Katie calls it my random act of coolness.
It was exceptional, I have to concede. Buying concert tickets to send my two high schoolers and four friends to see the band Switchfoot is something I normally would not consider even if the girls had asked (OK, begged).
In that case, I may have used the promise of concert tickets to promote better cooperation around the house, such as cleaning up the disaster zone known as their bedroom or taking showers that use less than their typical reservoir of hot water.
But they didn't ask for Switchfoot tickets, and I didn't use them as a behavior-modification incentive.
When the e-mail advertisement came from Ticketmaster to my “in” box, I didn't click “this is spam” as I usually do, either.
Instead, I followed the links to a ticket purchase for a rock concert slated to take place on a college campus, on a school night, no less.
Out of character? Totally.
My plan was to keep this secret purchase to myself until just before the concert date. I imagined that the publicity about Switchfoot coming to town would prompt a flurry of desperate requests, including the odd promise from Katie and Betsy to make their beds and be on time in the mornings or to speak more kindly to their younger siblings. (“Odd promise” here means “unlikely transformation.”)
In my mind, I could see Katie and Betsy approaching this negotiation, believing in their hearts I never would actually agree to let them go (much less pay for it). They would pitch it to me on the moral high ground of Switchfoot's many Christian-themed songs.
They would hope, because hope and unrealistic expectations spring eternal when you're in high school, to catch me in an uncharacteristic moment. This would be a moment when I would act, for once, like “everyone else's mother.”
That's the moment when I would remind them (again) that I'm not everyone's else's mother (and here's the part where I would have fun) because who else has a mom who purchased tickets just 15 minutes after the box office opened online?
It would have been a triumph in motherhood, not to mention that it would have kept them on their toes where I am concerned, but it didn't happen that way.
Here's what did happen: A couple of days after I bought the tickets, the weekend came, and as is often the case, the girls had no social plans. Betsy's two buddies were busy with a group of their neighborhood friends; Katie's were away at a volleyball tournament.
Neither daughter could hunt up a way to spend a Friday evening, so they perched themselves on opposite corners of my kitchen counter. I hate it when they do this, but I didn't say anything this time because they were lamenting their lack of social opportunities.
“You shouldn't expect to go someplace every weekend,” I said.
“Be serious, Mom. We don't expect to go someplace any weekend,” Betsy said.
“Oh please, Betsy,” Katie jumped in. “You're only a freshman. I'm a junior, and I never go anywhere.” The trump card older and lonelier.
I couldn't help but feel sympathetic. They were headed for another Friday night of Law and Order and maybe an episode of Iron Chef, and my offer of gooey desserts wasn't softening the blow.
That's when I blurted my secret. “That's not exactly true,” I said. “For example, in a couple of weeks, you're each going to take two friends to see Switchfoot in concert.”
They reacted as if I had spoken to them in Portuguese. When they finally realized what I meant, they thought I was kidding, as if I would ever pull such a cruel prank on two teens in the midst of a Friday-evening funk.
Then, they giggled and hugged me and said lots of nice things with the word “like” interspersed throughout their sentences. (“Mom, like, this is, like, so totally amazing. You're, like, the most incredible mother ever.”) I don't think I'm the most incredible mother ever, but it's nice to know that my girls think I'm like her.
The truth is, my girls aren't as socially active as many of their high school peers, and this is by design. Between schoolwork, sports, the school play, volunteering in the community and the occasional baby-sitting job, there's not much time left over. In any given week, they're lucky to fit in a few family dinners, a few pages of a good book and some extra sleep on a Sunday morning.
With lives as demanding as theirs, we keep the social scene to a healthy, wholesome limit.
And let's be honest: It's a huge relief to me that my girls aren't roaming around on weekends looking for a house party or “hooking up” as so many teens do. The risks of engaging in a busy high school social life can be big and dangerous, and I feel for the parents who struggle to supervise their socially-active children.
We grabbed some comfort food (ice cream and popcorn) and retired to the den for an evening of Food Network specials. As it turned out, they were happy to hang out with me on a Friday night.
Then again, they knew that in a few weeks, they'd be headed to see Switchfoot with a gaggle of girlfriends on a Wednesday evening thanks to a mom who occasionally is surprisingly cool.
(Marybeth Hicks is a writer and author of the features “then again.” and “A View from the Pew.” A wife of 18 years and mother of four children from third grade to junior year, she uses her columns to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families and the communities we share. Marybeth began her writing career more than 20 years ago in the Reagan White House. She currently writes a column for the Washington Times. Learn more about Marybeth and her work at www.marybethhicks.com. This column first appeared in and is reprinted with permission from the Washington Times.)