beau Hebert is the owner of Jude’s Old Town in Rainier Beach and Lottie’s Lounge in Columbia City.
Featured image by Alex Garland