I guess I thought I was doing my part in raising our kids to be self-sufficient. My two oldest think they are because they had lived (recent graduate) and are living (junior year) away at college. I suppose in a way they did function as if they were independent, because the good Lord knows, I can count on one half a hand the number of phone calls we, their birth parents, received from them. The threat of turning off their cell phones if they didn’t respond in a 24-hour period usually prompted a courtesy check-in call from them which I know was done on “the way to class” so they wouldn’t be subjected to any call longer than a walk from the dorm to their next class. They love to remind their two younger siblings how “tough” they had it growing up. They enjoy telling them how I made them make their own school lunches when they were just barely able to reach the kitchen counter, how they had to clean the bathrooms, eat foods they didn’t like (ask our oldest about the time we had him eat an apple), how they never received an allowance for any chores they did and how I didn’t tolerate grades below a 90.
When I was that age I was not only making my own lunch and cleaning bathrooms, but also doing laundry, making dinner, mowing the lawn which also included enduring numerous blisters from raking said lawn because for some reason my father never bought a mower with a bagger or if he did have one, we never knew where it was. I also had to take in and unpack the groceries week after week and eat whatever was made for dinner which was always something my father liked, never mind what any of us kids wanted. I never made my kids eat cube steak the way my dad likes it, DRY! As a matter of fact, I don’t even think my kids know what cube steak is.
I will admit when they first left for college I wondered if they would get up in time for their early classes, if they would eat healthy, if they would go to bed at a decent hour, how often would they do their laundry, would they study? I never really worried about them making friends because they both take after their father and get along with everyone. But because of that I did worry that they remember why they were there and not buy into this “whole college experience” malarkey that some parents want their kids to have. Your father and I are helping you pay for an education whereby the goal is to choose an employable field of study, attain a job in said field of study, earn a living and stay out of debt and out of our basement when you are older. After their first couple visits home I could see they were still alive and well and that they must have figured it all out, although I’m pretty sure my son knew before he left for college that he wasn’t supposed to do all his laundry in one load, as evidenced by the white socks and t-shirts not being so white anymore. Perhaps he thought he was making good use of his time saving skills?
My daughter’s recent visit home from college began with her dropping her bag in her room and noticing that her bed was not made. She came to me asking where her sheets were. I told her I had washed and dried them but they were still sitting in the dryer. Instead of her offering to going down two flights of stairs to get the sheets from the dryer she gives me a sigh, my guilt sets in and I retrieve a set of sheets from the closet and she begrudgingly makes her bed. Thankfully I had gotten rid of the Care Bear and Barney sheets before she got home. It is getting late at this point (we had been at a very long swim meet and ate dinner very late) and I am now in bed, literally about to fall asleep when I am awoken by same daughter now asking where her “big blanket” is. “Probably in your closet?” I say groggily. “Oh.” she turns and leaves my room not to be seen until mid-day. I am wide-awake again.
The next afternoon I come home from work to find her watching America’s Next Top Model or Boy Meets World, both of which I am convinced are in programming cahoots with the college break schedule. I come home to a sink full of dishes that held whatever food concoctions she has made in the two hours between her awakening and my coming home. Those in my family know that one of my pet peeves is dishes in the sink when there is a perfectly good dishwasher nearby that is ready and waiting to receive the remnants of breakfast, lunch and dinner. I think my kids suffer from dishwasher dementia. They are unable to determine if the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty even though the big red light tells them so, because they know if they are indeed clean they might be asked to unload and that will create a snafu in their attempt to do as little as possible, so instead they play dumb and resort to putting them in the sink and exiting the vicinity as quickly as possible.
Day three of her visit she awakes, comes downstairs, looks around the kitchen and proceeds to tell me how her friend Jenny’s mom makes Jenny and her brother breakfast EVERY morning when they are home from school. I respond with an eye roll and tell her there is yogurt in the fridge. I can’t keep up and frankly after four kids, I’m tired. I was 23 when my first was born and 35 when the last one arrived. Something happened in that 10+ year time-frame…I think I got old!
So she spent her time with us, eating, studying, watching TV, napping, along with a constant reminder that she needed some supplies (aka groceries) that she wrote on a list that she subtly placed on the part of the counter where she knew I would see it. “Who’s paying for this?” I ask. $60 less in my checking account, she flashes her big smile at me and I follow with yet another eye roll.
So I got to thinking and asking myself what exactly is my job? If I didn’t bring the washed, dried and folded towels up from the basement and restock the towel “less” linen closet, would the kids resort to pulling pillowcases and placemats from the closet to dry themselves? If I didn’t replace the toilet paper on the roll or have extra rolls waiting in the wings, would they just sit there and wonder before panic sets in and they begin to yell in desperation? I wonder too how small they can let that sliver of soap get before they don’t think to reach under the vanity located directly across from the shower for a replacement bar? And my personal favorite … witnessing this game they play to see how much trash can they balance precariously on top of itself before thinking, “Hey, I should probably take that out.” And then decide, “Nah, I can make it fit in there.”
Now in all fairness my kids are great, but I don’t like to tell them that too often. Exhorting does not come naturally to me, as any fellow melancholy can tell you; some might see me as awkward if they ever caught me in the act. And in my defense, I think part of the problem with a lot of kids today is that their parents make them feel “too great” and these kids are growing up thinking they are the end all be all…narcissism, I think is what it’s called. We don’t make excuses for our kids and expect them to make good choices, knowing full well that will not always happen. But they know regardless that we love them…unconditionally. Part of our job is to get them ready to leave the nest. So without wishing time away, I admittedly look forward to seeing how they will function when they are really self-sufficient, out on their own, out from under our covering, how they will live with their spouses, how they will raise their families and how they will run their households, because as I have discovered after almost 25 years of marriage , which my father-in-law said the day he married Tim and I, “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”
But that’s whole ‘nother story …