Driving down the road in a Camaro packed with children …
Before I go on, no. A Camaro — especially my sporty little one — is not your typical “Mom Van” that should be stuffed with children. But it was literally either a red “Mom Van” or a sporty, black Camaro. I chose the Camaro. My husband drives the “Dad Van”. I win.
Back to the drive. As we are driving, enjoying some tunes on the radio, and playfully bantering around, the high school that my daughter attends calls me (hands-free car, so no worries).
It is a robocall about attendance. Since Covid has hit the world and attendance has flipped upside down, all around, and twisted the norm of school and life into a million crazy turns, I typically ignore these calls. But on this day, my “mom gut” answered the call.
The robocall proceeds to tell me that my student has missed “Period 2” aka Algebra II.
My 15, nearing 16-year-old, is sitting front passenger seat, listening to the robocall.
I glanced at her, “Adelyne, were you in Algebra II today?”
Without blinking, which, in hindsight, should have been my first clue, she answered, “Yes, Mom. The teacher takes attendance according to seating chart and X was not there today, so I was sitting in his seat. So, Mom, she must have missed me.”
It was reasonable. After all, high school teachers have over a hundred students a day. A simple mistake could be made.
In my mind, had I actually cared enough to rewind and repeat her explanation, I would have thought back to my junior high days of teaching where I, too, had over 100 students a day and knew each by face and name and pretty much never made the mistake of marking one absent when he/she was present.
Fast forward twenty years, three kids later, a non-profit in 6 countries, and a small e-commerce LLC, my teacher brain is not as sharp as it once was, so I eagerly accepted this verbiage as fact and called the school’s attendance line.
It was after hours, so I left a message.
It went something Iike this, “Hi, this is Brooke, my daughter is Adelyne. Her school ID is xxxxxx,” pausing, I ask Adelyne, while still on the phone leaving my message, “That’s your school ID, right, Ada?” To which she replies, “Yes, that’s my ID.”
Right there, folks. Right there is where my sophomore in high school should have stopped me and told me to hang up the phone. But she didn’t. She allowed me to repeat her school ID, proceed to tell the attendance recording that Adelyne was in school, and that the teacher was mistaken.
Ending the phone call, we traveled merrily, in my fun car, all the way home. We enjoyed our evening and dinner. I think she even went roller skating around the park late at night with her best friend from Poland, Wiktoria, who happens to be here visiting until April. Ada was living up her best life being a carefree, school-attending teenager!
Until the next afternoon. That’s when a robocall turned into an email that Mom was not happy to open, and it began like this:
Dear Mrs. N.,
We spoke with Adelyne’s math teacher. Adelyne was not in class. This is something you should discuss with your daughter.
I listened to a TED talk once about the brilliance of children that lie. Let me share a bit with you, found online at The Wilson Quarterly, “Dr. Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at University of Toronto, found that children who lie more frequently at the age of two will tend to have faster brain development and lead more successful lives as they mature. Lying is a cognitive skill that depends on high-level reasoning, and the ability to fabricate a credible lie requires complex brain processes and strong mental faculties, whether integrating information from a variety of sources or misconstruing the facts in a believable fashion. After analyzing 1,200 children between the ages of two and sixteen, Dr. Lee and his team concluded that children who lie possess stronger “executive functions,” the social cognitive ability to be in control emotionally and mentally.”
I mean, “Wow!” Had my daughter been a 2-year-old, I would be soaring in her brilliance and future.
I mean, the speed at the deception that followed my simple question of “Were you in class” was truly, creatively astounding.
It took Adelyne less than a second to respond to my question. Within that second, she was able to pour forth a story so believable that I immediately called the school back and reported my daughter’s “presence” in class.
Until I found out she was not present and I had, in my own Middle-Aged Mom Fog, truly not cared to discover the truth. The excuse satisfied my soul. And I deserved a nice evening with my family, right?
But, as I tell all of my children, the truth will come out. It, however, will not always “Set you free” — consequence will reign. But at least they will live in a clean albeit “punished” conscience. Ada’s truth was about to be exposed, and she was definitely going to be “free” from many of her most important things.
Calling Adelyne into the room, I asked, yet again, “Ada (this is her Polish name), the school just wrote me an email and said you were not in class,” insert long mom pause — the worst pauses known to children, “Were you in class, Ada?”
Just like it took Ada less than one second to concoct her yesterday lie, it took me less than one second to see on her face the true answer, “Ada was not in class.”
Screw “possess(ing) stronger “executive functions,” (and) the social cognitive ability to be in control emotionally and mentally” — my nearly 16-year-old daughter had lied to me. I was not the “proud” mother of a lying child that may or may not possess a “faster brain development (that) lead(s) (to) more successful lives as she matures.”
Not only that, she sat there and repeated her Student ID while I was on the phone with her school. I am certain they could hear Ada in the background repeating her Student ID to me. What in the world???!!! How easy would it have been for Ada to say, “Hang up the phone, Mom, I have something to tell you, Mom” ??? Maybe not easy but certainly more “right”. Right?!
Well, needless to say, Adelyne entered her final week of 15 without a phone, me choosing her clothing (worst fate ever), and a parent-teacher conference with her sweet math teacher.
Ada currently held a 0% in Algebra II. Zero percent.
Not a 1%. Not a 2%. Not even a 25%.
Repeat that a few times, and you shall feel like the BEST PARENTS IN THE WORLD! Give yourself a medal, you most definitely deserve it!
Her dad and I explained to her math teacher how we were beating ourselves up for taking her out of her “home country” in April of 2020 when the pandemic was shutting down the world (her home country is Poland where she has lived 13 1/2 of her 15/16 years), and how it may likely be our fault that she was struggling in math, placing her in a class that she was not ready for because we couldn’t figure out what class she finished and where she should start between the two countries.
That is when her teacher, God bless this angelic soul, said to us, “Umm…I watch your daughter do the math work in class. She knows what she is doing. She is very capable. In fact, she could have an A by the end of the semester. She just needs to do the following two things: Be in class; Do her work.”
Two simple things that we thought she was already doing.
Ding-dong the parents are dull. And trusting. And hopeful. And, let’s be honest, plain and simple — tired.
When we signed up for parenting, we signed up for the sweet baby cuddles, little coos, sweet smiles, adorable giggles, loving hugs, cheering on at games, squiggly crayon drawings for the fridge, crooked smiles, lost teeth, Santa and the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny, the joys of dances and recitals, first loves, and homecoming photos.
We did not sign up for the exhaustion and deceit. The never-ending puzzles. The sleuth-like detective-ing that turns the ordinary person into a technology wizard. Nor the lies. The flat-out, in your face, even if you are calling the school and repeating the lie in front of me — — Lies.
And then the consequences that must follow.
What the teenagers do or do not realize is that their trouble means so.much.more.work.for.us.
Should we reward the deception with blue ribbons that seem to be so casually handed out in the world today? After all, her clever deceit and quick thinking are just possibly — maybe — let’s cross our fingers and hope, a sign that Ada, my Sweet Adelyne, will “ … lead a more successful life as she matures.”
And, as she matures, and we try to navigate these seemingly, impossibly choppy waters along the way, I will drink strong morning coffee, wear out my jeans’ knees in prayer, and keep buying the boxed hair dye — as the gray is coming from somewhere. I blame the teen. Her name is Adelyne.
Why? Because it makes me feel better.
Not because I am middle-aging it. It is her ditching deception that is definitely doing it to me.
Making me feel, in the words of the hilarious rom-com My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “OLD!”
In any and all cases, I am going to TikTok the living daylights out of her one day by either: Living at her house; Send her my hair stylist’s bill to cover the gray that she creates.
That’s what she gets for ditching. And lying. And — well, I am sure the list will grow. After all, I still have half of her sophomore year plus her final two years to get through before she traverses the world into university — alone (but not really alone). A conquering, Algebra II doing, quick-witted, complex brain processings, child-o-mine.
And I’ll make sure to love and hug her a lot along the way. Because, oh, how I hope, in the words of my mom, “This too shall pass.”
A teenager is always too tired to hold a dishcloth, but never too tired to hold a phone.
Welcome to being the parent of a teenager. Prepare for large amounts of eye-rolling, emotional outbursts, and thoughts of running away. And that’s just the parents!