No Sugar Added: Take no prisoners

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My daughter recently got me hooked on an ultra-witty, quirky gem of a TV series called “Arrested Development.”

We’ve been spending hours every evening watching back-to-back episodes, and the laughter that’s ensued has done more for my abdominal muscles than all of the sit-ups I’ve done in the past six months.

At first I pondered why I hadn’t watched this show back when it first aired in 2003. Then I realized I’d spent most of 2003 weeping, but still, what a waste of good comedy. Thank goodness for the healing power of time (and Netflix).

The patriarch of the family featured in the show is tossed into jail for white-collar corporate crimes early on, and is frequently shown in his orange prisoner jumpsuit having dysfunctional chats with visitors, and hocking a series of enlightenment videos called “Caged Wisdom.” (Just thinking of this makes me laugh. If you enjoy twisted humor, please watch it. You’ll thank me.)

Admittedly, the prison theme has tied in nicely with what is currently transpiring within the confines of my own home.

My three teenage children may as well be in prison, only this is self-imposed confinement. I haven’t sequestered them. At any point on any given day, if they are not at a babysitting or dish-washing job, or at a play rehearsal, I know where they are: in their rooms, under lock and key.

I knock on my 16-year-old’s door, awaiting a reply. Of course, with him, it’s usually total silence and I need to put a stethoscope to the door if I want to know whether he’s still breathing. If only we didn’t live in an old house with solid wood doors, parental spying would be much easier. It’s not that I don’t trust what he’s doing in there; I just feel it’s my duty to see if he’s ever coming out for food. His silence lasts until approximately midnight, which is when he begins mixing what I’ll loosely refer to as “music” on his computer. This is also when I consider purchasing earplugs.

I once didn’t see him for 24 hours, and felt all warm and fuzzy upon discovering his laundry going through the spin cycle in our washing machine, and knowing he was still alive.

My daughter is just as bad, if not worse, having already spent one full year in a college dormitory. It is my belief that she never went to sleep before 4 a.m and frequently didn’t leave her room at all, except for the occasional Pepperoni Hot Pocket. But having your child exhibit such behavior when 120 miles away is much different that having her do it while residing down the hallway.

For most of the 1990s and into the first decade of the new millennium, I recall frequently feeling like a prisoner of my own home as I went about my motherly duties. Other parents who have ever been at home with kids full-time surely know what it feels like to do the endless diapering, feeding, dressing, bathing, and entertaining; escaping was nearly impossible most days and taking a shower before 5 p.m. felt like a victory of major proportion.

And then, there was also the daily struggle of getting them to stay in their rooms and nap. You’d put the child in their crib or bed or what have you, and 3.5 minutes later, they’d be in the kitchen. Or wherever they weren’t supposed to be. You’d escort them back to their room, and – boom – they’d reappear, scaling safety gates and using Toys R Us gift cards to spring themselves from doors that sometimes required locking.

I remember once needing to install a sliding lock and fish-eye viewer in Harold’s bedroom door when he was a toddler, because it was the only way to keep him in confinement while still being able to make certain he was not assembling a nuclear missile.

Given this previous behavior, it’s now quite amazing (and amusing) to me that I spend a significant amount of energy on a daily basis, trying to get my children out of their bedrooms.

I think Santa may be bringing everyone some nice orange jumpsuits next Christmas.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at [email protected].