Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Quince anos

Well, we've managed to survive another of Earbaby's "birthday month" celebrations. Oh, you mean, everyone doesn't have a month (sometimes starting a week or two early) of celebrating having ascended to earth into the waiting arms of grateful and increasingly overindulgent parents?

This was EB's 15th birthday and the buildup started just before the last of the Christmas bills had been paid off. Conversations usually started, quite out of the blue, with "hey, you know what I want for my birthday?" Now that a full month has passed, the conversations that should be starting soon are, "you know what I want for Christmas?"

So let's see, the 15th birthday festivities included a nice dinner with her best friend Beth at one of her favorite Spanish restaurants, courtesy of her dad (who was allowed to pick up the tab and do the pickups and dropoffs, but wasn't allowed to eat with them); followed by a houseful of nine of her friends from school for pizza, snacks and desserts (again, we were allowed to pay for and make all meals and drop some of them off at the train, but we were encouraged to make ourselves scarce, only appearing to do the magic cleanup in between courses). Some of them were dropped at the train, others stayed over.

The ones who stayed over were treated to breakfast at a restaurant the next day (I thankfully went to church). EB's dad asked for a table for three and a table for one to a very confused waitress, who was then informed he had no desire to sit with three giggling teenage girls, but yes, he would be paying.

And that was just the first weekend.

An aside to parents of my daughter's friends: Your kids are wonderful. I know they are probably the devil's spawn with you (I know mine is with us), but when they were in our house, they were pleasant, polite, incredibly well-mannered and well-behaved. You're raising some amazing ladies and gentlemen, despite all their efforts to convince you otherwise.

The rest of the month included various shopping sprees and excursions and concert tickets for next month (the nightmare continues?) to her favorite artist, an indy singer who never tours in the states but is actually coming here. And the tickets bought from a broker (please God, don't let it be a scam) were "only" a little over three times their face value.

But the funny thing is this is all the while with EB saying she didn't want a lot for her birthday or to spend much money because she wants a nice big blowout of a Sweet 16 next year (help).

So goes the money flow in the dark times. Because she was incredibly grateful for the extra effort and money for the indy singer, she has made an effort to dial back the 'tude. I fully expect her to go back to being a you-know-what the day after the concert. Gratitude for a teenager definitely has a short shelf life.

In the meantime, I'm gearing up for the summer of EB's friends' quincenearas. Part of the joy of having a contingent of friends who look like the United Nations, is becoming part of her friends' cultural celebrations. She knows about quincenearas after being in Kiki's a few years ago. It will be more enjoyable now that she is celebrating with her peers. There are at least three she may be going to this summer. And each one will require a different dress (again, help).

I'm learning that age 15 is different for EB than it was for me. While I had good friends, I didn't have a "crew" of anywhere from 10 to 20. Boys were mysterious and my best friend and I were awkward in the negotiations of boyfriends.

EB's crew includes boys and girls, and they proudly embrace their friendships while calling themselves awkward squids who aren't ready for dating. They like being friends without the tension of pairing off. No boyfriend or girlfriend issues here, although EB says if and when they do start pairing off, she thinks they will all still be friends. That remains to be seen. Now the drama is limited to who will hang out at whose house. These kids, who come from all over the city, have become adept at navigating the neighborhoods where their friends live.

But while EB enjoys a good relationship with her friends of different nationalities and both genders, I've had to do some rethinking of my own.

It's been a few decades since I was a teenager, but I still remember the anxiety issues that come with puberty and adolescence. EB and her friends are much more comfortable with each other. They hang out together, joke and laugh and there isn't the overt flirtation that is depicted in every article about sex-crazed teens. The boys in her crew aren't hanging their pants off their butts in the prison culture style that is so popular (and it wouldn't be if they actually knew what it meant, that they're advertising their availability to other inmates), and the girls don't dress in your basic hoochie-mama wear. And I know, I've seen them at their school, where they cheerfully greet me.

Now, one of her close male friends has to leave school. He's moving to a suburb (not his choice) and the rest of the crew are devastated. So he wants to have a party and a sleepover. This with boys and girls, obviously in separate parts of the house (and I've seen it, it's huge), and these kids, beautiful adolescents they are, seem as innocent about the implications as if they were all grade-schoolers.

And I don't know how I feel about this. When the whole subject of co-ed sleepovers came up (way, way, before I had a child), I would have said, no way, and that's just inviting trouble. But these kids just see each other as friends, in a strange, genderless kind of way. Obviously they would stay in separate rooms, and to observe them all together is to see a bunch of kids, but not a sexually-charged atmosphere.

I've told her I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this. But this also isn't her first co-ed sleepover. One boy stayed at the girl's house she stayed at for New Year's Eve (the other boy couldn't stay at the last minute), and there was no problem. But this time, it's a boy's house. There will be parents and siblings there (including older girl stepsiblings), so it hardly sounds like an orgy.

She's 15, and beautiful, and blissfully not interested in romance -- yet. She says she and her group of awkward squids aren't there yet. It's just as well. I'm not there yet either.

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