Joanne Palmer: Talking part of the trouble with teens |

Joanne Palmer: Talking part of the trouble with teens

Joanne Palmer

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or

— We are on the set of Steamboat's newest reality TV show, "Who Wants to Live with a Teenager?" There is no Kardashian-esque bling, fancy cars or high fashion. There are, however, dozens of iPods, oversized hoodies, bags of potato chips and hormone-fueled drama.

Shh. Quiet on the set. We are going to zoom in for a close look at actual dialogue between a mother and her teenage son. The situation involves a tired mother who has called home from a busy day at the office to ask her son, almost 15, to walk the dog so she won't have to do it when she gets home. When the mother arrives home at 5:30 p.m., here's what happens:

Mom: "Did you walk the dog?"

Teenager: "I couldn't find her."

Mom: "Hmm … we have a small dog in a small house. How could you not find her?"

Teenager: "It is a very small dog — the runt of the litter. But she can be really hard to find. She has been known to jump in the sink, washing machine and bath tub when she hears thunder."

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Mom: "I see. What about cleaning your room?"

Teenager: "Huh?"

Mom: "I am not a neat freak. However, when I mistakenly open your closet door and am almost buried by an avalanche of wet, soggy towels, I say it's time to clean your room. Interestingly, when I say, 'Clean your room,' you seem to hear, 'Time to play the video game "Call of Duty."'"

Teenager: "True, you are not a neat freak. Plus, there are no soggy towels, only slightly damp ones. They do not meet the description of soggy. And recently I have been playing 'Skyrim' and 'Army of Two,' not 'Call of Duty.'"

Oops, this isn't reality TV; this is my life. On the rare occasion that I catch a glimpse of my teenage son, it is hard to have a dialogue with him. More often than not, it turns into a debate about something simple like, oh, say, getting to school.

My darling son refuses to ride the school bus. He calls it the "evil yellow Twinkie." Being the wonderful, caring mother that I am, I cheerily drive him to school. However, we barely have backed out of the driveway when he has not only turned off my radio station of choice (NPR) but also launched into a blistering attack on my driving.

"Your turn signal is still on."

"Stop multitasking and focus on your driving."

For someone who doesn't even have his learner's permit, he certainly doesn't hesitate to express his opinion about my driving.

His side of the story, naturally, is quite different. He claims school buses are lame, that part of my job description is to facilitate transportation and that I occasionally have the urge to get out my makeup while driving.


Part of the fun of living with a teenager is trying to understand what they actually are trying to say. Someone should create an app for iPhones that can translate teen-speak such as "dank," "legit" and "sketchy."

Despite his ability to argue like a trial lawyer, there is no one better to call upon when I can't remember how to work the TV remote, the shortcut on my computer for copying an image onto my desktop or how to delete a photo from my camera. Once in a while, when no one is looking, I may even get a hug, which makes it all worthwhile.

Wait! What is this? A rare sighting of my son in broad daylight.

Let's see what he has to say about his hardworking mom, furiously typing away on her laptop.

"Despite her ability to lose every argument, there is no one better to have your back in every situation. Or to make you soup when you are sick. Putting aside all our bickering, we are the best team out there."


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