Monday, February 17, 2014


The biggest mistake I made, when embarking on this parenthood journey, was not thinking through the biggest consequence of having babies, which is that babies grow into teenagers. I was a FABULOUS birth to age 5 parent. No small children were as snuggled and adored as mine. I wasn't too bad in the 6-12 range either: At that age, my lame jokes were still funny, and I had the knack of knowing when a hug or a hair ruffle would be appreciated and when to play it cool. 

Thirteen however, is when it goes off the rails. Now, I had, rather cleverly I thought, birthed my two children five years apart, so I always had one in the "easy" birth to 12 range.

But, like all good things, on a sunny day in early May, preadolescence came to an end. My baby, instead of remaining a child, followed in her older brother's footsteps and became a teenager. 

At first, it wasn't too bad. She's into fashion and makeup, and I found I really enjoyed talking about makeup with her, comparing looks, commiserating over tightlining, and it was really fun to have someone in the house for whom purple and green eyeshadow  could be bought. (Our coloring could not be more different. I yearn for purple eyeshadow, but am stuck with browns and coppers.) She also began developing a more mature perspective on (some) things, and became an actual contributor to family conversations about society and politics and social justice and whether we should watch Firefly again, or Doctor Who.

Then little annoyances began to creep in. Like the way she refuses to look at, let alone try on, pants that are not skinny enough. Like the way she tries to convince me that she needs a fifty dollar hoodie which differs only from the seven dollar hoodie I offered to buy her in the addition of giant letters stitched across the chest, spelling "aeropostale." (Which, how is that pronounced? Every time I have to say it, I feel like she's judging me.) 

Still, despite the eyerolls when I say "Oh, there's a clearance rack over there, let's go look for some jeans!" I generally like her and would rather have her around then otherwise. 

But now? Now she has started a sinister new phase: Perfume.

She doesn't own any perfume, so the suppliers must be girls at school. She got into the truck at school pickup the other day smelling like a rose. A big rose. A GINORMOUS rose.

Eyes watering, I managed to suppress the cough trying to burst from my lips and speak past the tightness in my throat. "Hi sweetie! How was school is that perfume you're wearing?"

She affirmed that it was, saying that a "bunch of us" were swapping perfume and makeup during lunch. 

"It's nice," I croaked. "Maybe a little heavy?"

She looked at me, as though I had something bewilderingly stupid, like "Flared jeans are really cute."

"What's the point," she said, slowly, as though I afraid of confusing me, "of wearing perfume if no one can smell it?"

Touché. Point, Erica.

Husband asked me that evening if she was wearing a little perfume.

"No, she's wearing ALL the perfume. There is no one else, ever, who can wear perfume, because she has it all."

He was quiet for a moment. "Mom thing, " he decided. "This one is all yours."

I'm going to have to do something about this, and pretty much immediately, because this morning Husband asked me to sniff the air, and to my horror, I smelled patchouli.

I despise the smell of patchouli, though not as much as Husband does. "Get rid of it, today." He gritted to me, before leaving for work.

So now I'm wondering what to say to her. I mean, the patchouli issue is easy--the two people who pay the rent don't like it, it's not going to stick around. I'm thinking more about the fragrance issue in general. I love perfumes in theory, but only a few in practice. The Grace series by Philosophy and Gucci Guilty are the only ones that spring immediately to mind, and I like fun scents like the body sprays at Bath and Bodyworks. However, she is DRENCHING herself in these, and worse, she's choosing scents that don't actually get along with her body chemistry. I don't want to outright ban her experimentation, but rather to set limits on it, but it's hard to quantify "too much." The line between enough perfume and ohmygodwaytoomuch is fairly fine, and if I don't define it for her, she'll keep crossing that line, and if there are many more scents as bad as patchouli, her stepfather will eventually issue a decree banning perfume (for her, anyway. Just try to decree ME, buddy) and she will file this injustice in the same place she stores the fifty dollar hoodie incident.

And the fifty dollar hoodie incident is brought up every time we go shopping. EVERY TIME.

This was simpler with her brother. Except for the brown sugar incident and the fire, his teen years were easy.

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