By: Barbara Cornell
Last summer, my then 20-year old son and I were out for a walk. He said to me, “Mom, I don’t want you to die because I enjoy your company, but if you did die, I think I’d be ok.” After I got over the shock of the statement and gave him a, “Thanks, dude,” I realized that his statement spoke to reaching some of my goals for motherhood.
As parents, we naturally want to take care of our children. At the risk of sounding ancient, when I was a kid (yes, I just said that!) I had to clean my room, change my sheets, and help clean the house before I could do anything fun on a Saturday. I was expected to help bring the groceries into the house and put them away, assist with laundry, do my best in school, and work for the extras. As my own mother said, “I bought you a winter coat, a spring/fall coat, and a rain coat. If you want a fringed, Bon Jovi leather jacket, get a job.” So I did.
With the advent of the internet and an increase in horrifying stories of sex offenders on the news, our children are spending more time inside, glued to expensive smartphones that parents pay for. It is not unusual for a family to pay $500 for a prom dress (my wedding dress cost $400!). And the term, “Adulting,” is a thing that no one wants to experience.
Raising a Cool Kid
Let me say outright: my son is not perfect. But he’s pretty darned cool. Partially because it’s just who he is. And partially because:
- As a single mom, money was (is) sometimes tight. When my son was a pre-teen, he asked me to buy him something. I don’t remember what it was, but I told him that if there was money left at the end of the month, we’d discuss. He didn’t understand. So on bill paying day, I had him sit with me. “Here’s how much money is in my account,” I said. “Whoa! That’s a lot!” he exclaimed. Then I paid the mortgage bill. Gas. Electric. Phone. Cable. Car insurance. Medical bills. “OK – you still have money,” he said. So I showed him how much of that would be spent of food, gas, clothing, home and car repairs, and what I would try to throw into savings…you get the idea. And so did my son
- “Mom, can you make me some pasta?” My response: “Get a box of pasta off the shelf and read the directions. Get started and let me know if you have questions. Pot handle facing in and no bathrobe sleeves near the stove!” He was about 10 at the time. At 21, he cooks his own pasta. And experiments with sauces and stir fries.
- “Mom, can you bake cookies? My friends are coming over tomorrow.” Now, understand that I am semi-famous for my chocolate chip cookies. But I am working full-time and in a Master’s program. I was, and still am, swamped. I gave him the recipe and answered questions as he went along. After two or three batches, I heard, “Mom, I think I have your cookies mastered. Mine are as good as yours.” I wasn’t sure how to react to that. Pride that he makes an amazing chocolate chip cookie and is a really good baker? A little jealousy that I may be less necessary if the kid can make the cookies? He did say that even though his were great, mine were better – made with love and such.
So someday I am going to be dead. My goal is to live a happy, useful life to at least 100 and watch my son and his future children and grandchildren learn how to bake ‘Yogi’s Cookies.’
I want to be here. But in the meantime, I sleep a little better knowing that my child can:
- Open a bank account.
- Write a thank you note.
- Hold a job.
- Converse with college professors.
- Change a directional bulb in his car.
- Pay a bill.
- Understand that credit cards are not free money.
- Cook a meal for himself and his friends.
- Bake an amazing chocolate chip cookie.
Someday I am going to be dead. But I will die with the knowledge that my son can function in the world as a responsible but fun-loving adult. And in the meantime, I have the joy of watching him learn, thrive, and evolve. And make one heck of a chocolate chip cookie!