September 16, 2010 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Mom, guitar gently weep as teens LOL


More than 20 years ago, for reasons now unclear, I decided to have a baby. Derek and I had been married three years, and I guess it seemed natural to want to expand our family. Of course, we could have bought a dog, but we didn’t.

Truthfully, I’ve always wanted to be a mom. As a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up my standard answer was, “Flight attendant, actress, librarian and mother.”

Perhaps, it’s my own mom’s fault. As the youngest of four, I begged for years for a baby brother or sister, but none was forthcoming. If I’d been granted my wish, I might have proceeded more cautiously into the parenting pool.

But with all the wisdom of a 24-year-old, I plunged head first into mothering. I repeated the process three additional times, until I realized you really can have too much of a good thing. Four sons seemed like plenty.

And I adored my babies. Sleep deprivation, potty training and ear infections didn’t damper my joy – much. I loved their toothless grins, their tottering first steps and the way they’d snuggle so sweetly when sleepy.

When the time arrived to take my firstborn to kindergarten, I wept, and I cried again when it was time to send the last one off to school.

Now, I wonder what I was thinking. In fact, I believe the British may be on to something with the whole boarding school thing. Because, you see, those adorable babies morphed into teenagers. And I’m pretty sure their sole purpose in life is to torture me.

Teenage boys are interested in teenage girls, and as the lone female in my sons’ lives, I’m doing my best to ensure they are successful in their relationships with the opposite sex. While going over dating etiquette, I asked 15-year-old Zack, “How do you impress a girl?”

“You kiss her!” he replied.

Somehow, the conversation progressed to marriage and children. “I’m naming my daughters Tzaki and Tequila,” Zack informed me.

His 18-year-old brother pondered names for his unborn progeny. “I’m naming my first son Doobie Smalls Hval and my second son Antoine Dodson Hval,” Alex announced.

For some reason they think it’s really funny to make me cry at the dinner table.

Then there are the phone calls that make my heart stop. This summer, Alex traveled to an all-day paintball scenario. I soon got a call from his buddy. “Uh … Mrs. Hval? Uh … Alex fell and hurt his knee and they took him to the hospital. I haven’t seen him yet, but they said … uh … there’s exposed bone involved. Or something.”

Frantic phone calls and texts ensued. Finally, Alex texted back: “Not hurt bad. LOL. Am driving home.”

For those who don’t know, LOL means “Laughing Out Loud.” I get a lot of texts from Alex that begin or end with LOL, but they rarely leave me laughing.

Even my firstborn, who is out of the house, occasionally causes concern. He called Saturday and began the conversation with, “Well, I’m OK, but my car doesn’t look so good.”

Phone drama aside, I worry about my teenagers’ abilities to hear and retain information. Last week, I came home to find a sink filled with dirty dishes. Congealed eggs on cheese encrusted plates – calcified salsa in stoneware bowls. How is it possible that children who can cook eggs for themselves cannot rinse the dirty dishes and put them in the dishwasher, despite repeated instruction and admonitions to do so?

And now, 10-year-old Sam is making teenager-ish transitions. Recently, I heard the water running in the bathroom. I knocked on the door. “Sam, are you taking a bath?”

“No,” he replied. “I’m a man, now. Men take showers.”

“When did that happen?” I asked.

“A couple days ago,” he said.

While counting my gray hairs, I tried to remember what compelled me to have children. I trudged down to my desk and stared at my computer screen. Then I heard Zack strumming “Blowin’ in the Wind” on his guitar. He knows how much I love that song.

I opened my Facebook page to find this note from Ethan: “Hey Mom! Just posting on here for all your friends to see: How totally awesome I think you are and how much I love you!”

Sam yelled downstairs, “I’m doing my homework and I already took the garbage out.” I hadn’t even gotten around to reminding him.

But that wasn’t all, as I sat marveling at my good fortune, I felt an arm slip around my shoulders and a whiskery kiss graced my cheek. “Mom, thanks for letting me use the car,” Alex said. And he was off.

Perhaps the reasons I had for embarking on this parenting journey don’t really matter. The highs and lows of the past 20 years have been more exhilarating than any roller coaster.

Today, I’m going to take a deep breath, fasten my seat belt and just enjoy the ride.

Cindy Hval can be reached at

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