I know an avid interest in music signifies the first stage of adolescence because my sister, the mother of a sixteen-year-old, told me so. I was fairly prepared when my just-turned-twelve-year old asked to go to the mall to buy CDs. I browsed through the record store and did not take it personally when my son  acted like he had never seen me before when I walked up to him and asked if he was ready to go.

 Of all the signs of the onset of adolescence, an immediate, pressing interest in music is a tell-tall warning that the ride is beginning. My just-turned-eleven-year-old has his own CD. Just one. And  we listen to  it and listen to it and listen to it. I know all the words to every song and each syllable grates on my one remaining  nerve like fingernails on  chalkboard.

He asked for  earphones for his birthday, and at first I was thrilled with the official-looking contraption that allowed me to cook dinner without being blasted out of the kitchen by bands with names like “Space Hog” and “Stone Temple Pilots”. (I’m telling you, this generation thinks the Grateful Dead is elevator music). But after the first 24 hours of screaming my son’s name so loudly my throat was sore and flicking him on the head to get his attention, I’m sick of earphones.

 Earphones make family living practically impossible. If my son gets a telephone call, I can no longer scream “AL! FOR YOU”, and let that be the end of it. Now, thanks the addition of ear phones to our household, I have to run up the stairs to his room after  the entire neighborhood has heard me screaming his name. I arrive red-faced and furious with intentions of grounding him for ignoring me.  But he is not sullen, furious or trying to punish me.  No, he is sitting placidly with the ear phones on, totally unaware that the phone has even rung.

Now it’s bad enough that my oldest two sons have been  into earphones for years now, but my buttons are really being pushed by my youngest’s infatuation with them. They all sit, listening music that does not sound musical, while I rant and rave and carry on about daily stuff on a regular basis.

 “BOYS! BOYS!” I shriek, “I told you to take out the trash and now the garbage man has come and gone and the trash is running over everywhere and I’m sick to death of all this and I’m going to campus both of you for the entire year and that’s with no Nintendo, TV, phone (I pause here, hearing no tears, wails, apologies, — nothing. So I continue. “And you can forget food and water until the year 2010 and if you think I like doing your laundry, you’re dead wrong and from now on you can forget me driving you around like I’m a chauffeur and for that matter, if I ever see another one of your dirty dishes lying around I’m going to put it in your bed and speaking of beds I’m going to give everyone of them to GoodWill if you don’t start making them up and as a matter of fact…

 “Hey, did Mom say something?” one asks the other.

   They all pull one ear phone away and I can hear the tinny buzzing of faraway and unfamiliar music.

 “I don’t hear anything,” and the Styrofoam pads go back on their ears. I feel enormously better.  I’ve gotten a full day’s worth of frustration off my chest without any personal confrontation, verbal battles and ultimatums I usually regret making.  I am ready to calmly and maturely ask them what they’re planning on doing with the garbage landfill at the bottom of the driveway.

I am breathing a long sigh of relief when my husband, who has quietly witnessed all of my tirade and it’s lack of casualties from behind the newspaper says, “Hey, next time you’re at the mall, how about picking me up a pair of those headsets?”

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