Mona Charen

They told me -- back in the days when I had three little boys ages 4 and under -- that while those early years might be tumultuous and exhausting, the payoff for crazed mothers and fathers comes in the teenage years. Then, while parents of girls are being whipsawed by operatic mood swings and battling over tube tops and short shorts, we parents of boys would be kicking back and enjoying life. I am here to report that it's true!

Okay, not entirely. David was moody and irritable for pretty much his entire 13th year and while he has now reached the sunny uplands of 14, he still has his moments. Jon, 16, has developmental disorders of various kinds so that no age is without challenges. But for the most part, the teen years here are actually -- and one doesn't want to tempt the evil eye but -- fun.

Well, of course, as the parent of a teenager you do have to have a sense of humor about certain things -- like socks. They either fail to wear them when they should, or leave dirty ones in places they should not. They are heedless of their appearance and submit only reluctantly to daily ablutions. They consume prodigious amounts of food but regard two stalks of broccoli as a huge portion. When their hair is falling over their foreheads and tumbling down over the eyes to somewhere near the nostrils, they pronounce it "too short." And they have a peculiar sense of time. After three hours on the computer they will wail plaintively, "I just got on!" But after six minutes of practicing the trumpet or clarinet they will affirm that they spent a half-hour.

And yes, as the mother of a music-obsessed 14-year-old, I do yield radio control to whoever has first called "shotgun" in the car and thus am subjected to more heavy metal than a middle-aged woman should be expected to endure. Did you know that there are genres of heavy metal? Oh, yes. There's hair metal and death metal and thrash metal and God knows what else. I once asked David whether every song amounted to its own genre. He was dismissive. David is very quick on the trigger. He knows my views and standards and after a year and a half of listening to heavy metal in the car, I don't think I've heard a single swear word.

But enduring heavy metal is an investment because this boy also loves Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Rimsky-Korsakov. We split our time between the rock and classical channels. David can play Hummel and Haydn on the trumpet, and after spending three glorious weeks at Interlochen music camp this year he returned appreciating opera, dance, and even (his mother's skepticism notwithstanding) Mahler. If I can listen to Metallica and Rush for David's sake, I can certainly give Gustav another go.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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