how to talk with your teenager

Another exciting episode of my — I think– funny web series I did with Cafemom studios. This one is features my dear stepson Oliver.  He is not an actor by nature, but he was a good sport– and I paid him– to take part in this spoof of my pathetic attempts to be the B parent I can be.

NOTE:  the dub of him saying “mom” at the Dodger game was added in a later edit.  Not his voice, nor would he ever say that to me. He has a mom.  I’m always Daphne.  Or “stepmommy dearest”, maybe.  I think they needed to do that since I shot that part myself and the sound and picture were not optimum.

Prom Night


The day after prom and I’m at brunch with Oliver and his friend who he took to the prom. A girl who is a friend, but not a “girlfriend”.  I can’t get a word an edgewise as they tell me every little detail of the night.  The music, the hook ups, the intrigue, what illegal things were consumed. They tell me about their feelings, their dreams of the future.  I feel so in sync with their life!

Yeah, right and then I woke up in a shower like Bobby Ewing.

That’s right, that didn’t happen.

But, I did get to be part of prom weekend and I cancelled a trip in order to do so.  I am so glad I did.

The little kids and I were going to go glamping this weekend. It had been planned with other families for a while. The place is not cheap.  You are in a cabin by a fire pit, but there is a pool and they deliver food to you if you like, so hence the glam in camping.  Two weeks before Oliver told me he was going to his prom in the understated, no big deal attitude that his very him.

I returned that Perry Como vibe with my Ozzy Osborne, “what, you are?  When?  Can I take pictures?  Do you need help?  Can I get your flowers?  Do you need me to put on a chauffeur outfit and drive you around? What can I do?? Where is Sharon?”

“um, can you give me the money to by my ticket for Ida ( friend he took)?” Yes, I said signing the check with a flourish.

“I hope it’s the not the weekend I will be gone.”  He told me the date. It was the weekend I was gone.  Crap. Cut to  two a weeks of stewing about this ala The Clash.  Should I stay or should I go?  Teenagers do not place a premium on family time.  I know at his age I thought my family was revolting, and I liked them.  But, if you are a step mom who makes videos of family I’m sure I’m as desirable as a wet dog in your bed. Also, remember we are not the primary home for Oliver, his mother’s home is.  I’m what I call the “B” Team.  But, since his mom was out of town it meant he would be with us.  So desperate stepmom eager to be part of her stepson’s life really needed to make hay.

I told Vivien the trip was on the chopping block.  She pouted and crossed her arms.  Which actually pissed me off.  She knows I’m annoyed if I start a sentence with “look…” In this case, “Look, in a few short months Oliver is going off to college.  He will move away.  To a different STATE.  We will rarely see him.  He will have friends and experiences that we know nothing about ( not that I’m so in the loop now).  I want to be with him as much as I can and I think it would be really fun to see him get dressed up and go to his prom.”

Vivien, “Oliver is moving away?”  She hadn’t connected college with leave taking. “I don’t want Oliver to go.” Tears.  Oh, me and my big mouth.

Oliver kept saying, “It’s no big deal, we are going as a goof.”  Visions of my own prom night danced in my head.  When my then boyfriend Tony picked me up my parents and sister changed into nicer clothes for the occasion.  My dad even broke out his own tuxedo.  He was very proud that he owned it.  “Do you own yours?” He asked Tony.  Tony thought it was a strange thing to ask, but hey, throw the guy a bone, he is showing his feathers, county workers don’t get a lot of opportunities to wear a tux.

Tony’s parents were out of town.  At 17 I thought that was odd.  Their last born is going to prom and they go on a trip? And that was before I was old enough to know how fleeting time is, how I would look back at the pictures of that night for years to come.  How I would regret  letting that lady at the mall talk me into that shade of lipstick.

No, I was staying.  Would Oliver care that I was present?  Probably not much, but I would care.  As a stepmom I’m a guest star, not an unconditional love player, so these moments are important.

The day of the prom I made sure he had a good lunch and continually harassed his father, who was at work, that he be home on time to take pictures.  Once Oliver started getting dressed I gave him a cold drink. “Hydrate”, not that I as encouraging drinking, but if it happened I wanted to help future headaches.

He chose a white tux on his own. Rex was zoning on TV and Viv was taking a nap so I could focus on him without distraction.  Rare.  He wasn’t sue about how to deal with cufflinks, he needed dress socks, various formal dressing aspects which I eagerly assisted. (” he needs me, he needs me!!”) I wrote another check for his part of the limo. We waited for others to arrive.  He was spending the night at a friend’s place closer to the prom.  I told him I would come get him in the am.  “Whenever you want!”

We decided he shouldn’t put his coat on yet as he felt hot.

Then Ida, her mom and two family friends of both kids showed up.  Fortunately for me the other ladies were also eager to take pictures.  Ida, is a lovely girl and shares Oliver’s laid back attitude.

“look like you are putting the boutineer on him” One of the ladies directed.

Ida and Oliver seemed confused by our mandating the steps they should be taking. “why am I pretending to do this?” Ida asked.

Me; “because we are middle aged ladies living vicariously through you.”  She handed the wrapped flower bundle to me.  I pinned it on Oliver. Poor teenagers were getting the “let’s get away from crazy people” look.

First picture of Oliver on coolmom.

But, Mark still wasn’t back.

“um, we should go.” Oliver started.  I called Mark again.  “Where are you? You are going to miss it”

A few minutes later he came running in.  I took a couple of pictures and then Oliver finally put his foot down.  “We have to go.”

What I can’t take a clay impression of how you look right now at this moment? Ok, fickle teen have your way.

Mark drove them to the house where they were meeting friends and limo.

Vivien asked “Why isn’t Oliver driving?”

Me “He is going to go in a limo with his friends.”

Viv “Why?  He can drive.”

Me ” Well, the assumption is that alcohol might be consumed.”

Viv nodded.  Not bringing up the underage issue.  Should I have b.s’d that answer?

The next day Mark took Viv on a special daddy daughter hike.

I took Rex to ride the rails. We have a new light rail in LA and the first weekend was free.

As Rex and I rode the East bound train Oliver texted, “we are ready to be picked up.” Rex and I got off and then boarded the Eastbound train back to our car.  “Getting in the car.” I texted back.

By the time I picked the prom goers up Rex had fallen asleep.  “Anyone hungry?  I’ll take you guys to brunch.”  Rex rallied for pancakes and we had a nice time.

“So, how was it?”

“fun” they nodded.

“Was there a band?”

“no, DJ.”

That was it. Then I was on to extract new information.   Summer plans, college.  I can ask questions to monosyllabic answers all day.

I was so happy.


How to Relate to a Stepchild

When I tell people I have two little kids and a 16 year old stepson (I don’t lead with my two older stepkids as they live on their own), I get remarks about “what a handful” the stepson must be.  Not the case.  Oliver wouldn’t know drama if it slapped him in the face and set it’s hair on fire in front of him.  He would barely raise his eyebrows.

He is very cool.

He talked more to me when he was little.  Now, I welcome any dialogue.  No matter how I have to get it.

Brother, Can You Spare a Ride?

I’m a tad stressed about Mark’s surgery and all the logistics that entails for a husband going through major eye surgery who cannot drive in a car for weeks, let alone help with the baby like he usually does. So I don’t want to say I’m not getting the desired support from certain family members when I need it. I’ll just say that someone who gave birth to someone who is not me sort of irked me today…

This person… has been saying she wants to help, so I called today and said could she please take Vivien to school since Mark has to be at the hospital at 8am. I will take Rex with me. I said we would need to leave by 7:20 at the latest.

Her: “Well, I couldn’t get there by then. I’ll come about 8:45.” Whaaaaa? She lives 1.5 miles away. Now, my stepson will be here, but he is 15 and not a natural babysitter. I explained that if there was a few minutes where only Oliver was in charge it’s ok as he could call 911 if the house was on fire, but he will not be waking Vivien up with a hug and making her breakfast and getting her dressed.

“Oh, yeah, that’s true.” She asks me again when we are leaving. Still 7:15 to 7:20. “I can’t make it by then. I will be there more like 7:45.” I don’t know what irruption in the space time continuum has occurred that one can arrive a one time and not 25 minutes earlier when there is not change in traffic flow or weather conditions between these 25 minutes, but there it is!

I thought of pressing the issue, but then why bother? If someone wants to be passive aggressive they can. And I thought, she was late to to our house the morning I gave birth to Rex.

Mark called this unnamed person and in a very nice way offered her a wake up call.

You could snap my muscles with a spoon. I don’t care what Stephanie Wilder-Taylor say, tonight I’m having some wine.

My sister-in-law Leslie is driving hundreds of miles to come down this weekend to be helpful. Bless her heart.

I also have to arrange a follow up doctors visit for him on Wednesday when I have to go to work for a short time and then take Rex to get his shots. Of course they don’t give us times beforehand because it’s so much easier to twist in the wind.


The other day I got such a nice little gift out of nowhere. A hello from my friend Stacie. We used to work together, and she knows I had my arm acne problem from pregnancy. Pretty, oh, pretty and if the water police aren’t around, I’m a bath whore. So she sent me french lavender bubble bath and lotion from EO. It’s all organic and all that jazz, but all I know is my itchy skin doesn’t explode after I use it, which is rad. And the smell makes me feel pretty.

A play on the old ad… “EO lavender bubbles, take me away”

They also have hand sanitizers, which I will be dousing us with as we enter and exit the hospital… but avoiding the eyes.