“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Most credit author Charles Dickens for that first line in “A Tale of Two Cities.”
But I believe it is coined by parents of teenagers during summer vacation. Even though our daughters’ teen years are far behind them, my hubby, Dave, and I recall that period all too well.
For the teens, the day following the last day of school, it is the best of times and the worst of times. For us, it is the worst of times and times too horrible to contemplate.
Enter the 16-year-old with her first car. Danielle now has the mobility to leave her block unchaperoned for the first time on wheels numbering greater than three.
Her parents, however, are a wreck until she returns home, sometime perilously close to her curfew. So’s the auto. The vehicle limps home on flat tires. By night’s end, the car is a dedication to junker-car heaven.
The front door of our home is a revolving one, and more strangers are in our family room than crowded the deck of the Titanic as it sank. These people are friends, acquaintances and passers-by whose common bond with our daughters is they share the same area code, our living space and our food supply.
The best of times for the teens is their total freedom, absence of responsibility and mobility. The worst of times for them follow all the above when they’re grounded anywhere from one week to three years for various infractions of house rules.
The worst of times for us is when the neighbors no longer speak to us because they haven’t had a full night’s sleep since June. The final straw is when our daughter’s car, and the tree in front of our house, are swaddled in toilet paper, and the paper hangers leave cackling loudly and squealing their car’s tires from here to the state line in the dead of night.
The times too horrible to contemplate are when we, the parents, are grounded along with our kids. We go no farther than the mailbox at the end of our driveway for fear our daughters may have too good of a time if our absence is longer.
While I’m at it, Dickens must have stolen that last line, too. “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done.”
[With apologies to my daughters, and Keith (who later joined our family as our son-in-law), thanking them in advance for letting me have fun at their expense. This story – with some minor tinkering – was published in The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y. when they were still teens.]
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* Main Photo: toilet papered tree http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b8/Toilet_papered_tree.jpg/640px-Toilet_papered_tree.jpg
* Photo – Danielle, Keith and Jenn at Excalibur, Las Vegas
* Photo: teens about to board the school bus http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3d/Children_about_to_board_the_school_bus_%28Thibodaux%2C_Louisiana%29.jpg/640px-Children_about_to_board_the_school_bus_%28Thibodaux%2C_Louisiana%29.jpg