Disclaimer: The accounts you are about to read are tongue-in-cheek. They have more to do with my foibles than my children’s misadventures. I took real-life events and ran with them (Sometimes running them into the ground!). But I have a sneaky suspicion if you have reared children or are rearing them now, you will see yourself or them in Raising Kids and Teens. Enjoy!

I PUT THE “S” in “SNEAKY!” (by Janine Mick Wills)

cartoon James BondJeff’s childhood dream was to become a spy. I wanted to be a veterinarian. Our dreams merged and crossed. Jeff says the kids are “animals,” and I’m a female James Bond.

I kept a pair of binoculars under the bed for bird watching, especially my three little chick-a-dees. If they weren’t within binocular range, they were in big trouble. One summer they bought me a pair of binoculars with more power. Their generosity almost fooled me until I realized they wanted to go farther from my ever-present eye. Good thing Walmart has a liberal refund policy. If drones had been popular when the kids were young, they wouldn’t have gotten past the front gate!

The older Jason got, the harder it was to find out what he was up to. But it took a few rodeos for Jennifer to get as sneaky as me. Until she did, I found interesting tidbits under her mattress and in the secret panel she sewed in her bookbag. And it only took me five month to find the key to her diary.

Jared had no guile. He just left things out and smiled his way out of trouble.

Not so with Jason. He learned to hide or destroy anything he didn’t want me to find. I had to manufacture evidence against him.

Jason, is this cigarette ash in your trash can?”

No Mom. Don’t you remember? You emptied the sweeper bag in it yesterday.”

Uh, Jason, is that perfume I smell on your t-shirt?”

For cryin’ out loud, Mom. That’s from you hugging me for ten minutes before I left for school this morning!”

I got quite adept at discovering things from the notes the kids passed back and forth at school. There wasn’t a code I couldn’t break. I bet you didn’t know that “X%aa, sp-++ @!ttioplk’ee ooo^^o” means, “Jennifer, Tommy Harrison wants to know what you think about him.” It’s frustrating though because as good as I was at breaking the kids’ codes, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out HTML. Good thing Jason and Jennifer didn’t know that! Who knows what kind of trouble those two would have gotten into when we finally bought a computer!

I also mastered the art of reassembling notes Jason and Jennifer tore up. Even if they’d been ripped into a thousand pieces and thrown in three separate trashcans in two different counties, I could piece them back together. There was nothing quite like picking out microscopic bits of paper stuck to chicken skin and moldy leftovers. And we won’t even talk about those messy diapers!

But nothing could keep me from reconstructing a note, so I could catch the kids in wrong-doing. Like the time it took me two days to put a note together that said, “Homeroom stinks!” I grounded Jennifer a week for that one.

I needed Jeff’s help and perfect timing to eavesdrop on the kids’ phone conversations. Jeff painted his face, put on camouflage gear, and then sneaked outside to create a diversion. When the kids glanced out the window to see what the raucous was, I quickly picked up the other line. We learned some interesting things this way. Like the geometry homework started on page 47, there was basketball practice after school on Wednesday, and Leonardo was a “Babe”.

The kids didn’t like it when Jeff and I spied on them. You’d thought they’d been glad we were so interested in their lives.

Kids. You can’t live with them, and you can’t send them back where they came from. (Maybe that’s a good thing!)


YOU WANT TO DRIVE WHAT? (by Janine Mick Wills)

Ford carA teenager with car keys can make a father weep and a mother bring her prayer rug out of mothballs. Like the time I asked Jennifer to move the car up the driveway. She pushed the accelerator instead of the brake and almost leveled our back porch. I told her she couldn’t get behind the wheel of a car again until the government pays back its debt to Social Security.

Jason’s first driving experience was the stuff that made Stephen King famous. I don’t know why Jeff told him to nudge to the right when a car approached from the opposite direction. For the first time in his life, Jason listened to his dad. By the time they returned home, the backseat of the car was full of our neighbors’ mailboxes. After that I decided I better teach Jason how to drive.

I took him to a deserted country road and then parked the car in the middle of it. We got out and walked around the car.

“Now, Son, look. There’s plenty of room in your lane. You don’t have to hug the right side of the road. You aren’t going to hit a car coming from the opposite direction.”

Jason gave me his crooked grin. “Gee Mom, you’re right. When I drove the car, it looked like I was over too far. I wonder why Dad told me to stay to the right?”

The only thing I could figure was Jeff thought our insurance company would raise our rates more if Jason hit an oncoming car instead of a mailbox.

I hated it when Jason turned sixteen and wanted his learner’s permit. I promised God to never eat chocolate chip cookies or ice cream again if He kept Jason safe. Jeff and I didn’t let him get his driver’s license until he turned seventeen though. We’d only been saving since his first baby tooth came in. There wasn’t enough money to pay the insurance premiums. It took another year to sell all the family’s heirlooms and sterling silver to raise the money. And Mom never did ask what happened to the nest egg she hid in her coat sleeve. I know. But we were desperate!

I didn’t want Jason to drive until he was at least halfway through college. But like all teenage boys, he equated having his license as a rite of manhood.

Mom, I’m seventeen years old. I need to drive. All my friends are driving. You won’t have to pick me up from practice anymore. And next year when Jennifer starts high school, I can drive both of us.”

You should have stuck with me not having to pick you up after practice. And what vehicle do you think you’ll drive? We only have the two cars. You don’t have enough money saved to buy your own yet.”

You can let me drive your car, or I can quit school and get a job.”

Right, Son, and Disney World is just another little amusement park.”

But Jason finally got his wish and his license. He didn’t quit school. He just settled for a car that wasn’t quite as fancy as what his friends drove. And after the first six months of my tailing him whenever he got behind the wheel, it was actually nice not having to pick him up after ball practice.

One down. Two to go. Does anyone want to buy some antique crystal my grandmother left me?


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