It’s hard to be a wild 17-year-old in a small apartment. Almost as hard as it is to live with a wild 17-year-old in a small apartment.
Sure, there’s no denying that New York City is a great place to bring up a teen. The kids can get around by themselves on the subway; and there are plenty of creative and cultural things to do.
But there are problems. Many.
First, there’s all the noise that a teenager makes. Especially when the 17-year-old year-old in question is a rock and roll musician, who likes to compose songs after midnight. Somehow he manages to forget that it’s verboten to strum and wail after 11 pm.
Space (and the lack of it) is another problem. A lanky six-footer takes up a lot of physical and psychic area, and Smartmom’s cozy 1,200-square-foot apartment just isn’t big enough to contain Teen Spirit’s adversarial energy and anti-authoritarian flair.
Then there are the obligatory fights. Who wants to have a high-volume yelling match with 17-year-old when all the neighbors can hear it?
Last year, Smartmom’s friend was having such a big fight with her teenage daughter that a neighbor buzzed up to say he was going to report her for child abuse.
When Smartmom and Hepcat first moved to Third Street, they figured they’d be living in a big brownstone or a suburban house by the time Teen Spirit was, say, 10. Surely by then he’d be too big for a tiny bedroom that was perfect for an IKEA-sized crib and a bookcase.
Well, as it turns out the family never moved into that brownstone. They stayed on Third Street, and Teen Spirit has survived in that small room. In fact, he loves his room even if it is so crowded that he has to keep his dresser in the hallway.
There are other ways, too, that wild teenage behavior doesn’t work in a small apartment.
Sleepovers. When Teen Spirit wants to have a gaggle of friends sleep over, there’s nowhere to put them. But that doesn’t mean the kids don’t want to be there. If it’s three or less, they like to sleep in the bed and on the floor of Teen Spirit’s teeny, tiny bedroom.
If there are more than three, they like to sleep in the living room (which is pretty tiny thanks to Hepcat’s home-office), where they sleep on the couch, the floor, the not-very-comfortable Eames Chair and the inflatable Aero mattress and occupy the living room for days on end.
When Teen Spirit wants to be really wild, he usually does it out of sight of Smartmom and Hepcat. But last week, he and some friends decided to use the outdoor space between their building and the one next door as a late night café for beer drinking and cigarette smoking.
Their crucial mistake was to not throw away even one of the 20 40-ounce beers they’d consumed. The neighbors were none too pleased at the sight of a bottle-strewn alleyway.
At first, Smartmom didn’t believe that her boy would do such a thing. When she confronted him, he denied it. But the next day Smartmom had an admission of guilt. She asked him why he lied to her.
“What kid wouldn’t lie about drinking beer in the backyard?” he said.
Ultimately the backyard got cleaned up, the beer bottles filled up the recycling bin and the chairs were returned to basement storage.
Smartmom hopes that’s the last of Teen Spirit using the alleyway as beer garden. Yet, it frightens her to think of the things he does out of her sight.
That’s the problem with bringing up a wild teen in an apartment. Because of the noise, the lack of space, and the fact that Smartmom and Hepcat respect the needs of their neighbors, Teen Spirit can’t get his ya-ya’s out under the watchful eye of his parents.
Hopefully, he’ll get them all out soon and move onto the next phase of his life (whatever that is) and Smartmom’s apartment will return to its usual benign chaos.
Who knew that Teen Spirit’s teen years would be this wild? Then again, who knew they’d still be in their small Park Slope apartment?