Everyone keeps asking what it’s like to have Shannon home from college.
I give a heart-felt “Great.” “Terrific.” “Awesome.”
I missed my baby girl during her first semester at Auburn.
What I don’t tell them is how grueling, er, challenging it’s been to welcome home an 18-year-old who’s been living on her own for five months and who no longer needs a Mama, until, of course, the cupboards are empty of drinking glasses and Mama is expected to wash them.
It’s a strange transitional period, not unlike the “tween” stage, when a child is between pre-teen and teen. I have labeled this stage “twit,” meaning “child between teenager and not quite able to pick up her dirty underwear from the floor before the dog uses it as a chew toy.”
During Shannon’s first long visit home at Thanksgiving, I realized we were having a communication problem, namely she doesn’t think she has to communicate what time she’ll be home at night.
I get it. For five glorious months, my little girl has been able, all by her onesies, to determine just how late she could stay out and still have enough functioning brain cells for her morning classes (and people say kids aren’t learning enough math and science these days).
But I would like some kind of heads up when she’s at my house, where I actually have first-hand knowledge that my Doodlebug is out on the roads late at night and therefore am tempted to call authorities and hospitals every time I hear a siren.
After we set curfew rules, we came upon a new dilemma: Dividing chores. I waned to divide household duties like she does with her three roommates – equitably, also known as the “Whoever Smells the Rotting Food First Cleans the Refrigerator Rule.”
She wanted to divide the chores the way we used to, as in, “If there are no clean glasses I will use an old fast food cup, or, if necessary, the dog’s bowl, rather than actually load the dishwasher.”
Don’t get me wrong. Shannon is a good kid. Some might even say a great kid. The kind who writes thank you notes after only three reminders. The kind who is unfailingly polite and well-behaved — in front of other people. The kind who doesn’t call from jail.
She also is spoiled rotten. Look, I’m not stupid (don’t think I can’t see you giggling). I know it’s my fault. But she’s an only child and, besides, how much could I truly spoil her on a small-town journalist’s salary?
There are other signs that 18 is a ridiculous age to live independently, and, by the way, to have access to a credit card. (Meanwhile, you call your baby’s doctor to ask if someone can fax records to Auburn and she informs that you, the person who birthed and raised the patient, can no longer authorize such action now that the patient is an adult. Never mind that Shannon can’t authorize the check I pay them with…)
I realized Shannon still needed me to make some decisions Wednesday night, when I was standing over my bathroom sink with a metal shish kabob skewer digging into my clogged pipe. When I got home from work, I found the sink filled to the brim from the dripping faucet and had to actually bail out the water before I could figure out the problem.
What I pulled out was enlightening and, quite honestly, vomit worthy: a golf-ball-sized wad of hair that was, and I’m sure this is a coincidence, the same color as the mass of hair Shannon lopped off last week to create her new bangs.
(I also found the cap from the toothpaste tube I lost two months ago, but that’s beside the point).
I must say the new look is quite fetching, if only she’d thought to put the hair in the trash, or stuff a throw pillow with it, anything but let it wash down the drain.
Sometimes I wish Shannon fully realized my worth. I figure by the time she has kids, she’ll understand the value of having ol’ mom around. After all, not just anyone knows how to skewer a fur ball stuck in the sink.
I’m just sayin’.
You can reach Kelly Kazek by email at at firstname.lastname@example.org.