My favorite bagel

Photo By David Robert

She wanted to go to Taco Bell.

“But not if you don’t want to, Mom,” she said agreeably. “We should go somewhere you want to go. You’re paying.”

Swell of my daughter to remind me who was picking up the tab.

My latest theory on teen-raising involves making productive use of food mixed with conversation. Get the teen out from behind the computer, away from the phone during one of those rare moments that’s not sucked up by extracurriculars. Then just ask how, say, school is going.

“I’m OK with McDonald’s, too,” 14-year-old Tabi said.

While I am fond of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, it just didn’t sound good. I named off a couple of sit-down restaurants, but these didn’t sound good to her. So much for me picking the place.

We hopped in the car and started driving. About five blocks from home, I noticed Tabi was wearing a nasty rag of a sweatshirt. She told me that she loves that sweatshirt.

“I’m tired of you dissing on my clothes,” she said. “Last week it was the slippers; now it’s my sweatshirt. I just can’t make you happy.”

On the previous Sunday, she had worn furry, leopard-spotted slippers when we went to see Monsters, Inc.

“You don’t wear slippers to the movies,” I had said.

“Why not?” she wanted to know.

I couldn’t think of a good reason.

Parenting a teen is a bit like shooting a bow and arrow toward a target in the middle of an old-growth forest on a moonless night. You know what you’re aiming for: a thoughtful, productive human being. But the darkness is thick, and you can rarely tell whether you’re pointed in the right direction.

“We work in the dark,” said American writer Henry James. “We do what we can.”

So I pulled back the string and let an arrow whiz. That’s how Tabi and I ended up at Park Lane Mall. I bought her a new sweatshirt ($48!) at Hot Topic. Not to replace the old sweatshirt. Heaven forbid. The new garment merely augments the old rag’s existence.

Then we cruised across the street to Shoppers Square.

“I know a good place for bagels,” I said. “Have you ever been to My Favorite Muffin?”

“Sounds good.”

My daughter is a big bagel nut. Bagels are her lunch of choice at Reed High School, where a bagel and cream cheese is 75 cents. My Favorite Muffin bagels are fresher, baked daily at the store on California Avenue and transported to the Shoppers Square store. They have mega-bagels and normal-sized bagels in about 18 varieties. Tabi loved her blueberry muffin and cream cheese ($1.60). She also raved over the soup of the day, Italian Wedding ($3). It had spinach, little meatballs and tiny round pasta. I had the Nevadan sandwich—beef, Swiss cheese, red onions and a tomatoey dressing on a sourdough bagel ($4.50).

“I really like it here,” Tabi decided, ripping her bagel apart and dipping hunks into the cream cheese. “I think this should be our new cool place.”

“It’s a great place,” I concurred.

Then she got right down to the business at hand.

“So … how is work going?"