How to Entertain Your Teen Daughter in 2 Easy Steps

I’m in a theater waiting for the show. My daughter is literally bouncing off her seat. To try to corral the excitement, which is beginning to annoy our neighbors (her bouncing is jiggling the entire row of seats and we’re getting death glares), I say, “Let’s play a game.”

My entire family loves to play games. We take games seriously. Not too seriously, though. I mean, not out-of-proportion seriously. I don’t think. We laugh a lot. But I have to say that we also love to win.

Anyway, I shuffled mentally through my list: Guess an animal? Sick of it. Initials? Boring. Ghost? I shudder. The last time I played Ghost with the kids… I can’t even think of it. (If you’ve heard the story, you’re definitely giggling right now.) Suffice it to say that it was one of my more embarrassing moments as a mother. They ambushed me and then laughed their asses off.

I settled on a modern version of I Spy. It was surprisingly entertaining.


Before the show…

 Game #1. I Spy. 

Me: I’ll go first. I spy something that looks like a city.

Liz: [pointing to the set, which shows a cityscape and a rooftop balcony, and getting right into the spirit of the game] The city! My turn. I spy something that is a red hat.

Me: Tough one. M’mmm. That woman with the red hat?

Liz [still bouncing in her seat]: Right! 

(Did I mention that she’s 15?)

Me: I spy something plaid.

Liz: That guy in the plaid shirt? (No) That guy in the plaid shirt? (No) Umm, that guy in the plaid shirt? (No) Those two guys sitting next to each other wearing plaid shirts?

Me: No again. It’s that one over there.

Liz: That’s not plaid! That’s checked.

Me: Plaid.

Liz: Checked.

Me: Fine, I see something that is checked.

Liz: That guy over there with the shirt that’s not plaid?

Me [with enthusiasm]: Exactly!

Liz: I’m done. New game.

Okay, I think I Spy was a draw. Liz flips through the program while I think. I stop her hand when she gets to the list of scenes and the characters in each scene.

Game 2: Memorization

Me: I’ll give you 30 seconds to memorize Act I, and then I’ll quiz you. Go!

Liz studies the program with great concentration. I use the opportunity to seek out more men in button-down shirts and compare plaids and checks. Seriously, some types of plaid could also be described as checks (checked? Checkered?). It’s true. Stop laughing.

Me [snatching the program out of her hands]: Time. 

Liz: I’m ready. I got this.

Me: In scene two… How many little dots are there between the name of the scene and the character in the scene?

Liz [laughing]: Mom! That’s ridiculous. Besides, they’re called ellipses, not ‘little dots.’

Me: Even when there’s, like, thirty little dots?

Liz: How should I know?

Me: Well, you sure sounded like an ellipses expert just now. Or a fifth-grade teacher. Seriously, though: What is the setting of Scene 1?

Liz [hitting the back of the seat in front of her with great enthusiasm, as though it was a buzzer]: Rooftop!

The man in the seat in front of her turns around, eyes narrowing. Liz mouths, “Sorry.” We both notice at the same time that he’s wearing a plaid shirt. We snicker. He turns around and glares again. We sit up straight and look mature.

Me [back to the game]: What time of day does Scene I take place?

Liz: Morning!

Me: More specific, please.

Liz: Early morning! No, wait! Dawn!

Me: Correct. Who sings the song, “That’s rich.”

Liz: Martha. No, Mandy? Medda!

Me: Correct again. True or false: The second act has more scenes than the first.

Liz: Not fair. You didn’t tell me to study Act II.

Me: You should have been more proactive. Reading ahead is encouraged.

Liz: Fine. True.

Me: Wrong. False. You fail.

Liz: What? Not fair. I got the first three right, and the fourth one was a trick question.

Me: Not my fault. Also, you missed the one about the little dots.

Liz: Ellipses.

Me: Whatever. You still fail.

Liz: You suck. Give me my program.

As the Overture begins and the lights started to dim, I lean into Lizzie and whisper, “No, you suck.”

I got the last word in. Ha: I win.

The one on the left would look checked from a few rows away; the one on the right is called plaid by the manufacturer but is obviously also checked.

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