You’re getting socks for Christmas.

And you’re going to be thankful for them, because instead of living this comfortably middle class lifestyle in warm socks, you could be a homeless, motherless, sockless child in a war-torn, third world country.  Think on that a while, you self-absorbed American teenager.

I know you don’t always think before you speak and I accept it as part of your age-appropriate charm.  And I know you can’t always see past the sparkling pink blinders that are super glued to the sides of your curly blonde head either, but it sure would be nice if my own mother’s words “I told you so” weren’t constantly echoing inside my head every time I felt like tackling you into a full-Nelson and forcing you to say ten nice things to me.  “Your meatloaf isn’t that dry Mum!  Your hair looks less oily than yesterday Mum!  My jeggings really do smell like a mountain spring after you wash and dry them Mum!”

I know your intentions don’t come from a place of cruelty, rather from peer pressure, and I appreciate your frustrations, how trying it must feel to be such a mature 13 year old and still at the mercy of such unyieldingly strict parents who are constantly trying to ruin your life with educational diversions and promises of non-electronic gifts under the tree.  I would suggest packing your suitcases and moving in with your loving grandparents, unfortunately for you they’re all either university professors or artists and musicians who will make you write poetry and solve for x in your spare time.

I love you little one and I want you to be happy, even if your definition of happy and my definition of happy often meet at the hopeless, impassable crossroads of Hot Topic and Barnes & Noble.  And as much as you might think I don’t “get it”, I do.  The reason you even have a cell phone, Facebook account, iTunes account, new iPod and a fabulous wardrobe is because “I get it.”  And the reason you can’t yet go to the movies alone with boys, have unlimited access to the internet and don’t have a television in your bedroom is also because “I get it.”  I was 13 years old once upon a time in the late 80’s, when my Rick Springfield mullet, my one-piece, homemade tracksuit and my complete New Kids On The Block tape collection were marginally cool, depending on the crowd.  I was 13 years old one upon a time and not only had my goofy, lisping father as a math teacher in school, but also as a soccer, basketball and softball coach, which added an extra special, hell-like quality to my already graceless, buck-toothed middle school existence.  I was 13 years old once upon a time and was completely convinced my parents’ only ambition in life was to see me suffer everyday through the endless eating of raw, organic Co-Op foods, as opposed to the cool foods my friends’ parents served.  Thinking they were chocolate, I tried sharing carob chips during 6th grade snack time once and was almost beaten up.  From then on I just crushed up the bulgur wheat tortilla shells and pretended I was eating Doritos like everybody else.  I was 13 years old once upon a time and wasn’t allowed electronic entertainment unless Square One Television on PBS or Saturday nights with Garrison Keillor counted.  And when my friends would talk about how hot Kirk Cameron was during last night’s episode of Growing Pains, I would just nod my head and laugh because the only thing I had watched that night was Mathman and his veracious appetite for polygons.

I do remember the pressures of being 13 and having parents who wanted to add nothing but good, wholesome things to my mind and body.  And I remember challenging them around every corner, disagreeing with them for no other reason than to disagree.  But they persisted, like the annoyingly good parents they were, and continue to be.  So don’t ever assume I have nothing better to occupy my time with other than plotting evil schemes to bring you to your untimely, but eventual social death.  If that were the case, you’d be wearing my old moon boots to school and The Captain and Tennille would be blaring through the sunroof of my Subaru Forester as I wait for you in the carpool lane after school.

Although you might think I’m trying to kill you this Christmas, I’m really not.  I’m simply having difficulty rationalizing an iPod Touch, a flat screen television or a laptop computer that might ultimately distract you from and weaken your relationships with the people who love you the most.  There are few years left for you to live as a child, unencumbered by this over stimulating world and as your beautiful head is swimming with notions about how to change the world, it’s my job to keep the path clear so you don’t trip while your head is in the clouds.  I know you’re destined for big, brilliant things and until you’re able to stand on your own two feet, adequately balanced on the fence between social pressures and what’s actually good for you, I promise to carry on with my current parenting tactics.  You won’t always like them and you will undoubtedly often hate them.  But it’s my job so suck it up, my sweet buttercup.

Renée Chalou

About Renée Chalou

Renée Chalou lives and raises her family in Presque Isle, where she owns a fitness center, LiveWell United. Her oldest son is in his second year at UMO, her daughter plans to attend UMPI in the spring and her youngest son is an active, happy 11 year old in 6th grade. From her life experiences as a homeschooling parent, blending a family, and transforming herself from an overweight, side-line mother to a competitive athlete mother and fitness leader in her community, she writes about what she knows: living life well even when it's not perfect. She writes about finding and clinging to the good even when it would be easy to focus on the bad, no matter what challenges life brings. Life in Northern Maine is wonderful, full of adventures and sub-zero temperatures. It's not for everybody and nobody claims it's easy. But it's a good life, it's hers and she'd like to share some of it with you.