Cellphones, Teenagers and the Art of War

As my daughter so charmingly pointed out last night, she's more than half-grown and already has one foot out the door.

"Only six more years to freedom, Mom!"

It's hard to take her eagerness to grow up personally, (although I will admit to a fleeting desire to help move her a little quicker out of the nest by firmly planting my foot in her arse and giving her a shove,) when it doesn't seem so long ago that I, myself, was chomping at the bit to shuck my parent's constrictive reigns and get my first real taste of grown up freedom.

I dreamed of sweet adult freedoms like no curfews, the ability to listen to my music as loudly as I wanted without my father yelling at me to turn that racket off and being able to take a shower without my sister pounding on the bathroom door whining about how I was hogging all the hot water.

But like most adults, the crash of reality came tumbling around my ears when I realized I'd have to cook my own dinners, the fridge didn't magically restock itself and the bills would just keep arriving no matter how many times I swept them under the bed.

Suddenly, the savory freedom of adulthood was no longer as palatable as it once was when I was dreaming of it while under the cushiony comfort of my parent's roof.

That's a lesson Fric and Frac have yet to learn and while I look forward to watching them taste their first bite of grown up independence, I'm in no hurry to wish away what little remains of their childhood.

I now understand that time is a finite thing and all too quickly I will be puttering around in my empty house, calling them a million times a day while wondering why they never come to see me anymore.

Still, trying to explain this to my children so they understand is like trying to understand what it is my husband actually does for a living whenever I bother asking.

All I hear is blah blah blah Tower three blah blah blah tools blah blah blah. I end up tuning him out while imagining doing sexy times with Daniel Craig much the same way my kids tune me out and dream of sugar plums and fairies when I tell them not to rush growing up.

While the sands of parenting are quickly shifting around my feet with every step they take closer to adulthood, I find myself enjoying my kids even more than I did the day before. They are becoming little people; people whom I have molded and twisted and formed into little mini Tanis's.

It's rather cool, I thought to myself, smiling as I watched my children whine about how no one else's parents make them eat brussel sprouts for dinner.

"What's so funny?" Fric asked while noticing my goofy grin.

"Nothing," I covered, not wanting to be busted for my sudden sappy mood. Better they think I'm a hardened prison warden, capable of no mercy. It makes growling at them much more believable when I need it.

"I was just wondering how you enjoyed your birthday, Fric. I was wondering if all your birthday wishes came true." Nicely done, Tanis. Totally turn the tables and her attention back to herself so she doesn't realize you are really a big ball of gooey mush when you think of your spawn. I mentally patted myself on the back.

"Well, I really liked the party you threw for me. It was a lot of fun to have all my cousins play with me over the weekend. I didn't even mind that you burned supper and dropped the cake. The cool presents made up for that," she graciously offered.

Geez kid. Thanks. You try cooking supper with 13 small children tugging at your apron strings and you sister-in-law pouring wine coolers down your throat until you can no longer see straight. Let's see how well you cook cross-eyed. Everyone was damn lucky I bought a veggie platter so at least something was edible as I slurred and stumbled around like a drunken fool.

"But I didn't get the one thing I really wanted," she sighed heavily.

"Oh really? And just what was that?" I asked curiously, hoping she wouldn't tell me she wished for her brother's resurrection or something just as miraculous.

"I didn't get a cell phone," she moaned.

"Oh puh-leeez," I drawled. "What in the world do you need a cell phone for when you are TWELVE years old? You are picked up and chauffeured around in a bus and spend all day at school surrounded by your friends. And if you aren't there, you are at home with me, where we have not one but three phones. I think you can live without a cell phone for now," I firmly told her.

"But MOOOOM. Everyone in my class has one. Even my cousin! I'm like the only kid in school who doesn't have one," she whined.

"Your brother doesn't have one and he goes to the same school," I pointed out.

"Fine," she rolled her eyes. "We are the only TWO kids in the entire school who aren't cool enough to have a cell phone. It's embarrassing."

I looked at her and the image of me having this same conversation with my mother when I was twelve flashed before my eyes. Except substitute cell phone for acid washed jeans. Trippy.

"And if everyone jumped off a bridge you would too? I thought I raised you to be an independent thinker?"

"MOOOOM." Eye roll. Good thing I'm getting used to seeing the back of her eyeballs. It doesn't freak me out anymore. Suddenly she switched tactics. "If I had a cell phone I could be even more of an independent thinker. I would be able to have intellectual debates with my friends via text messages."

Not bad. At least she swung at the pitch even if she completely struck out.

"You mean if you had a cell phone you could flirt with the boys and gossip with the girls while you are supposed to be doing your math studies." I'm no fool. You are busted kiddo. Your momma ain't that old.

"You just don't get it," she sighed heavily.

"Oh I get it. But you aren't getting it. A cell phone that is. Not until you start working and driving. Then we'll talk," I told her as I pinched her adorable pouting little cheeks.

"What about negotiations! You always say there is room for compromise. Where is the compromise here?" she half whined, half argued.

Damn. I hate when they actually listen to me, twist my words to their benefit and toss them at my feet. Clever devil spawn.

Looking at her, I could see she wasn't going to give this up any time soon. I had two choices - play her game or put my foot down and be forever remembered as the mean mommy.

"Fine Fric. Here's your compromise. Your negotiation," I finger quoted. Her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. (Dear lawd it can be fun to torture your offspring sometimes, I thought to myself as I could see the hope suddenly blossom in her mind.)

"You can have a cell phone -" Fric squealed with glee and clapped her hands while I spoke. (Such an amateur. She has much to learn still. Heh.)

"Or you can have a year's supply of toilet paper. One or the other. Not both. And that is my final answer. There is your compromise. YOU decide which is more important. And keep in mind there won't always be leaves on the tree for you to use," I grinned.

"MOM!" She wailed.

"Take it or leave it kid. Those are your options. You decide."

She looked at me and tried to decide if I really would deprive her of teepee for the year. I could see the battle wage within her.

"Fine. You win. Toilet paper," she whispered broken-heartedly.

"Wise choice, kiddo," I winked at her. "Better to be the only kid in class without a cell phone than the stinky kid. Now go do your homework."

Fric shuffled off, defeated by her wily mother, and muttering obscenities under her breath.

I may have won that battle, but I know the war is only beginning. I better keep an eye on her closet and make sure she doesn't start stock piling toilet paper any time soon.

After all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.