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Oregon Family Magazine

Rapunzel, Rapunzel... Give It A Rest!

11/02/2015 ● By Sandy Kauten
“Dad, can I sleep over at Justine’s?” It was 10 o’clock on a Saturday night and my 13-year-old daughter Wendy had just emerged from a movie theater with a few other girls.

“No,” I said, “You slept at Justine’s last night, so you have to sleep in your own bed tonight.” For Wendy, any night is a dead loss that isn’t spent talking about boys until dawn. 

“Kourtney, Rebecca and Katie – kids you LIKE – are going to be there. It won’t be just a sleepover; it’ll be a PARTY,” she coaxed.

“No,” I said, knowing that Wendy gets a once-in-a-lifetime social opportunity about every 45 minutes.

Wendy made a face, faded back to share the bad news with her friends, and then came along quietly. Silently, in fact. Once in the front door at home, she said, “Can I borrow your phone and call Brandon?” Her cell phone had been impounded as punishment for something or other.  

“It’s after 10 o’clock,” I said.

“But he has his own cell phone, so it’s not like I’d be bothering his parents,” she said.

“No,” I said. “Just give yourself a rest. Calm down and get a fresh start in the morning. I’ll try real hard to like whatever plan you come up with then.” I really hate saying “no” so often, but it seems like if I give a careless “yes” or two, Wendy will be next seen in New Orleans, boozily throwing necklaces to the crowd from a Mardi Gras float.

She argued with me a bit, and then with my wife. Too tired to stay up and monitor Wendy’s activities, I have no idea what she did next. For all I know, she acquired a phone and spent the night blabbing with Brandon. But when I woke up at 7 a.m., I found her sleeping in her bed, which I took as an encouraging sign. Wendy at rest is a rare and painfully beautiful sight, and it made me glad I’d locked Rapunzel in her tower.

At 11am., showered, dressed and freshly painted, Wendy climbed into an SUV chauffeured by somebody’s mother and was off to the mall with a girlfriend and two boys – Brandon and maybe his successor. Turnover is high with her. She might return from this trip re-spliced, with Brandon looking back sadly on the happiest week of his life.

Maybe he’d like to drop by and commiserate with me; I know what it’s like to be rejected by that little cutie. On my income-tax forms, I always claim to have three daughters. But really I have two daughters and a third child whom I merely sponsor. President Jefferson probably felt this way about Lewis & Clark. Yes, they were his boys, but he hardly ever saw them. They were forever off on a mission of discovery. Well, Wendy is the same way, even down to the journaling and the bagging of unsuspecting creatures.

Devoted to her mission, Wendy is only home for as many hours as we require her to be. Hence the rule about no sleepovers on consecutive nights.

And when she IS home, she has a phone clamped to her noggin or a keyboard under her fingers, as her Facebook page serves as a pumping station that keeps the gossip flowing. She disconnects only when we compel her to. Hence more rules.

I think all kids, no matter how “hot,” should spend time in their rooms, gazing out the window, reading books and wondering what life is about. Getting a little bored would be just fine. Being a little lonely? Excellent!

Our two older daughters were only a little like Wendy at that age. To find someone who was JUST like her, you must climb a little lower on the family tree. Yes, I was as girl-crazy as Wendy is boy-crazy. But being overweight and slightly geekish, my obsession was of interest only to myself.

Unlike Wendy’s, my social invitations didn’t come from other kids. They were decreed by the government. State law thrust hundreds of hapless girls into my proximity every day at school. That red-brick junior-high building fairly throbbed with possibility, and even the most inhospitable algebra class afforded me a daily rendezvous with females of breath-taking beauty. School dances were even better. Nobody had to invite me; I had a legal right to attend. And in the decorated gymnasium, any girl I approached was forced to at least CONTEMPLATE two or three minutes in a one-on-one relationship with Yours Truly.

My unattractiveness had a natural braking effect on what would otherwise have been a headlong plunge into womanizing. But our Wendy looks like a piece of candy, especially when she wears lip gloss, and can capture the heart of any runty man-boy she fancies.

Our rules are all that keep her from disappearing into the social maelstrom whipped up by her own appeal. My wife is optimistic, but she has no conception of the beast we are fighting nor of the fragility of its cage. 

Rick Epstein can be contacted at [email protected]