Is it a sign of the economic times or family history or family background or family tradition? For several years when our kids were young, I was mostly raising them while working very limited part-time hours. Meanwhile my husband worked one full-time job and a part-time side gig doing database development.
His side gig eventually went away, but then I picked up more hours at work. Now that our kids are grown and one of them flown, I’ve picked up a second job for a few hours a week to try to fulfill some long-time needs and goals of ours.
And following in our footsteps, the newly launched 23-year-old has graduated from one job to two. The retail job they’ve working was offering 20-30 hours per week. But starting this week, my “kid” is at a full-time office job, while keeping one shift a week at the retail place. This is the same person I had to drag out of bed to get to school back in the teen years. The same one who couldn’t manage to bring a dirty dish downstairs from the bedroom while living with us, but is now the designated dishwasher in their own household.
My 19-year-old son, who is living at home while taking college classes, has started coming out of his room when he’s home. And he talks to me. I mean, he initiates conversations. It feels like a bridge crossed. Or a bridge rebuilt. Or something about bridges.
In the year before he graduated from high school and for the year or so since he moved back home, he kept mostly to his room when he was in the house. He’d come downstairs if I used my phone to message him that I’d cooked some food, or to briefly take care of whatever household chores he was assigned for the day. Otherwise, I had to make an effort to make sure I saw and talked to him each day.
He tended to leave his door open, at least, so it was easy to pop in and say hi. The conversations generally went something like this:
Me: “How’s it going?”
Me: “Keeping up with your schoolwork all right?”
Me: “Well, see ya.”
But lately, he’s been bringing his laptop downstairs into the living room or dining room to do his work. He comes and sits next to me on the couch and starts conversations. Granted, he somehow manages to do this just at the moment I’ve decided I’m exhausted and need to go to bed. But I’m so glad he wants to talk, I stay up anyway.
My son is having some struggles at the moment, with health issues and with decisions about the future. The amazing part is when he says he wants my advice. We sit and talk about his life, his concerns, sometimes deep, philosophical issues, and other times more light-hearted topics.
The other day he even gave me a compliment, one that touched me at the very center of my thrifty core. I had shared my excitement about the deal I got on crackers at the grocery store. “If you bought a single box, they were $2.50 each, but if you got five, only $1 per!” At our house, we go through crackers like mobile apps go through updates, so five boxes is not overkill.
My son, rather than rolling his eyes, said, “I have a feeling that if anyone else were managing the money in this house, our standard of living would be lower.” He acknowledges and appreciates my accomplishments as a penny pincher! What more could a mother ask?
Shout out to parents who have a teenaged son shut away in his room right now. Some day he will emerge, and you will get re-acquainted.
Sniff. Yesterday was my baby’s first day of jury duty and I didn’t even manage to get pictures.
I guess I have to admit my child really is grown up when they get summoned to sit on a trial. And I don’t get to go along to offer moral support or take pictures of how cute they look sitting with the group in the courtroom.
This was federal court, too, so not even in our city. They had to drive to the state capital, thirty-five miles away, where the U.S. District Court is located. During rush hour. On the morning when a lot of out-of-town visitors were leaving after eclipse viewing.
As it turns out, after half a day of vetting, my kid was not selected and got to come home. I have received jury summonses approximately every three years going back to the dawn of time, yet never actually had to report to a courthouse. I’ve only had to make the phone calls to find out whether to go. So I was full of questions.
Thing 1 (nickname for my firstborn) reported that the case was “Some old super rich guys suing each other because no amount of money is enough for them.” It was a property dispute of some sort. Apparently many high-paid attorneys were involved on both sides. Thing 1 was dismissed when the judge asked if anyone in the jury pool felt uncomfortable with the amount of money being sought – $80 million dollars.
So, there we go. Another milestone achieved. I need to remember where I put the baby book, so I can write it down.
Even though my children both live with me at the moment, and even though I sometimes find myself wishing they both were more independent in some ways, they will occasionally surprise me with what they handle on their own.
This is Captain Marvelous (Marv for short), in his heyday:
My firstborn, C, has had a succession of little pets over the years — rats, gerbils, hamsters and mice who are treated to the best life and care a rodent could ever hope for. (Rats make excellent pets. They’re pretty clean and usually very affectionate and well-behaved.) Unfortunately, even the best cared-for rodent has as shortish life span. Marv was not quite three years old, elderly for a rat, and we knew his time was drawing to a close. He’d been having breathing difficulties for several days.
This morning, C told me Marv passed during the night. I expressed my condolences and started to talk about what to do with his body. That’s when I discovered everything was already taken care of. My two kids had taken him out and buried him in the yard at first light, while my husband and I slept. They put a large rock over the grave to keep other neighborhood animals from digging there.
This feels like a big milestone. They didn’t even wake us up. Or wait for us. They simply took care of it. Is burying your own deceased pet without parental help a marker denoting childhood’s end? Maybe? It’s just not one I had considered.
Is it wrong of me to take a little joy in hearing my firstborn vent frustrations with the difficulties of supervising a teenaged employee at work? There was no breach of manager/employee confidentiality, in case you’re wondering. Just a generalized statement about the struggle of getting a young person under your authority to see and accomplish needed tasks without being prompted every step of the way.
I can sympathize. I really can. (Laughing up my sleeve.)
Just a short post here. My children are 22 and 19 years old, respectively. Prime age to be drafted if we ended up in a war with a draft.
It’s fully hitting me for the first time that most of the soldiers we’re honoring and remembering on Memorial Day were just kids, basically. The majority of the troops who have been killed in battle throughout all the years of our country – around the ages my kids are now. Pretty sobering.
This song seems fitting for today. Particularly these lines:
And I just turned twenty-two I was wonderin’ what to do And the closer they got, The more those feelings grew
I’ve been afraid of changin’ Cause I built my life around you But time makes you bolder Children get older I’m getting older, too (From the Stevie Nicks song, “Landslide”)
Two weeks ago, we had a plan, or so I thought. My 21-year-old (who prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them”) would continue to live with us for at least several weeks, while continuing college. Their significant other would move into the house as well, temporarily, from the small town where they can’t find work. The S.O. would seek employment here and the two of them would eventually get an apartment in our city, maybe in two to three months.
Eight days ago, I was helping my college junior collect bugs for an entomology lab. The next day — one week ago tonight — the offspring announced that friends in Colorado had a room open and said both of them could move in there. In fact, it would happen over the coming weekend. Both of them would look for jobs once they got to the new place. Friday, my kid withdrew from college and started packing. Sunday night the abductors new roommates arrived and slept at our house, while I spent a sleepless night stalking them on-line. Early Monday morning, they packed what they could fit into a Mazda hatchback and drove off to collect my child’s S.O. before continuing to Colorado.
This is what young adults will do to their parents. Their life plans change so suddenly and drastically, they leave us with emotional whiplash. I said, “I brought you a stink bug from the garden and this is the thanks I get?”
I had a vision in my mind of getting to know their partner better, helping the young couple furnish their first apartment together, being close enough to have them over for dinner once a week. Calling up occasionally and saying, “Hey, let’s go to a movie, my treat.” Something gradual. Something that would give me time to prepare mentally and emotionally. A bachelor’s degree was in the vision somewhere, too.
I cried real tears. A lot of them, to be honest. My husband even had a little weeping the morning they left. But I suppose the joy of being twenty-one years old lies in being old enough to make your own decisions, but young enough not to be bogged down with worries of everything that could go wrong. The world is out there waiting for you to discover it. $700 in the bank, no car and no job lined up? Eh, it’ll work out.
I spent so many years immersed in the lives and needs of my two children and my mother. Adding in the job I do for a paycheck, I had little time for anything else. Now I suddenly find myself with only my husband and a houseful of pets. In a short period of time, my mom passed away and both kids moved out. At least the 18-year-old will be home for holidays, school breaks and some weekends. He’s doing it the correct way, in other words.
Since I often cope with anxiety and sadness through the use of humor, I gave my firstborn about ten minutes after pulling out of our driveway (roommate driving) then sent a text saying “We rented your room.” A few hours later, I followed up with “I sold the rest of your stuff on Ebay.” I suppose it’s not exactly like sending your kid off on a ship to America from the Irish shore in the 19th century, expecting never to see them again and not even to know for several months whether they arrived safely.
When this child was six, they promised to live with me forever. Liar. Or maybe they simply meant in my heart and mind. I admit, the former feels as if it has a big hole in the middle right now and the latter is still spinning.
This is the last week. The last week of my son mowing the back yard. The last week of asking him if he has any requests as I fill out my grocery list. The last week to remind him to wear his retainer when he goes to bed. The last week to go to sleep knowing he’s safe under my roof. The last week of the cat who’s grown old as he’s grown up spending an evening in his lap while he works on game design.
We move him into his dorm this coming Saturday, and we’re in the last-minute flurry of getting it all together. I check and re-check my list of what I think he’ll need: first aid kit, plenty of socks and underwear, towels and bedding, deodorant, plates, cups and bowls. Oh, plus, how about a shower caddy to carry all of his soap, shampoo and shaving supplies down the hall? And how about some shower sandals to help him avoid foot fungus? Better throw in a package of toilet paper, because who knows how often they restock in the communal bathroom. I cross-check my list with his: ethernet cable, USB hub, extra computer keyboard… I ask if he’s done any preparation at all. He says yes, he’s backed up files from his laptop to an external hard drive.
I know he still has plenty of nights to spend under our roof in the future, on holidays and breaks, and the occasional weekend. I know I can visit him easily enough. He’ll be less than two hours away, after all. I know in the age of cell phones and Skype, we can be in touch as much as he’ll allow. But I know it won’t be the same as it was before he left. I’m pretty sure the new reality will bring a combination of freedom and pride and sadness and nostalgia and happiness and worry and hope.
I’ve probably made this observation before on my blog, but indulge me, please. As my kids reach their young adult years, I find firsts are changing to lasts. Today is our last first day of school. My 17-year-old begins his senior year today, and I do believe he’s as nervous as he was on the first day of kindergarten. Maybe more.
This is the year he not only has to think about getting through his classes, but he also has to make big life decisions. He’s been trying to research colleges on-line and ends up stressed out about narrowing possibilities and knowing what he’s supposed to do. He’s pretty sure he wants to go into computer programming, but also holds out music technology as a on the short list of majors.
As is common with kids who have sensory integration issues, his grades are not-so-great, but his test scores are stellar. I’m eating crow about having railed against standardized tests in the past, because now I see those scores as his key. I hope they open doors the grades have closed. He’s never had a problem with learning the material in any of his classes, but depending on the teacher, has experienced varying degrees of difficulty with understanding assignments and keeping track of due dates.
He’s come a long way in learning to cope and navigate the world, though. I remember taking him to kindergarten round-up, the spring before he started school. Kindergarteners-to-be were invited to visit their future classroom for part of the day to get a feel for it so it wouldn’t be so intimidating when they started in the fall as students. I think it may have been for the parents’ benefit, as well. I clearly recall standing outside the building with him as he screamed “You’re not getting me through those doors!”
He was overwhelmed with the numbers of big kids and adults milling around. So we explored the outside of the school for a while until he was able to go in. He was fascinated by the classroom fish tank and promptly got into an argument with a girl about fish facts. It ended with her saying, “These are our fish, buster. I think I know about them.” So that was our beginning with his school career.
Though I’m concerned about the big picture things, as my son is, this is the least stressful beginning of the year for me. And the difference is him as a 17-year-old vs. him at any previous age. He’s so darned prepared. He remembered to do all of his laundry yesterday. He sat down last night with a map of the school and marked where all of his classrooms are. He made sure he had school supplies. And he’s planning a homework schedule with talk of bringing up his grades. Wow. I’ve had so many worries about him over the years, but they’re dissipating as I see the wonderful, capable person he’s becoming. I do believe he will make his way in the world.
“The speed limit here is 50, so you might want to pick up the pace a little.” What am I thinking, putting my life into the hands of a 16-year-old? Strapping myself into a metal bucket and putting him in control of hurtling it down the road without killing us? Telling him to drive faster? How is that sane? But he’s got his learner’s permit and needs his practice hours.
I have a new criterium for how people should plan their families, in case anyone should ask my advice. Remember, those adorable babies are going to grow into teens. How many kids should you have? How many ride-alongs with student drivers can your nerves handle? There’s your number.
At least my kids are both pretty conscientious and not reckless. The first time I rode with my son, I joked as I climbed into the passenger seat, “My life in your hands.”
“So, no pressure?” he responded.
Though the day-to-day responsibilities and constant tasks that come with little kids can seem unrelenting, in some ways it was easier for me, psychologically, being the one in charge of getting everything done and keeping us all alive. Of course my goal is to see my kids grow into responsible adults, but it’s hard turning over that control. Oh, yeah, maybe I have a few control issues. I have been known to re-bag my groceries before putting them in the back of my van.
As my kids got big enough to start helping, it wasn’t too hard for me to live with their methods and results for sweeping the kitchen floor, for example. So a few crumbs got missed. No biggy. But as they grew, so did their responsibilities, and some came with real stakes. Getting careless with a power mower is a lot more dangerous than getting careless with a broom.
My older kid is known to stay up in the middle of the night and cook things while the rest of us sleep. This can be wonderful, waking up to freshly baked goods. But I have to trust that the stove will get turned off and we won’t be burned in our beds. And now, in the car, I ride in the passenger seat sometimes, trying to push down thoughts about how if they mess this up we could all die.
For years, they’ve had to trust me not to leave the stove on, not to wreck us in the car, not to be careless in an important area and allow the worst to happen. I know it’s natural for the balance to shift. Sometimes there’s a sudden and dramatic change. A parent has a stroke or an accident. Sometimes it happens more gradually.
It’s likely my kids will eventually have more responsibility for me than I have for them. I know it can’t be easy for my mom, entrusting her life into my hands. In every aspect she has to let go and hope she raised me right. She doesn’t have control over her money, what doctors she sees or even where she lives. Not that I don’t get her input on anything. But it’s up to me to make the ultimate decisions and try not to blow it. Her life in my hands. No pressure, right?