“Cold enough for ya?” Grant Toews grinned as Andrew and Rose Jackson sat down at the table in the café where Grant and his wife Karen were already halfway through their breakfast.
Rose shivered, and scowled at the same time. “If I had a dollar for every time somebody’s asked me that in the last two weeks I could go back to Mexico.” She set her coffee cup down. “And I would,” she added.
“It’s the first day of spring,” said Karen, peering out of the window at the snow blowing along the street. “Why does anyone even live in this frozen wasteland?”
“If you can call it living,” said Rose.
Andrew snorted. “You’re complaining about the cold?” he said. “People used to live here, through winters like this, in teepees. Or sod houses. We’re just spoiled.”
“Not spoiled enough for my taste,” said Karen. “I told Grant yesterday that if we don’t have a hot tub in the house by next year I’m going to move into the Heartland Motel in Winkler for the winter.”
“Oooh good idea!” said Rose. “I think I’ll join you.”
“A month from now we’ll have forgotten all about this,” said Grant.
“True enough,” Andrew agreed. “We’ll be too busy sandbagging.”
“Don’t even say that,” said Karen. “In fact I suggest we talk about something else.”
“Good idea,” said Rose. “So, how are the kids?”
Karen grimaced. “On second thought,” she said, “lets’ go back to talking about the weather.”
“That bad huh?” Rose paused as the waitress set a plate of bacon and eggs down in front of her, and another in front of Andrew. “What are they now, 13 and 17? Thirteen has to be the worst.”
“No kidding,” said Grant. “Kendra was difficult at 13, but Danielle is a holy terror. She’s got the cognitive abilities of a 20-year-old and the maturity level of a five-year-old.”
“The problem with children,” said Andrew through a mouthful of hash browns, “is that the different areas of their brains don’t develop at the same speed. And the real problem is that the part of their brain that recognizes consequences is the last part to develop. Sometimes it doesn’t really kick in till they’re 30 or 35.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” said Grant. “Which is why teenagers get pregnant. Not all teenagers,” he added quickly, giving his wife a reassuring look. “Just some of them… sometimes. Because their brains don’t work properly…”
“Stop talking now honey,” said Karen.
There was a brief pause.
“It gets better,” said Andrew. “Eventually.”
“In the good old days,” said Grant, “if your teenagers didn’t behave the way you wanted them to you could take them out to the woodshed and whup some sense into them.”
There was another pause.
“I’ve always wondered about that,” said Rose, picking up a crisp piece of bacon with her fingers and taking a bite. “If those were actually the good old days and whupping sense into teenagers was such a good idea, then why did teenagers back then still get pregnant? We know they did.”
The others thought about that for a moment.
“Maybe there just wasn’t enough whupping,” said Grant. “Maybe when you use whupping as a preventive you have to sort of build up a critical mass before it works.”
“Or maybe,” said Rose, “whupping teenagers is just as ineffective a way of getting them to not… OK, I’m just going to say it… have sex… as any other method that’s been tried. Maybe there is no critical mass that’s guaranteed to prevent that.”
“You’re not making me feel any better here Rose,” said Karen. “Keep in mind that I have not one, but two teenage girls I have to try to keep track of.”
“Well,” said Andrew, “I think the trick is to have as many mortifyingly awkward conversations with your kids about it as you can. That way when they think about doing something risky, they’ll be thinking, if this goes wrong I’m going to have to have another one of those horribly uncomfortable conversations with my father which is so not worth it. I’ll just rather wait till I’m grown up and on my own. It seemed to work for the boys.”
Rose looked surprised. “You had mortifyingly awkward conversations with the boys about this?” she said.
“You have no idea,” said Andrew.
“I could do that,” said Karen. “Heck at this point I might even enjoy it.”
“Go for it,” said Grant. “I know it works for me.”
“What do you mean it works for you?” said Karen.
“I mean,” said Grant, “there’s all kinds of things I don’t do because I’d rather avoid awkward conversations with you.”
“Really? Well then,” said Karen, looking momentarily relieved, “maybe there’s hope after all.”