, Newburyport, MA


May 1, 2013

Parent Pill: Communicating with teens


Here’s the thing: When I call them out for their oversights, I am told that I wasn’t specific enough in my instructions. As in, “Please lift the trash out of the wastebasket, secure the bag tightly, step toward the garage door and open it, bring the bag into the garage and place it in the larger garbage can, walk back in the house and close the door behind you, find a clean trash bag, open it, place it in the wastebasket and secure the edges. Don’t forget to close the cabinet door!”

Some things I thought were just implicitly understood; but that would be assuming there is a measure of common sense involved, which we all know is absent in the teenage mind.

My favorite recent example of this is when my youngest daughter helped me unload groceries out of my car. Simple enough, right? Well, a few days later I got into my car and noticed a foul smell wafting forward from the rear of the vehicle. After a very short investigation, I discovered a dozen eggs, still in the grocery bag, slowly rotting and turning into what looked like a science experiment gone very wrong. That is an odor that doesn’t leave you quickly, I don’t care how much Febreeze you spray. And it doesn’t blend well with the smell of sweaty ballet shoes.

Since she was at school when I had to clean my car and attempt to eliminate the foul odor, my daughter found the story quite amusing. Rotten eggs? Oh hilarious. So funny in fact, she was quick to get on her phone and text her friends with all the malodorous details. They all had a good laugh.

But I can wait for the payback. Oh, I can wait. In just a few years, she will have a car. And I’m sure she won’t mind if I store a few food items under the seat on a hot summer day. When she finally discovers the source of the odor, I’ll be kind enough to show her where the trash bags are.


Sue Tabb is an account director with Thomson Communications and a freelance writer. She lives in Newburyport with her husband and two daughters. You can visit her blog at

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