My teenage son's life would be so much easier were someone to follow him around, reminding him to pick up dirty socks, put the cap on the toothpaste, turn off the sink … flush.
His mother often provides that particular service, but she works and cannot be there every moment. So there are gaps. Such as when he forgot his backpack in the locker room the other night after basketball, with all his textbooks, his laptop, his life.
Can you tell he's 15?
Yeah, he is. Dilly! Dilly!
"Did you clean your ears?" his mother shouts across the kitchen as I'm about to bite into a sandwich.
Of course, he didn't clean his ears. You only asked him twice.
Three seems like some sort of magic number for him. It is the minimum number of times you need to remind him to do any single task.
Our son was last spotted chasing after the school bus, where he'd left his shoes.
His mother yells at him even when he isn't home, over some infraction — a forgotten chore, an abandoned crust of pizza. Yesterday I saw her pricing stun guns on Amazon.
Meanwhile, our son's romance with his phone grows and grows. He's basically forsaken relationships with living, breathing people — the folks who care for him more than anything in the world — to concentrate full time on his pretty little cellphone.
One day he will invite his cell phone to prom.
Till then, I've taken to banning the phone at breakfast, for otherwise he would forget to eat the full meal I make for him on school days: eggs, bacon, bagel, chocolate-flavored almond milk.
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to milk an almond?
Every morning, same thing. Eggs, bacon, bagel … . Did I mention he's 15?
He's got the imagination of a cinder block, till something catches his interest, then he hears and sees nothing else, even forgets to clean his ears.
Yeah, he's 15, and yelps when he puts on deodorant and laughs like a wind sock at the semicolon smirks of his best buddies.
We're hoping this will be a temporary condition. His older brother grew out of it, as did both sisters, though one of them was 15 for about three years, which is probably the worst thing that could ever happen.
Just imagine three years in the emotional wind tunnel that is a 15-year-old girl. You hear about it happening to other parents, but you never think it'll happen to you. Three. Entire. Years. After a while, you basically need blood transfusions.
At 15, everything is an argument. I say Patriots, my son says Eagles. I say mustard, he says mayo. I say God, he says Stalin. He's not sure who Stalin even is, but he knows it'll provoke his old man.
Black. White. Stop. Go. Chevy. Ford. Lemons. Limes. Odysseus. Telemachus.
At 15, his spirit animal is a stolen Ferrari. His literary hero is SpongeBob SquarePants. His favorite movie? Whatever raw footage he just watched on Instagram.
Of course, he's into social media. He plays at it the way Mozart played at the piano…10, 12, 14 hours a day. He could build Xanadu with his thumbs. If his hair caught fire, he wouldn't scream; he'd text me.
"Dad? Hair," he'd write.
Still, we're unlikely soulmates. We share time, batting cages, the flu.
For instance, the other morning, his sister Rapunzel was crafting one of those healthful breakfasts she's so proud of, with a bunch of super-oxidants and anti-glutens — the kind of stuff with the flavor of cardboard — when into the kitchen my son wanders, accusing me of wearing his socks.
It was a standoff, like one of those Washington slugfests where no one on either side makes any sense and they lose the entire country's trust with their juvenile accusations.
That was us at breakfast.
"You're wearing my socks!" he says, standing in his boxers, scratching himself, because teenage boys will explode if they stand still.
"I need my socks," he says.
There are, in our house, probably 10,000 pairs of white socks. They are not matched up, like normal people match socks. They are scattered everywhere — little rogue sheep. A sock might be in my drawer and its mate in his drawer and a third sock in the vacuum and a fourth lodged in the 300-pound beagle's larynx after he mistook it for whipped cream.
So now you have a sense of what our sock situation is. I hear it's fairly typical.
"You have my socks," he insists, as if I should peel them off and give them right back.
I was, in fact, wearing his socks. And it seemed at the moment like a pivot point in human history.
Did I mention he's 15?