In the Smartmom Book of Records, that accounting of everything she’s done wrong and right in her life as a parent, Memorial Day weekend 2007 will be hereby remembered as a breakthrough.
She said “no” to Teen Spirit.
Yeah, yeah. she says “no” to Teen Spirit many times a day — No, you can’t skip school today. No, you can’t go to the Knitting Factory tonight because you have Earth Science homework. No, you can’t play your guitar at 2 am — but there are times when Smartmom has trouble saying it. And that’s not good for Teen Spirit or Smartmom.
Smartmom fondly remembered the time that TS fell in love with a white rabbit at a pet shop when they were going only to look — to look, I tell you! — at guinea pigs.
Teen Spirit got this soulful and sensitive look in his eyes. And that rabbit looked so cute. So next thing she knew, Smartmom was popping out the credit card and nervously paying for the dwarf rabbit that TS had already named Opal.
Smartmom is well aware that the ability to say “no” is a major tenet of good parenting. She knows that it is key to the sanity of the child — and the parent.
It’s not like she wants to spoil her children or anything. It’s just that, well, Teen Spirit is so darn cute when he gets that hang-dog look on his face.
She spent close to $100 once they were done selecting a cage, rabbit bedding, food, toys and vitamins.
But there was no going back. Almost immediately, everyone fell in love with Opal. When she died a year ago, the family felt like it had lost a beloved member.
The one-year “anniversary” didn’t pass unnoticed.
“Mom, come meet me in front of John Jay. There’s an adorable kitten I want,” he told her by phone last Saturday while Smartmom was napping.
As if under a spell, she floated out of the apartment to meet Teen Spirit to talk him out of the kitty. Smartmom lambasted herself all the way up Third Street. She knew she should have just said “no” and hung up the phone. She swore to herself that she would not succumb to the site of Teen Spirit with the kitty.
The Oh So Feisty One, a confirmed dog lover, came along for support.
Under the scaffolding at John Jay High School, Teen Spirit was staring lovingly into the eyes of the 5-week-old kitten. The woman from the Brooklyn Animal Foster Network handed Smartmom a contract.
“Mom, do you need a pen?” Teen Spirit asked helpfully.
Before she could say, “This is terrible idea,” OSFO wanted the kitten, too — and Smartmom was signing on the dotted line.
Teen Spirit walked home with the kitty attached to his shirt. Smartmom went to Met Food. She found cat food in an area of the store she’d never noticed before.
That’s because Smartmom doesn’t know from pets. Growing up, she wasn’t allowed to have a pet larger than a turtle. Oh, how she longed for a big, hairy sheep dog or even a tiny shih tzu like neighbors had upstairs.
Back home, Teen Spirit and OSFO were taking turns cuddling the kitten, while they tried to come up with a suitable name.
“I’ve always liked the name ‘Supermercado,’ which means ‘supermarket’ in Spanish,” Teen Spirit told Smartmom.
OSFO was thinking more along the lines of Lula or Lulee.
Smartmom had to admit that the kitty really was quite fetching with her fluffy black fur and white paws that make her look like she’s wearing socks.
Parenting is sometimes an attempt to correct the wrongs of one’s childhood. But it’s easy to go overboard.
She went into the kitchen to open a can of cat food — some kind of chicken soufflé, which smelled disgusting. Supermercado-Lulee lapped it up quickly, like she was starving or something. Maybe she was. Someone had found her, poor thing, in a pile of garbage on Fourth Avenue.
When it came time to go to a friend’s BBQ, Teen Spirit decided to stay behind with Supemercado-Lulee. Good, Smartmom thought, he’s showing some responsibility.
A boy needs to bond with his kitten. And Supermercado-Lulee clearly needs a tremendous amount of TLC.
During dinner on a friend’s deck, Hepcat got a call from Teen Spirit asking to go out to see a movie with friends.
Grrr, Smartmom thought, that’s so irresponsible.
“I’m leaving food and water in the box. I think she’s going to sleep,” he told Hepcat.
Smartmom and Hepcat were miffed. Teen Spirit’s bonding with Supermercado-Lulee had lasted until the first social phone call. Then he was off. Was he really mature enough to care for a kitty?
When they got home, Supermercado-Lulee was in her box crying. She’d tipped over her water bowl, and her food (mackerel and something gross) was all over the bottom of the box.
OSFO found a large plastic box and covered the bottom with soft towels, and Supermercado-Lulee finally looked cozy.
Later, Teen Spirit called to say that he was sleeping over at a friend’s house. That irked OSFO.
“He gets a kitten and the first night he doesn’t even want to stay home with her.” OSFO screamed. “I think we should get rid of her.”
OSFO could see the writing on the wall. “I’m going to be the one to take care of her and I really want a dog,” she cried.
Smartmom was furious. Who raised that kid? Who taught him right from wrong? She knew she had only herself to blame. Smartmom slept fitfully that night. She kept waking up to check on the kitten and worry that they’d made a big mistake.
The next morning, she woke up early and called Teen Spirit. He sounded groggy.
“I’ve decided to take the kitty back,” she said.
“You can’t,” he said.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because I love the kitten,” he said.
“But you’re not here,” she said, telling him to come home for a family meeting. There would be a vote, and the family would decide what to do.
When Teen Spirit came home, the family sat around the dining room table and discussed Supermeracado-Lulee in a very democratic way. They even voted. It was 3–1: get rid of the kitty.
“Remember ‘Twelve Angry Men?’” Hepcat said. “We can’t decide until everyone agrees.”
Finally, Teen Spirit came around. Disgruntled. Sad. It seemed that he understood that he wasn’t ready to take on a kitty.
With relief and a feeling of victory, Smartmom and the family returned the kitten to the people from Brooklyn Animal Foster Network who were again sitting underneath the scaffolding at John Jay. Within an hour, someone else adopted Supermercado-Lulee.
And Smartmom was proud. She’d said “no” to Teen Spirit. What a victory. Even with those adorable, “I love this kitty” eyes, she’d turned him down.
It was a small step for Smartmom. And one giant leap for Teen Spirit.
Now that’s one for the record books.
Louise Crawford also produces the Web site Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.