A couple of weeks ago, my husband came home after running errands on base with our daughter and said, “Wait ‘til you hear this one.” Knowing my 16-year-old’s goofball tendencies, I knew that anything was possible. “Go on, tell her,” my husband ordered our daughter, who was giggling uncontrollably.
Eager to relay the story, he took over. “So, I’m driving down Peary Street, and I pull up to that mailbox that’s by the coffee shop there …” He shook his head for maximum effect. “Then I give Anna the exterminator payment envelope and tell her to go mail it …” So far so good, I thought. “And do you know what your 16-year-old daughter does?”
“What?!” I demand impatiently.
“She gets out, and proceeds to walk around the mailbox three times, looking totally confused. I am motioning to her to open the little door and deposit the envelope, but she just stands there holding the envelope, shrugging her shoulders … at 16-years-of-age mind you! Who knew, our daughter has absolutely no clue how to put an envelope into a flipping mailbox!”
“Seriously?” I ask my daughter whose giggling had escalated into convulsions of silent laughter.
I walked away from the amusing exchange chuckling to myself, but midway through folding a basket of laundry it dawned on me: I have completely failed as a mother.
My eyes bugged out as panic gripped my soul. If our 16-year-old can’t even figure out how to mail a letter, then how on earth can our 19-year-old son be expected to survive when he goes off to college at the end of the summer?
In an instant, I knew I had to act fast. With only six weeks left before Freshman Orientation, I instituted a mandatory practical education class, much to the consternation of our three teenagers. Knowing that there was no way to sugar coat what would surely be received with eye rolling and long sighs, I bluntly named my crash course “Mom’s Summer Lecture Series.”
The children mustered for their first lesson –“How to launder your clothes without turning every garment into a pastel pink size 00” — reluctantly as expected. But before the excruciating half hour was up, we covered detergent measurement, water temperature, color-fastness, stain removal, and the perils of dryer lint. I was going to go over folding as well, but the kids looked like they might internally combust if they heard another word, so I decided to save that for another day.
This week, I have planned a stimulating tutorial on how to boil spaghetti, and next week’s topic is all about warding off fungal growth. I’m keeping it a surprise, but future lessons will cover balancing checkbooks, reading bus schedules, disinfecting bathrooms, and my personal favorite: making your bed and lying in it. Oh, what fun!
Thank goodness I realized the error of my ways, and have been given this chance to make amends. I may have failed my children over the course of the last decade, but I am now completely dedicated to helping my kids to help themselves.
As someone once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, do as your Mother told you.”