We all know how much I miss my kids. I really do.
But, summer is upon us, and I know this because the youngest fruit of my loins has landed smack-dab back in the bottom bunk of his childhood bed, where he will reside, without changing his sheets, for three stinking months. We have gone round and round the mulberry bush since the moment he dragged in 23 Hefty bags filled with something from a landfill in West Virginia. Stink, stank, stunk. Ugh.
Apparently, he’s under the assumption that while living here and eating my Slim Jims, drinking my Sunny Delight and watching free HBO, he can just live willy-nilly and carefree during his “summer of the valley.” No, son.
When I lay down the questions to which I deserve the answers — i.e., where are you going and with whom? When will you be home? Will girls be there? How many? Do you like any of them? — he answers with the getting-old reply of: “I’m almost 21, Mom.”
Guess what? I don’t care.
He’s enjoying a generally happy, low-cost life this summer. True, he’s working hard, erecting big-top tents for hours each day and coming home smelling ripe and almost comatose. But here’s what: He’s in my house, so I’m preordained to torture him with my regulations. I don’t care how tired the lad is. He ain’t working the coal mines.
He hates that I call him often to make sure he isn’t in jail, or worse, Sheetz. Half his paycheck goes to Sheetz. I just need to hear his voice when it’s getting late and past his bedtime. And yet, cell phone check-ups are being ignored and limits are not only being tested but moved to another state.
I repeatedly lecture him about not making any critical errors this summer because, between you and me, he’s not been so smart in summers past. He’s trying as hard as a testosterone-laced 20-year-old boy could try to make me understand that making mistakes is all part of life.
“Mom” he reasoned. “You always tell me that Gramma and Grampa let you make your own mistakes. They just let you go and learn.”
“Well, that was stupid,” I said. “I mean, yeah, in theory it all sounded so evolved, but, just look at how I turned out. Now, do you want to take that chance?”
“You have a point,” he sighed.
Oh, I know he’s right. I was never tailed nor smothered by my parents. No one ran interference for me at every turn. Both my good and awful decisions were mine and mine alone.
Throughout my young, stupid life, I’m certain I made astronomical mistakes and quickly learned what the blowback would be. For instance, I learned early never to tattle on my older sisters for smoking in the attic because this resulted in them never giving me a ride anywhere, ever again. Not even to my Brownie meetings. That was mean.
Older, more seasoned mistakes included thinking Canadian Club was my friend, which led to the big, fat mistake of introducing it every weekend to my delicate intestinal system. Huge misstep.
My parental mistakes have been varied and monumental. I’ve learned from the mistake of following my daughter’s every move that this may have cost me her trust. I wish I’d learned that lesson right after following her school bus every morning to kindergarten. That, admittedly, was odd.
Yes, children may learn from their idiotic blunders, but that doesn’t mean I can’t harass them in the process. Is it so wrong for me to want my children to answer my calls? To come home at a decent hour so I can tuck them in? To bring me home a Buster Bar from DQ?
I don’t know. But I do know that in this big, old school bus of life, I will always follow them, over hill and over dale, and straight to Sheetz. Awesome hot dogs.
Maria Jiunta Heck, of West Pittston, is a mother of three and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life. Send Maria an email at email@example.com.