A-parently: Lucky 13?

"A-Parently" is an attempt by Union County Regional Editor David Chmiel to navigate moments that he and his wife, Paula, share between blackouts along the bumpy road of parenthood.

Paula and I never gave much thought to numerology.

Until today, when we realized that we are triskaidekaphobians.

It's 5:28 a.m. on Feb. 1, and I'm recounting the life of one Zachary Matthew Chmiel, who 12 hours now will celebrate his exact birthdate. His mother and I recalled some of our favorite memories. First steps to first words, fingerpainting to drawing on our brand new bedroom dresser — in ink. First grand slam to middle-school honor roll. He's a good boy.

Despite it all, we're waiting for the black plague. See, this birthday is number 13. Our friends who've been through it assure us that the bundle of joy we brought home from St. Barnabas roughly 4,742 days ago was about to turn into a sarcastic, snarling, forked-tongued ball of hormonal malevolence, ready to overreact wildly to our unrealistic demands ("Wash your hair, brush your teeth, feed the dog.") while making allegedly reasonable requests of his own ("I don't need school. My room will be painted black by the time I get home, I am getting a tattoo, Why? Because my girlfriend, a sophomore at Seton Hall, thinks they're hot.").

So we sit here on the couch, tranquilizer guns in hand (one for him, one for us), waiting for the apocalypse. We've experienced moments of insouciance, paranoia, unhinged irrationality, inarticulated frustration and other manifestations of his impending condition and we lived to tell the tell. Part genetics, part man-child confusion, it always winds up with a hug, a kiss and an, "I love you, no matter how much you're pissing me off right now" from us and a baleful, "Sorry" from Zach.

But this morning Luke, the 9-year-old who idolizes his big brother, came down first, anxious to wake up his brother to give him his gift, an Xbox 360 game. Of course, it's not altruism that triggers his wake-up call; it's the gift that keeps on giving since Zach will need a partner for a Madden '12 marathon.

We kept waiting for the end of days, but didn't hear feet on the creaky steps. Of course! We realized that the sunny, smart, charismatic boy who, from the time he was in a big-boy bed used to hit the floor with a smile and a war cry of, "It's today!" would now need four calls to roust himself from the mattress sanctuary.

Time to test the waters. The four of us — including Zoe the dog — silently climbed our creaky steps and (Zoe, forgive the figure of speech) dogpiled our sleeping teen. We pounded him, tickled him, taunted him. Heck, we even wished him a happy birthday. Then we recoiled instinctively to the corners of the bed, waiting for him to blow.


Bouyed, we attacked again and fell into a heap of laughing Chmiels. He woke up, got dressed and came down to open his cards and presents and prepare for the last day in a week of midterms. Paula dropped him off at school and watched him jump into a pile of pals. So far, so good. Well, the day was just starting...

Of course, he didn't make his bed (a rarity for him) and his room has lately been looking more like the town dump than the tidy abode he regularly created. But hey, that's what bedroom doors are for.

Neither Paula nor I sweat the fact that we're old enough to have a teenager. But we have discussed our teenage years and have made a few wagers about whose traits will manifest themselves over the next six years (God, I hope she wins).

Still, we're in uncharted water here, folks. We need your help. Give us your stories, your wisdom, your secrets, your favorite adult beverages that will help us be better for Luke when he hits the big 1-3 in nearly four years.

If we survive, that is...

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Liz Mitchell Worthington February 02, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Love this story! Hilarious to hear about the Chmiel pileup. Happy Birthday to Zach! Since I know both the Chmiel parents, I can say Zach will be one lucky guy to get traits from the both of you.
Sara February 02, 2012 at 04:58 PM
13 is not the worst. The worst is after he gets his driver's license and you get THE CALL, eg. Mom, everyone is OK but........ You might want to consider the option of running away from home.
Jane Yager-Baumrind February 02, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Enjoy 13, on the same day, 2/1 my "baby" number 2 of 4 turned 21. Talk about feeling old, won't even discuss the 23 year old. He's across the country in college and when I called him 10:30pm our time, the joy I heard from him was over whelming. "Hi mom, I'm sitting here at the bar with Bobby, (brother) and Moto" (friend). "Oh Michael, I said, I'm so proud". Not sure what he was laughing at, but he'll never now how proud I am of myself, that I make it to 21 again. Don't worry, you'll make and be so proud of yourself too someday. Enjoy 13!!!
Kathy Pigott February 03, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Congratulations to you and Paula, the first 13 years are the easy part. We find ourselves waiting and praying our 18yrs old makes it home safely every time she ventures out. You don't worry about your children, because after all, they are our children who would do no harm (haha). You worry about the others that are on the road and what influence they're under. We've found a nice bottle of Chianti helps make the wait for them to return home a little easier. By the Way, I'm sure Luke is taking notes on how to "get one over on you guys" from his older brother!
Jeanne Thiemann February 03, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Count your blessings that Zach is a boy - our daughter just turned 13, and World War II was nothing compared to the Menopause vs Adolescence battles at our house.


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