An unfinished high school renovation project has left Boy Esquire with an extra two weeks of summer vacation. For the next 12 days, it will be just the two of us.
could get ugly presents an opportunity for what parenting books refer to as "quality time."
I don't make a habit of reading parenting books, at least not past the book jacket, but I hear stuff. I sometimes make plans to read them, but let's be honest: unless you have an unlimited amount of reading time, you'd be a fool to put down Graham Greene, Grace Paley or Cormac McCarthy for Parent Effectiveness Training.
This is not to say that all parenting manuals make for dull reading; William Golding's 1954 parenting classic, Lord of the Flies, is as good as they come, but sadly, it is the exception to the genre.
On the other hand, if people make a habit of giving you parenting books with progressively more alarming titles, (The Idiot's Guide to Parenting Your Maladjusted Brat) it is safe to assume that your parenting style could use some tweaking. And so, quality time.
We begin at the grocery store, which, as part of a newly discovered fascination with food, is at the top of his list of Things to Do. He is hungry all the time these days, and at 14, no longer trusts me to keep him properly fed. Also it is the only activity that fits into our conflicting schedules - he doesn't get up until noon and I can't stay awake past 10 p.m.
"Trust me mom," he says, loading a half-gallon of overpriced chocolate milk in a pretentiously vintage glass bottle into the cart. "This stuff tastes so much better than the crap you buy."
Maybe because they loaded it with chocolate and sugar, I say.
His friend's family has this milk delivered to their doorstep right across the street. Why don't we?
Really? I say. The neighbors have a milkman? There is still such a thing as a milkman?
There is so much I don't know. I buy all the wrong food, prepare all the wrong meals, listen to all the wrong music, say all the wrong things. To sum up: I have been doing it all wrong.
"You and Dad don't understand quality," the teenager tells me.
Which does not bode well for quality time.
Photo: The champagne of dairy products.