Lisa Kern

Lisa Kern
Pennsylvania, US
March 28
I'm a mom of three boys, a needy dog, and an insolent cat. When I'm not writing, vacuuming up pet hair, or cleaning pee off the toilet seat, I like to fantasize about jeans that actually fit and an all-you-can-eat-chocolate-and-cheese diet. Welcome to my party.


Lisa Kern's Links

Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 24, 2011 8:01AM

Finding love at

Rate: 66 Flag
emo hands by Ryan Kern

With all of my kids now middle school age or older, I really thought that I’d made it through the toughest part of parenting.  I mean, once you’ve survived the sleepless nights of infancy, toilet training, and fishing Lego bricks out of a child’s nose (twice), the rest should be easy, right?




You see, I have a teenager.  Easy doesn’t exist in my world.


Thank you, I do appreciate the condolences. 


I wish someone would have told me what a challenge it would be sharing a home with a teen boy.  That way, I could have sold him to the circus while I had the chance as my parents used to threaten to do with me.  Once our formerly adorable cherubs spend a couple of years sprinkled in Puberty Dust, they morph into moody fast-growing aliens with cell phones.  Strategies that used to work for us are now ineffective, making every encounter with these mysterious new creatures feel as if it could be taken from a chapter of Inept Parenting 101.


For instance, when your children are young, the word “No” means that an activity, however much fun it is for them, is not allowed.  When your kids become teenagers, though, the word “No” magically transforms into meaning continue that activity for as long as possible, in every waking moment, until you’re certain you’ve driven your parents out of their ever-loving minds.  Then do it some more. 


Of course, the best action when dealing with a stubborn young adult is to ignore the excruciatingly awful behavior until the teen tires of it on his own.  Successfully implementing this parenting approach, however, requires extreme patience, or in its absence, a plentiful supply of top shelf Tequila. 


Parenting teenagers is definitely not for sissies.


Even if you have a strong fortitude and a will of steel, there’s one complication of adolescence that will outwit you every single time:  dating.  I have all sons and learned early on that girls are like kryptonite to the parents of teenage boys.  As soon as a girl enters your teenage son’s life, your influence over your child evaporates.  You are immediately stripped of your parental powers and rendered defenseless. 


To make the entire dating issue even worse, my middle son has a thing for dark, dismal, depressed girls.  The more dysfunction and drama surrounding them, the more attracted he is to them.  Even when these relationships end badly with his heart broken into a million tortured pieces, he will quickly pull himself together and search for a new emo girlfriend. 


For those of you whose children are still at the innocent cherub stage and are therefore unfamiliar with the term, the word “emo” refers to emotionally needy teens who not only fail to see the glass as half-full, they’re unable to see the glass at all.  In fact, they don’t believe that anyone has ever given them a glass in the first place, and you cannot possibly convince them otherwise.  


My husband has a cousin who’s been married three different times.  Each time, he married a woman named Carol.  We would often joke that in order to marry so many women with the same name, he must walk into bars and announce, “Anyone here named Carol?  Oh, you are?  Great!  Let’s get married.” 


Middle Son is just like him, choosing the exact same type of girl time after time.  In fact, his choice of girl is so predictable that I can imagine how their initial meeting unfolds:


                The Girl:  Hi, my name is EmoGirl.  I’m an emotional mess.  I hate my life, I hate myself, and I cry about things a lot.  My favorite color is Black except for summer time when I prefer Dark Black.  I haven’t smiled since I was ten.” 


                Middle Son:  “Same!  Wanna go out?”


Because Middle Son’s last breakup was so painful, I suggested that he might want to take things at a slower pace this time and get to know the newest girl in his life as a friend before dating in person. 


                “But Mom, I already do know her!”


                “Really?  You know everything about her?  How long have you known this girl?”


                “We met on Friday in the stairwell at school. “


                “You met her on Friday?  As in Friday-three-days-ago-Friday?  How can you possibly know all there is to know about this girl from only one encounter in the stairwell at school? ”


                “We’ve been texting ever since.  Besides, we dress the same and like the same music.  In fact, we’re exactly the same.  So, see?  We know everything there is to know about one another.”


I didn’t know how to respond to him.  I mean, there are socks in my drawer that I’ve known longer than three days but not long enough that I’ve gotten beyond their air of mystery.  People are even more complicated.  To truly know and understand another human being, you have to invest a lot of time.  In my world, relationships are forged from many moments spent together, not from having the exact same backpack.


And then, just as it likes to do from time to time, my Commodore 64 computer of a brain unearthed a dusty old DOS file:  a memory of my own ninth grade crush.  He sat next to me in Algebra class and had no idea that I was alive.  Still, I was convinced that he was The One because his appearance fit my ideals.  I didn’t need to know him because I’d already created his perfect image in my mind.


Rather than trying to convince my son how he should proceed with this girl, I realized that sometimes the best we can do for our kids is to allow them the value of their own experience.   Defining a relationship while in my forties is far different from how I would have defined it in my teens.  Doesn’t my son deserve that same luxury of figuring things out even if doing so results in the same heartbreak that I experienced?  Of course he does. 


Tucking away my naïve 15-year-old self and gathering up my 40-something wits, I finally knew what to say to him, the only thing I could say:


                “It sounds like the two of you have really connected with one another.  I’m glad you’ve met someone at your new school who makes you so happy.   When do I get to meet her?”


And that was how I learned to navigate my son’s latest adventure in 


Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pour a stiff one and look up the phone number for the circus.   Just in case.



    **image created by Ryan Kern, 2011     


godaddy hit counter

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Absolute perfection. "" indeed. And yes, as the mother of a teenage girl I will agree: Parenting teenagers is definitely not for sissies. ~r
"I have a teenager."

I sorry.

Yes, you should have sold em to the circus!! Too late now, you're stuck!! :D

Late for school and will read this later, but rated in advance because everything you write is fantastic!
Beautifully written!! My son is 18 and just finished Basic Training in Texas. I spent 4 days with him in Texas and learned all about his emo girlfriend he left behind in Hawaii: her mother is a stripper, her father is an alcoholic cop, she tried to commit suicide in 2009. He wants her to move in with him where ever he gets stationed.

It was so hard to keep a straight face while he is telling me all this. I suggested perhaps she was just girlfriend material, not live-in material. But he thinks it will be "awesome" if she moves in with him. I'm horrified and bemused. My son found out his girlfriends mom friended him on Facebook. "Show Ken her picture," I told him. As my son proudly shows him I say, "that's kims mom, she's a stripper!" My husbands face lights up like now this is getting interesting. Or as he puts it: if they get married, at least his future mother in law can entertain at the bachelor party....

So yeah, still living it.....
Ha! Great to see you back and in good form Lisa. So glad teen years are behind me... what a relish to read and have to remember far back and not from this weekend.Just navigating the world of being a mother in law and trying to be there but not really too much there with my new daughter in law. On to the next phase! Funny and well done..
the best we can do for our kids is to allow them the value of their own experience.

the best we can do for our kids is to allow them the value of their own experience.

the best we can do for our kids is to allow them the value of their own experience.

the best we can do for our kids is to allow them the value of their own experience.

lather. rinse. repeat.
i'm trying. i swear, i am.
"Yes," raised to some exponential power. As I believe you know, I also have a teenage bot in the house. The circus is on the speed-dial. Good job with him, great post for us, and would you like a third just for the sake of balance?
Lovely to read you again, Lisa. Good luck with Emo girl..

(And cool to see Emo boy grow up.. Seven Year Old here got carried off at some point, by some tooth fairy, and what we have now is Nine Year Old, too. Same smile though. Bigger teeth.)
I have had a couple of those, I have one left who is yet a teen, the others just act that way. It feels like juggling rocks in the air and then you miss one on the way down. It hits you in the head and you are reeling for just a few moments, then you languish on the ground, either out cold or hoping to be. Seriously. I am the mother of mothers.....ahahahah
Brilliant title and wonderful application of the "the more it changes, the more it stays the same" axiom.
Funny and wise. I love this line: "Defining a relationship while in my forties is far different from how I would have defined it in my teens."
This is great, Lisa! My son is only twelve but your line:
"They're unable to see the glass at all."
is already so him. Thank you... I'll be sure to bookmark emoharmony for when he's ready :) lol
You put such a truthful, yet funny, spin on it . . . as well as the hard-won wisdom we're all trying to achieve . . . rock on, Lisa, and pass the tequila!
This is kind of interesting as the father of three girls. I always thought women were destined to find the emo dates.

You moms did a great job raising your sons to be sensitive and caring (no sarcasm intended). It seems to have backfired.
The best definition of "No" I have ever read. Truly. Perfect.

Didn't we decide once upon a time we should start an online support group for mother's of teen boys?
I have so much to look forward to!
omg, I will be right over for a drink!!!! my 13 yr old has his first girlfriend....I'm floundering...r
You're on to something but you need to take it a step further. Tell him that you're convinced this is the right girl for him. He'll dump her in a heartbeat.
Very funny. And my sympathies...

P.S. - After they finish with teenagerhood, they go on to yet more crazy-making stages. Marrying ridiculous people. Raising children in stupid ways. Getting divorced and emo-ing about it. Reaching middle-age and, hah, redefining relationships. It doesn't end until you die.
Oh holy crap. This made me laugh out loud. Mine are 10 and 13, and I know I'm only at the beginning of this roller coaster ride. This is hysterical. Thanks so much.
Perfect, Lisa. I remember those days with my girls. Be assured, they turn human again in their 20's.
Enjoyed this post so much. God plays this massive joke on women. When the kids are little, we think this has to get easier, and it really doesn't it just gets DIFFERENT. God bless any mother of a teenager. Then guess what? They become young adults which is also SPECIAL. Great post, great insights. RRRR
I was a teenager. You have my condolences. And uh-oh! Since losing my wife, a bright, sunny brushes with romances have always gravitated toward the bright and sunny. Except for one. The memorable one....oooohhhh...xox
Please take that tequila in small sips - you have a long road ahead of you and it will be quite bumpy for a while. Great read.
When in doubt, do laundry.

(Laughing my ass off, remembering some of the emo chicks my little brother brought home when he was in high school...including the one who unbeknownest to me was at my college on a high school visitation day, saw me in line in the very crowded cafeteria, ran up to me, and screamed, "YOUR BROTHER IS AN ASSHOLE AND HE SHOULD DIE!" before bursting into tears. I had to explain to the curious onlookers that I just wanted a taco.

By the way, tell Ryan that the way to cope with these breakups is to retreat to the basement and play "Dust in the Wind" on the guitar non-stop for about three days until the rest of the family is ready to move to Kansas just to get away from the Kansas.)
I have been one of those fortunate men, and also fortunate for the women in my life, to be a blank shooter.
All my friendly sperms have been conveniently blind and deaf butt, NOT
I did have to patiently accept two rent-a-monters which were made by one of my exes and one of her exes.
Fortunately, we lived in northern WI where we could all hunt, fish, snowmobile, play hockey and have a sufficient amount of diversions to not have to worry too much about real life.
Now that I am older, I am so damn happy that I can still add, sunbract, divide and be soooo glad that I'm too old to multiply.
I have been responsible for forming no monsters of my own and, I do NOT want to learn any different.
OMG, Lisa, your writer mom mojo is working big time! Laugh out loud funny and filled with trenchant teen parenting truths. I hope you survive til he leaves the world of Emo and finds a mathlete with a pink flowered backpack.
when my sons dated as teens, i too discovered top shelf tequila and nitro pills.
Simply wonderful writing, Lisa. I'll never forget going over to a friend's house once and out of the blue she blurted, "I hate teenagers." She had three, and now I know where she was coming from.
Oh how I can relate to all of this. I have girls and boys and they're all over the place. I will tell you you're lucky; there is nothing quite like a pre-pubescent 10-year-old girl. Nice work!
You have some of my sympathy, and I know about the emo girls, I have 2, and a son who loves them. Isn't your son the one who used to love Axe? I remember that phase also. Teenagers, what a fun age.
Why do you treat your teenage (which in my eyes is "approaching adulthood") with such dishonesty and disrespect? Or is that how you treat adults in your life as well?

And as I shout out to all parents: have you forgotten your teenage years? Have you forgotten the stupid, out-of-touch attitudes and opinions your parents had? Or are you lacking enough in self-awareness that you're blind to the fact that you are acting just like your parents did, asking some of the same stupid questions, making the same irrational and unreasonable demands - albeit under superficially different circumstances and with a slightly different vocabulary - that your parents made?

Let me assure you: I'm 46 years old, with more than enough experience dealing with teens to know that your approach, while perhaps well-intentioned, is so thoroughly misguided as to be laughable.

Let me begin with this sage advice: don't make fun of things your child likes just because you don't understand those things. If you can do that simple thing, you're well on the road to being a good parent.

If not, embrace the alienation you (the adult, the allegedly responsible and experienced one) are creating between you and your children - because it's going to be with you for a long time - unless of course you manage the miraculous and accidentally parent children who grow up to be more reasonable adults than you are exemplifying.
What a nice surprise to see so many (mostly) lovely comments! It's been a while...I wasn't sure if anyone would remember me. Just to clarify - this wasn't about my son Ryan (who created the amazing artwork above. That was a photo taken in my kitchen before Ryan applied his magic to it.) Ryan's my Axe guy. This is about my middle son who prefers I not use his name when I write. He's a great kid, even if I don't always understand his taste in girls.

Joan - Teen girls have to be even more difficult. The worry factor alone would cripple me!

Tink - Did your parents used to threaten to sell you to the circus, too, or was it only mine?

Bonnie - Ah, yes...and the hormones are kicking in earlier and earlier.

Snippy - Don't you know that gushing is frowned upon? Unless it's for me, then it's OK. :) Here's a Milk Bone for you. Good dog!

Deborah - I'm so sorry, but your story had me laughing out loud. It should be a sitcom. Oh, girl, how do we ever survive some of these things? I guess it's the humor. Or the alcohol. Thanks for making me feel waaaaaaaay better.

Rita - Thank you, my friend! I cannot even imagine these boys grown and married. Thinking of it is making me twitchy.

1IM - I know, right? Can you please tattoo that on my hand so I remember it?

Ann - Oh yes. Your stories have kept me off the ledge many times.

Nada - I'm thrilled to see you here! I have no doubt that Nine-Year-Old is as beautiful of a child as Seven-Year-Old was. I can still remember that smile from your photos. :)

I will be back to respond to everyone else soon. XOXO
Ahahahahah. Part time step mom of two teenagers, one moved in with BF, and one not interested yet. But, all you need is the same clothes, the same taste in music and the same rejection of certain trends (hate Twilight, for example) and you are like best friends. Think they're going to talk about the budget deficit and global warming? The words cool, awesome and fail can't fit into those sentences that well. Well, maybe fail can. I'm drinking tequila.
Brilliant! I was a teenage boy at some distant time in the past, but have no other experience. I have daughters, nieces, and granddaughters.
Repeatedly seeking out the emotional train wrecks should tell us something about middle son, but I don't know what it is. Maybe he will figure it out. R
TOO funny. This one is a charm. Cleverly told and loaded with favorite being: "Anyone here named Carol?"

This is almost stand-up material. Sell it to a comedienne!
As the father of an almost 11 year old boy, this is a scary read!
Luckily for me, my children were very, very secretive in their teens. My truly excellent daughter-in-law was well in place before I learned much about The Boy's bullets dodged. My daughter didn't protect me so well from the bullets but landed herself with the perfect husband. The other one is happily single. It works out.

(I thought that inside the kid brain NO meant Negotiations [are now] Open.)
Such a great story! When I was in high school Emo was called Goth... same thing, I think.

Reminds me of my own experiences. I did not love the gothguys. But, I did love the leatherclad and/or grunge guys. And they had a myriad of personal problems. Personal problems can be VERY exciting and make for "deep" conversations.

I love your approach, though, to allowing your son to have his own experience.
As a father of five, all grown (and thankfully) no longer living at home, I can relate to your experience. I am just glad that so far, none have them have become axe murderers. Great post!
Nerd cred.
In the teen years, it's the most fun?
My wife would catch Carol in bed.
She'd sneak over and stay all night.
I am talking my youngest child tho.
Tom wasn't bad. He sowed his oats.
I wish I could meet a Carol or Kate.
I wear boots in bed. I hide ugly toe.
I'd no go to AA to meant sex addict.
I just yearn for silent times. Smiles.
I'd date a dental assistant for Smooch.
Pre-dental visit I'd get PU oil Changed.
I don't care what her name is. A Closet?
I hope She ain't nicknamed a Meatloaf?
What in hell happen? No wed to lawyer?
I mean I could wail ref? Lawyer children?
I know not all daughters of lawyers are a`
Ay Oops.
more trouble
more trouble
more trouble
Life is a circus
It a 3- ring show
I hide in Carol`
closet if I Coo`
Life is Grand `
Hi Lisa,

Nice to see you are writing again.
Parenting teens certainly has its moments,
but I still think it compares favorably to being a teen ;)

Elisa - OK, now I'm scared. Bigger tattoos? ::shudder::

kateasley - Thank you! Hmmm...military school...I suppose if the circus if full...

Sheila - I love your image of juggling rocks. Some days the rocks just rain down on you, don't they?

Nikki - Thank you! That was my revelation, too. Even all of these years apart, being a teenager hasn't changed much.

Susan - Thank you - I'm just glad that realization came to me before I'd done something really stupid.

Amanda - Your son is twelve? That's a fun year even without the girls. Thanks for stopping by.
So funny, and poignant, in a "been there and survived" kind of way.

Unless you haven't had the birth control talk, his connection with the girls of darkness will be temporary -- as temporary as most of those girls' flirtation with darkness. Eventually, they'll all turn their faces toward the light.
Owl! - I adore you so much. Your comments feed my soul. I wish I could bottle you. I'd never have a moment of self-doubt again. XOXO

Sheepy - You might be right. Perhaps his sensitivity is what makes him feel compelled to reach out to troubled souls - and date them. By the way, I do not envy you having girls. Tequila?

mamoore - Yes! Why didn't we start that support group? Oh now I remember: we're too busy dealing with all of the crazy stuff they spring on us each day.

Maria - I don't want to scare you, but yes... you have MUCH to look forward to!

hugs, me - 13 years old? I SO feel for you.

bluestocking babe - Thank you! :)

Major Cap'n - Ah, the old "reverse psychology" approach. Hopefully it will work better than it did when he was two.

Myriad - Your comment totally cracked me up. At least now I know what I have to look forward to, right?

froggy - Wow, thanks so much!

Murder of Crows - Fortunately, I do have a 20 year old myself who's made it safely back to humankind (my talented son Ryan who made the image at the top.) Some days his example is the only thing that reminds me that yes, this too shall pass.

Bernardine - Yes, the experiences with our kids don't get better or worse, just different. Just when we think we've hit the most unbearable stage of parenting, there's another one right behind it to bring us to our knees.
Robin - I'm so sorry about the loss of your wife. The two of you must have had such a pure love that it seems when she died, a part of you died with her. I truly hope that you can one day find happiness again. Everyone deserves to have love.

Fusun - Thank you! I'll keep your advice in mind - unless I hit one of those days when sips won't do; only chugs. :)

Leeandra - You always have the best stories and it makes me happy when you share them on my blog. Best-EVER comeback about the taco, too.

XJS - I think you probably gave your rent-a-monsters some good times when you were hunting and fishing with them. You don't have to be a father to be a great role model.

Jane - Ha ha! You know that if it's happening to me, it will be happening to your son next week, right?

Sally - Thank you! I'm comforted by the thought that one day, he'll have kids of his own.

Chuck - Bwahaha! So did the nitro pills help? The tequila does but then it wears off.

emma - Wow, thank you for the compliment!

Margaret - Raising girls is foreign to me, but I don't doubt what you say. Thanks for making me feel a bit more fortunate!

latethink - Actually, this is a different son. It was my son Ryan (who created the cool image above) who's into Axe. So you have two emo kids of your own? Now I know who to ask when I need advice!

Cal Godot - Wow. What a reaction. Did you even read the whole essay? If you did, you would have seen that I realized my mistake in judging them because I remembered how I was at that same age. At least read the entire piece before you decide to attack me.

Oryoki - I don't know...I can totally see basing a relationship upon mutual rejection of a popular movie. ;) Tequila indeed.

Rodney - I'm poking fun here, but truly, Middle Son is a sensitive soul who cares deeply about the world, its problems, and others who he feels are oppressed or hurting. My mom-reaction is to want to guard him from a constant diet of this dark stuff, but as we all know, we can't tell another person what to feel.

Beth - Honest to God, how many "Carols" can one person know in his life, let alone marry them? Some stuff is indeed crazier than fiction.

Procopius - I have an almost-11-yr-old, too. I'm enjoying the calm before the storm, for sure!

nerd cred - Logically, I know you're right: it WILL all work out. When I'm actually hit with another new and surprising situation to navigate, all I feel is panic. Well, at least until the tequila kicks in. :)

Kari - I think you've nailed it. Sunshine and happiness don't make for interesting, deep conversation in the way that dismal and depressed do. Who knows? Maybe they'll lift one another up?

George - Bwahaha! Your comment about none of your children becoming axe murderers is too funny. Set the bar LOW, I always say! :)

Art! How cool to see a comment from you, my friend. You are a wise fellow, too. Life IS Grand Entertainment, and I wouldn't want it any other way. Thanks for stopping by. Your words make me happy.

Diana - How sweet of you to find this. Thanks so much for your support. XOXO

Bellwether - Every time I see that cute baby face of yours, I just want to pinch those wonderful cheeks. That, and forbid you to date until you're 30. Thank you for stopping by.
Oh, Lisa, this scares me to death, yet I couldn't stop reading it. Great image, too... is that one of your sons who created it?
Grace - Yes, the image was created by my oldest son, Ryan. You might remember him from my Axe stories. :)
Lisa, this is hands-down the best description of emo that I have ever, ever read. Therapizing them is not an easy thing either--especially since there's usually nothing actually WRONG. ::sigh::

Good luck with middle son. :)

You put a huge grin on my face :)
I'm so glad this is all over for me...or is it? Better not put that Tequila way yet -R-
Spot on and many laughs throughout, down to the line about the socks. I think you have one thing wrong, though. When the kids get to be teens, "No" becomes not the parental deterrent or even the Command Ignored, but the Sullen Response.
merwoman - Wish me luck; I'm meeting the new girlfriend today.

S.ophie - Wow, thanks!

Christine - Over for you? Heh. You might want to read Myriad's comment, above. I'll get the tequila ready.

Pilgrim - You're right; I suppose Willful Disobedience does tend to share the spotlight with Sullen. Kind of like peanut butter and jelly but less tasty.
wise & funny-love this post
even if it does scare the crap out of me (my kid is 12)
This is the single best paragaph in the English language: For those of you whose children are still at the innocent cherub stage and are therefore unfamiliar with the term, the word “emo” refers to emotionally needy teens who not only fail to see the glass as half-full, they’re unable to see the glass at all. In fact, they don’t believe that anyone has ever given them a glass in the first place, and you cannot possibly convince them otherwise.

I feel like I'm laughing at your expense, which I appreciate. You have my utmost respect.
One good thing I notice about my sister's adventures in parenthood, is that she has the opportunity, through her teen children, to "relive" that phase of youth. To be plunged into the world of teens and their issues may be a karmic opportunity to reexamine those things one endured so many years ago - perhaps to bring new insights, new perceptions to light?

For myself, I admire from a safe distance the exquisite happiness of parenthood.
My apologies for missing your comments.

caroline marie - I promise I'll take good notes for when your child reaches this age. :)

Renaissance Lady - Wow, thank you! Don't feel bad about laughing. Some days it's the only thing that gets me through.

Monsieur Chariot - How wonderful to see you here! You are a very wise man: "For myself, I admire from a safe distance the exquisite happiness of parenthood." XOXO
I think we rediscover another whole side to ourselves when dealing with our teens. Nice thoughts on the matter too.