Teenage math for Dad: Everything equals fifty-fifty

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Hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend. Mine was great, and crappy.

My next door neighbors moved out on Friday. Nice couple, kids grown and long-gone. I liked them a lot, but it was a good move for them. They’re going to a smaller place that’s closer to work. Happy for them.

The Brennan Estate on Memorial Day. (Photo by Mike Brennan)
The Brennan Estate on Memorial Day.
(Photo by Mike Brennan)

A new family apparently moved in the next day. Based on what I heard from over the fence on Memorial Day, they have 37 screaming, swimming children under 5 years old.

Good news, bad news.

Let’s face it, most two-day weekends have the opportunity to be a little of each. At least for me.

Throw in an extra day? Just improves the odds of a mis-step for every great step, a bogie for every birdie, a recalled hummus for every perfect appetizer.

I don’t know, maybe you have an ideal, blue skies, everything is always perfectly in place kind of life. More likely, you’re a little bit like me, and living a 50-50 life.

Fifty percent is pretty good. Decent job. A place to live that you like. Love of your life is in your life. Offspring that you love. Reasonably good health, all the way around. A couple of bucks in your pocket. There are plenty of days when I feel exactly like that. I even sing that ‘Happy’ song when it comes on the radio. Every six minutes.

Then there’s the other 50 percent. I think we all know those days.

Maybe more than half the time. The song is called “Crappy” on those days.

You wish you had a different/better/more lucrative job. Always repairs, or something to improve at home, and unexpected costs to just stay even. The ups and downs of your romantic life.

Your kids are teenagers (do I even need to explain the ups and downs of that?) You’re tired, you’re sore, You’re old(er). A bruise, a bump, a lump.

And of course, everything costs more – especially in L.A.

For every Ying, there’s a Yang. For every Thing, there’s a Gol Dang!

It’s 50-50.

My firstborn (Photo by Mike Brennan)
My firstborn
(Photo by Mike Brennan)

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

Sunday was my brother’s birthday — the fifth born in our family. And my brother in-law’s birthday — the fourth born in his family. And my son’s birthday — my first-born. That’s the order in which I met them, but it’s the last one that’s the most impactful.

My first born is now 17 years old. Which is a great thing. And a problem.

It’s great because he’s big and strong, smart and healthy. It’s a problem … because he’s 17.

Despite his refusal to believe this fact, I was also 17 once. For a whole year. I know what 17 feels like, looks like and lies like. I know what 17 year olds want, what they fear, what they need … and how incredibly stupid their parents are.

My parents got so smart by the time I was 20.

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

It is hard to believe how much my life changed 17 years ago. I’d been living in L.A. less than a year. We’re pregnant with our first child; about to introduce our very own L.A. native to the world.

It’s a relatively by-the-books pregnancy. He’s due on May 25th, but everyone tells us first babies are never on time.

I have tickets for my wife and I — or someone else and I if she’s not up to it — to see the Dodgers play the Mets at Chavez Ravine that day. Never made it to the stadium that day. Of course, he’s on time. Maybe for the last time in his life.

Father and Son (Photo by Mike Brennan)
Father and Son
(Photo by Mike Brennan)

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

The kid is smart — that’s obvious early, and not just because he’s the first born of doting, loving parents.

He’s fun, he’s funny, he asks questions all the time. His brain never shuts off — it just pauses. From when he was a very young kid, whatever mood he’s in, whatever topic he’s on when he finally falls asleep, it simply reboots when he turns on the brain in the morning and picks right back up.

I miss those days. It was comforting to know what the topic was.

Now, I never know what I’m going to get.

It’s 50-50.

True story: Last week, in the middle of sulking off to his room after telling me I’m a horrible father who doesn’t understand him, that school isn]t important and that it’s stupid for me to ask him to study … in other words, a Thursday …

This smart, sweet and sassy teenage boy, who’s now bigger than me, turns around, comes back to the kitchen, and looks in the pantry.

(Photo provided by Mike Brennan)
(Photo provided by Mike Brennan)

Typical teenager, I’m thinking. he must be looking for chips or cookies or some snack to accompany the studying he’s not going to do.

Nope — he looks down to the bottom of the pantry, near the baking stuff and says: “I need you to please go get me a yellow cake mix.”

Why? I ask incredulously, picturing him eating an entire cake while not studying.

“Because tomorrow’s the last day of chemistry class, and I want to bring something in for the teacher.”

I say that’s nice, but ask if perhaps he’d have a better chance of improving his grade if he brought in some of the missing work, instead of a cake. He sulks off again.True story.

Ok, I made one part up. The part where he said “please.”

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

On Sunday, his birthday, we had a great day. Slept in. Went out for breakfast with his brother. His first request as a 17-year-old? He wanted to go to an R-rated movie. Because he could. Pretty sure I did the same thing.

So I went with him, along with my15-year-old. Saw a little too much than I was comfortable seeing with them. Too much drug use, too much nudity, and too much of Zac Efron’s abs. But, we survived.

Went to a Memorial Day party later that day and my friends presented him with a birthday cake. He hung out with the adults — the younger kids (just a couple of years younger, really) were in the pool.

The Birthday Boy blowing out his candles. (Photo by Mike Brennan)
The Birthday Boy blowing out his candles.
(Photo by Mike Brennan)

He had a good day, and a good night. When we got home, he was a tired teenager, and went to bed.

When he got up the next morning … he was angry, at the world. But mostly at me. I had the nerve to ask him to do a couple of chores I let him skip on his birthday, to study a little for his Finals, and to take a shower.

Child slavery, right?


So, great birthday, not great second day of his 17th year. Only 363 days to go before he’s 18, a legal adult, able to make his own decisions, be completely responsible for them, and in theory, be on his own.

That’s truly good news, bad news.

Ying, yang.