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Teen's good behavior surprises mom

What kind of teenager have I created?

That’s what I asked myself the other day when my daughter did something unexpected. She copied me. You know, it’s the old “Do as I say, but don’t do as I do!” adage.

So what hideous act did I catch my 13-year-old daughter doing?

She didn’t plow a car into a ditch. She’s actually a better driver at age 13 than I was at 16, at least down the few blocks I’ve let her drive so far. She didn’t run away from home either, although she has threatened to but always seems to have second thoughts when she realizes there will be no allowance during this AWOL, let alone food or shelter. And no, she didn’t pierce her tongue.

She refolded towels. That’s right. And not just any towels. Towels that I myself had carefully folded. Apparently these towels did not meet the standards of Inspector Laura.

Flash back a few weeks: Laura carelessly shoves a towel onto the shelf, thinking “Mom won’t see it!” Enter Mom (That would be me. Nothing gets past me). Mom nags (again, that’s me. It’s my unpaid job). “Look at those towels! You call those folded?”

“They don’t have to be perfect,” Laura says with rolling eyes (She’s a teenager. It’s a mandatory gesture).

I shoot back with motherly wisdom, “Yes they do!” (Note, hands are firmly planted on hips, adding an extra aura of authority, a sort of maternal exclamation point).

Now flash back to 1970-something: I’m a little younger than Laura. Camera zooms in to me inside my mom’s house. Grandma Emma, may she rest in peace, hovers over me like a drill sergeant, instructing me on the proper way to hang pants. I’m not too happy about having to redo this tedious task.

(Note, there is no rolling of the eyes. This was not invented until the “Whatchu Talkin’ bout’ Willis?” Punky Brewster or maybe not even until the Roseanne Barr era). Instead, there’s muttering on mute level. I didn’t dare speak out to Grandma Emma, and by golly, I did learn the proper way to fold pants.

Return to present: My teen is refolding my towels. Something has gone eerily wrong. Was it just a bad towel day on my part, or have I created a miniature Martha Stewart? What’s next? Today, neatly folded towels, tomorrow, obstruction of justice and insider trading indictments?

Lately, I haven’t even had to tell Laura to clean her room. She knows that’s a prerequisite for any kind of out-of-house privileges. One night I let her sleep at her cousin’s house without first checking to see if her room was clean, a standard motherly procedure. On this particular evening, I felt like Matlock as I swung open her closet door with an “aha” expectation. I anticipated piles of dirty clothes, stinky socks and possibly even rotting corpses. Instead, I was met with neatly organized rows of shoes that easily out shined my own shoe closet.

I don’t know where I went wrong. Perhaps there is a support group for Parents of Clean Freak Teenagers. This is not normal adolescent behavior.

Laura’s even gotten like me, to the point where she doesn’t like to cook in a dirty kitchen. Do you? I know it’s going to get messy all over again once I cook, but the meal seems to taste better when every dish is washed before I started dirtying them all over again.

And after the kitchen’s clean, then I can’t stand the sight of dirty kitchen rags in the sink. Which brings me to the real question I meant to base this column around:

What do you do with those decorator towels in the kitchen and bathroom?

This perplexing question was examined by Ray Romano on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but Ray left this heavy question up to us viewers to weigh on our own consciences. Do you wipe or not wipe? Do you save the best towels for guests or let your family have at it? And if you happen to be the guest, do you take a chance and wipe with the good towels? And if not, what the hell are those pretty looking towels for?

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at:

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