Garage

“Mom, I’m okay, I wasn’t involved, but the police want you to come pick me up.”

My heart races at this rush of words through the telephone.

Teen and two other boys had permission to spend a summer night at another friend’s house. He has a game room and they wanted to play late into the night.

Teen neglected to tell us parents would not be home; we goofed and didn’t check.

Someone invited someone who invited someone else who did something stupid to attract police attention before arriving at the now-party. Police ran a license plate, called parents, and eventually discovered unsupervised minors, some of whom were still obliviously playing games.

Guy went to get him while I stayed home and prayed. Obviously the car ride home involved a conversation about trust and a now-depleted, in fact negatively balanced, Trust Account.

Teen has never been a big gamer. He is a health-conscious athlete and mostly a likable, good kid. He gets in trouble because he acts impulsively, the tell-tale symptom of his ADHD which inclines him to risk-taking. Honest to God, I’m grateful his risk in this situation was relatively low.

Teen barely knew the kid for whom the cops arrived and he easily recognized the stupidity of the kid’s actions. He never argued about being grounded. He understood that the situation could quickly have become So Much Worse. He learned something.

A summer week without friends might be a rough kid-consequence, but his parents enjoyed hanging out with our Teen. He won’t say it, but he might have had some fun with his family, too.

This is the reason we spent our not-truly-a-staycation cleaning out and reorganizing our garage (aka storage-unit) into a hang-out space. Not in response, as we’d already begun the process before the incident, but because we want our house to be a place Teen wants to bring friends.

Teen’s tendency has been to go out rather than invite friends in. Understandably, as our smallish house lacked a space with sufficient separation from Family Life. Almost simultaneously, Teen bought a PS3 + games from a friend who had moved on to a newer system, and friends offered us their sectional couch and rug. We saw an opportunity.

garage

Purging in process

garage 2

Prepping for sanding/painting

Parents did most of the purging; Teen put on his work clothes to move furniture, to sand and paint. He offered input on where things should go (he pushed us to purge even more) and what else might be needed (mini fridge, space warmer for cold nights). He even reorganized games into attractive storage boxes.

It’s still a garage – bikes and sports equipment, tools and laundry, no cars (we live in California) – but thankfully, the renovation worked. Over the last three months, Teen has stayed home more than he might have AND he has invited friends in. Goal! It has also given Guy a new opportunity to bond and play with his boys and provided another comfortable hang out space.

Our garage-pantry makes for easy snack access; cat = happy, too!

Our garage-pantry makes for easy snack access; cat = happy, too!

No perfect solution, the Man Cave has also created new problems. Teen hears the siren call of video games so much louder than our reminders to get homework done first. It has become a too-frequent escape when he’d prefer not to engage with family. And the three guys enjoying the space so much sometimes leaves Mama out. As families do, we negotiate as we go.

We listened with ears, eyes, heart, and our love for Teen led us to a Labor of Love: a garage hang-out space. He receives love best through Time and Gifts, and I’ve seen it in his eyes – he understands that we spent significant Time to create a Gift of space for him.

I asked him again today: “Are you grateful we worked so hard to create this space for you?”

He responded, “No, Mom. Seriously, are you really asking me that? Yes, I’m grateful.”

Sarcasm aside, he is grateful. He received the love. I’ll take it.

Birthday

The year I turned seven my mom made a beautiful Doll Cake for my birthday party. She stuck a Barbie-type doll torso into a dome cake which she decorated with frosting rosettes.

Something like this...

Something like this…

I ran and laughed together with my friends in my Backyard Birthday Party. Later we sat around the dining table, all eyes admiring the cake in its center, until someone (probably my mom) starting singing, “Happy Birthday.”

“Stop,” I whispered, then again with more force.

The girls kept right on singing while I crawled under the table and cried.

I’m sure I had a piece of cake, but I don’t remember it. The overriding memory from that party is feeling awkward as the center of attention.

That was long before “introvert” entered my vocabulary and became part of my self-understanding. One of my many introvert dilemmas continues to be how to receive love, which requires being seen, when focused attention sometimes feels uncomfortable.

Some who know me could read this and scoff. They’ve seen me speak publicly, and I look so comfortable.

Yes, and no.

You don’t see the hours and hours I put into crafting Every Single Word. You don’t see me reading my manuscript under my breath time and again until I have it just about memorized. You don’t see me visualizing all going well, and the prayer that undergirds each step. You don’t see the hours of solitude that precede and follow the speaking event.

And then, when I speak publicly I have Something to Share, and guaranteed I’m not there if I don’t. I will never volunteer for improv night or karaoke. “Extemporaneous” will never describe me.

After returning from our honeymoon, some of my co-workers who had been unable to attend the wedding joined me to watch our wedding video. One boldly asked, “What is that look on your face? I’ve never seen it.”

She was right: I smiled, overjoyed to be walking down the aisle to my Love. But the pressure of All Eyes on Me while I walked down the Longest Aisle Ever, well, it warped my smile. Apparently I have my own unique “everyone is looking at me” smile. Great…

Some who know me could read this and scoff. They’ve seen me at parties, and I look so comfortable.

Yes, and no.

I love a good party! I love the decorations, food and drink, the company. At least, I love talking To You, yes, You, Standing Right Here. If/when we run out of things to talk about, I will choke down panic. Small talk, and even worse, maneuvering from person to person remain skills I haven’t mastered, and my constant prayer is that I don’t look as awkward as I feel. Safely at home later, I will crash. I will then wake in the Wee Hours to mull over Every Word of Every Conversation until daylight creeps under the window shades. It will take me at least a day to recover.

A Party is one thing; My Party is altogether different. Some days, though, being loved really is about receiving it whether or not people plan with your quirks in mind. This birthday I had a morning meeting. One friend stood to hug me as another friend set out cake and people began to sing. I whispered under my breath, “As a little girl I crawled under the table when people sang to me.” She held her arm around me and whispered, “So did my daughter,” and squeezed a little tighter.

Safe in her embrace, I smiled. If anyone took a picture, I’m sure I could show you my “everyone is looking at me” smile. And I enjoyed the cake.