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Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: The gathering spot

Posted December 11, 2016

It was a rare moment of tranquility. I had just finished wrapping some Christmas gifts in our basement rec room, and I decided to lie on the couch for a few minutes in front of the fireplace and read my Kindle.

I grabbed a blanket and turned out the lights and snuggled into the pillows in the corner of the couch. I was so cozy that I started to doze off, and then I heard what sounded like a stampede of elephants coming across the hardwood floors above me and rumbling down the stairs towards me. But it wasn't elephants. I could tell from the high-pitched giggles that it was something much more formidable: Teenage girls.

The kids were surprised to see an adult in the teen space - an interloper in their clearly marked territory, flanked by a ping pong table and a large Smart TV that I don't know how to use. I told them to make themselves at home, that I was tired and was on my way to bed anyway. They thanked me and plopped down on the couch to begin what teens do in my basement most weekends - hang out.

In the hallway, upstairs, I was greeted by my daughter and a few more teens and assured the boys who had arrived would be gone by a pre-set curfew time that we had previously agreed upon. The girls, she informed me, would be spending the night. For this reason, I have a closet full of comforters, pillows and pillow cases in the basement, along with a few blow-up mats that allow up to six or so girls to sleep over somewhat comfortably. My daughter always cleans up the next morning, which is part of the deal.

I asked a wise friend named Garry one time what the secret was to good parenting and maintaining a relationship with your children into adulthood. He told me quite simply: "Keep them close and create a place they want to come back to, and they will keep coming back."

I was not upset about losing my spot on the couch, quite the contrary. As I lie in my bed and continued to read, I was buoyed by the sounds of laughter and the ping pong balls being lobbied back and forth.

In the morning, we ran to the store and got items to make a pancake breakfast for the girls. Admittedly, this is not something we do every weekend, but several were exchange students from Chile visiting our daughter's school. We wanted to give them a traditional American breakfast.

As I listened to them banter while they ate, I realized that I am lucky to have the teens coming to my house. Like a fly on the wall, the interloper that I am in their secret world with their secret language, I sat on a stool and observed them like a tourist on safari watching wildlife at a safe distance - close enough to see, but not too close that I might spook them.

In my head, a single mantra, "Keep coming back, keep coming back..."

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books, including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.

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