One of the challenges of being a parent of a teenager is dealing with their vampiric biorhythms. For whatever reason, they seem wired to stay up all night and sleep all day. Perhaps there are sound physiological or evolutionary reasons that explain why teenagers don't sleep to the beat of the normal circadian rhythm. I really don't know. Mother Nature has her unique ideas about appropriate sleep patterns for the teen set, and I have mine.
Because my views on the matter differ from Mother Nature's, my son has been given a parentally appointed bedtime. And because my IQ lowers by 40 points when I haven't gotten enough sleep, I have given myself an even earlier bedtime. This means that we have a bit of an honor system arrangement. As I go to bed each night, I remind my son of his bedtime, to which he responds, "I know." He then stays up until the clock strikes the magic hour, and dutifully changes his facebook status to, "Edward is slumbering," texts his goodbyes to his other little vampire friends, brushes his teeth and goes to bed. Night after night this is how it plays out. Honor system, remember?
The honor system is what makes this country great.
The other night Edward was due home late, a few hours after I like to go to sleep. In fact, he was due to come home at precisely his parentally appointed bedtime. This meant that in order to follow the rules he would need to walk in the door and go straight to bed. As I prepared for bed, the slightest sliver of doubt began to poke into my epidermis. What if the honor system wasn't enough? What if he got on the computer and stayed up really, really late? What if he wouldn't get up in the morning and I had to spend all kinds of time and energy trying to wake him, only to have him emerge from his chambers at four o'clock in the afternoon, all disheveled and cranky?
I had to find a way to take command of this situation. There must be a way to enforce bedtime from the depths of my own REM cycle. But how? A few moments later and I had it! I knew exactly how to proceed. A stroke of pure genius. I would TURN THE COMPUTER OFF and close the lid. This action would send a very clear message that Mr. Laptop was all tucked in for the night and OFF-LIMITS. A cunning move I admit, but yet I still had a twinge of doubt. Lifting a finger is usually beyond Edward's normal expenditure of energy, but perhaps he would wish to use the computer badly enough to actually rally his actin and mysosin filaments to conspire together to produce the very muscle contractions needed to push the on button. Was there something else I could do? I considered my options. I could take the computer and hide it, after all it is but the tiniest of laptops. I could password the computer, rendering Edward unable to log on. Good, but not good enough. "AHA!" I had it. I reached for my stash of index cards; I have a tall stack of them, nice ones, a substantial weight, satisfying to the touch. Lovely cards, blank on both sides. I took one of my little beauties and wrote a note, which I placed neatly on the center of the closed computer, squarely over the perky little Apple logo.
The thick black sharpied letters meant business:
GO TO BED!
I MEAN IT!
And with that, I went to bed.
THE NEXT MORNING
I awoke to find four index cards laid out on top of the computer. Each was covered with print, margin to margin. They began:
"Well played. I must admire your maternal cleverness and your strategically placed 'cardian' minion. I have decided to obediently yield to your precious paper foot-soldier and go to bed. Not to sleep. Ha! I have also decided to kidnap the remainder of your 'targetas indices' rendering you powerless! How do you like them apples, Osama? In case you are not fluent in French or evil masterminds, here is a translation, 'I HAVE KIDNAPPED YOUR STASH!' No more conveniently pocket-sized stationary. Your 3x5 days are over, Buster! All 543 of your double-blank oxfords...MINE!"
I looked up, horrified. In the spot where just yesterday sat a generous stack of perfect white paper rectangles, there was now but one card.
And on the other side,
Well played, Edward. Well played.
The note continued, now well into the second card, "Somewhere along the process of concocting this ransom note I seem to have transmitted the very same index-ual dependency I set out to destroy . Oh well. Regardless, the tables have turned in my favor. Please note the severed card shoulder to prove my sincerity. (Referring to the torn corner of one of the cards, I presume?) Oh, silly, silly me! I almost forgot, what will you note that on? Loose-leaf? A notebook? Huh? If you do decide to follow that route, you can note my scoff-age in regards to your primitive notation methods. On a completely unrelated NOTE...."
Now here is where things start getting weird.
I look to my right and see an stuffed cow with a latex glove on its head.
The note continues, now on its third card, "Allow me to introduce Oscar. Oscar is the lifeless lump of bovine cloth in the general direction of yonder. (An arrow points to the right) Do not be alarmed by Oscar's unique headdress. Remember! Oscar has a far superior sense of fashion than you. And now, (We are now well into the fourth card now) that I have managed to fill nearly 60 square inches of index, I shall retire, plump with paper and dehydrated from severe loss of creative juice. Yours truly (I truly am your son), Your son."
Aha! I have found his achilles heel. His excitement over whatever teenage lunacy occurred the night before has worked in my favor. He has left his creative project on the desk much in the same way a cat leaves a half dead mouse for his master. It is clear that at some base level, he still trusts and wishes to please his mother.
I grab a post-it note. (Is this what I am reduced to? A yellow post-it?) I grab Oscar. I leave a note on the lid of the computer:
If you wish to see Oscar again, you will return my cards.
Later, when I return from school, I am greeted with yet another note. I do not have to describe to you the paper upon which said note was written.
I don't negotiate with terrorists.
We are at an impasse. I will not reveal Oscar's whereabouts. But I have informed Edward that Oscar is not on the premises and is being forced to spend his days in an unnatural and very uncomfortable position. But yet, Edward stands his ground.
As for me. I was left with little choice but to use cards that I had previously cast aside as unacceptable. I loathe to use the word cards to describe the bastardization of index that they are. And they had held such promise. Just moments after arriving home with my brand new school supplies, I eagerly unwrapped them. When my fingertips met the surface of the newly unveiled card, I flew into a rage. The cards were a joke. Their weight thin. Their fibers course. A cheap imitation completely lacking in elegance and dignity.
The cards mock me. Even worse, my son, and truly he is my son, has proven that he can out wit me and out write me. But at least I have Oscar.