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Joan Garry Headshot

Who's The Grownup?

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I would call my research thorough although not exhaustive. I can't find a parent / teenager blog anywhere. A place where a mom and her teenager can talk AT each other for all the world to read. A place where each can offer differing observations about the news of the day, where the teenager can talk about how right she is about all things and how ill-equipped and misguided her mother is about most things.

So rather than acknowledge that there may in fact be a good reason that there is not such a place, we have created one. We call it www.whosthegrownup.com. In case the nuance is not clear, the title acknowledges that there is not always a direct correlation between age and maturity.

Our daughter Scout is 17. She likes to think of herself as an only child. She is not. She has a 12 year old brother and a 12 year old sister. She has not one mother but two. She is quick to point out (as she has in the post below) that some find it a bit unusual. She just finds it twice as annoying.

I am not 17. I have not been 17 in 32 years. Sometimes I feels like a grownup. Sometimes I feel like I am eight. I am a nationally recognized gay rights activist. I thought that was a very hard job until I decided to step down from my role as the executive director of GLAAD to be a stay-at-home mom. Advocating for "the gays" may have been easier.

In these two years that I have been home, I have learned many things. I have learned that we create enormous amounts of dirty laundry and that one moment you are dropping your kids at school and two seconds later, they are walking back in the door. I have learned to make a mean Bolognese sauce. I have also learned that your kids need you more when they are older than when they are younger.

Many years ago, our ob/gyn told us that she was getting out of the ob part of the ob/gyn practice. "The hours are just too unpredictable for my family," she told me. I was puzzled. "But your kids - they are older now - they are in their teens." She responded with a comment that has stayed with me. "Anyone can wipe your baby's bottom, she said, but only you can tell your teenager they are behaving like a big jerk.."

I knew Jill was right the moment she said it. And so here I am. Home. I feel more responsible as a parent than I have felt in a long time. I'm not sure I feel that much more effective but I do feel more responsible.

When I worked full time, I'd return home after a long day and expect each kid to tell me about the day. I'd find myself badgering them if the only response I got was a grunt. I wanted to know, damn it. And while of course I cared, there was also something selfish about it. Knowing about their day somehow made me feel better. Strike that. I think I mean less guilty.

Today I saunter down from my office right around dismissal time. I double-check that there is an ample array of snacks and then teenagers begin piling through the door. I don't ask any questions - I just listen. I've gotten to know (and like) my daughter's boyfriend - he seems to throw wrappers away unlike the three kids who live here full time. The conversations cover the usual topics - sometimes I weigh in and sometimes I bow out. But it all happens on Scout's terms and not on mine. And therein lies the biggest difference.

I feel lucky. Very lucky. Not everyone can call it a day and do the stay-at-home thing. I'm not sure my kids would use the word 'lucky' but I do believe that, at some level, they appreciate my presence around here. And not just because there are more snacks around the house.

The conversations around here have changed. They are not rushed, not as neurotic, not as loud (at least not all the time). There's a lot more give and take.

And this is why the blog seemed like an interesting idea. Maybe Scout and I can illustrate that a mom and a teenager can spend time together on a project without strangling one another.
I don't know how long we can keep it up, but while it lasts, join us daily for our observations about the news, culture, parenting, teenagers and anything else that strikes our fancy. www.whosthegrownup.com.

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