This morning my husband and I hugged our 19-year old son as he departed for three weeks in Indianapolis. He and his friend Colin will join an 18-member work crew to install commercial shelving at a large warehouse. This opportunity arose just recently, thanks to Colin’s father and his associates, and brought me both a sense of pride and a smidgen of nervousness.
Frankly, I’m glad the lad will be out of the house for three weeks. I can resume my lifelong habit of walking around the house in my underwear and I’m released from the obligation of stocking the fridge with nutritious foods and preparing meals upon demand. Laundry levels will decrease by about 90 percent and my home will be free of teen attitude for 21 days.
Taylor is quite willing – dare I say, eager – to shave three weeks off his summer break to travel over 500 miles away from home and do hard work. This can’t be an easy choice for a young man who planned to spend his summer reuniting with Towne Lake friends returning from college, boating daily on Lake Allatoona and venturing downtown to Braves games. But the Little Prince is desperate to share an apartment with pals when he returns to Kennesaw State University in the fall, and he is fully aware that he is expected to share the rent cost with us. Thus, he is headed to Indianapolis to earn money.
So why am I nervous? Well, for one thing, Colin may very well kick Taylor out of their Extended Stay efficiency after a few days. My son clearly lacks the eye-hand coordination to hang up a bath towel, because I’ve never seen him demonstrate this basic skill. So Colin will face daily a floor full of sopping towels. Not to mention discarded underwear, socks and tee-shirts. Basic tasks like refilling the toilet paper dispenser or rinsing the sink of whiskers and toothpaste balls? Way unimportant to the Little Prince. And I don’t even want to think about the hotel management’s reaction when they find the room with crusted, unwashed dishes and moldy stuff seeping out of the refrigerator about mid-way through the boys’ stay.
This is the longest time Taylor has been on his own, away from home. (Living on campus at KSU last year, 15 minutes from mom and dad, doesn’t count.) He and Colin will work seven days a week, ten hours per day. They must pack their lunches each day to eat at the work site. They have to wear steel-toed shoes and hardhats. And we’re talking about my young son who has no idea what a drill looks like. I’d be surprised to learn he ever held a hammer or screwdriver. He is not yet familiar with notions such as non-reimbursed business expenses and tax deductions.
But, as Taylor constantly reminds me, I underestimate his ability to step up when needed. To do what needs to be done. After his grades plummeted in his first semester last year, he worked hard to bring them back up in the spring, and succeeded. Whenever he’s received a driving or parking ticket, he’s worked hard to earn the money to cover the cost. When he lost his friend’s lacrosse stick, he immediately replaced it with one of his own.
Here’s the thing. As a mother, I simply want him to learn to be proactive and to avoid the close calls. Putting out fires takes more energy and dollars than preventing them. So wash the dishes before management charges you for extra cleaning. First put on the hardhat, then enter the worksite. Ask the front desk for an envelope to centrally store all your receipts prior to destroying them in your jeans pockets during the spin cycle of the washing machine.
These are the kinds of things I hope my son learns as he makes his way over the next three weeks. But most of all, I ask him to be safe and come home to me healthy and happy.
Oh, one more thing: Be extra nice to Colin and don’t hog the bath towels.