My oldest child turns 19 today. Yesterday, we dropped him off at college. I made up his bed, put his trashcan in the corner and spread his rug on the floor. “This isn’t summer camp. I’m not a little kid. I can do it myself,” he insisted.
The theme of our summer was learning to let go. He let go of us. We let it happen. He believed his parents had matured. Then I knocked on the door of his self-reliance. Without asking to come in, I announced that I would.
On Friday he texted me: WE ARE CAMPING TONIGHT, his way of reminding me without listening to words of caution in return: No girls. No guns. No alcohol. (I haven’t matured as much as he would like.)
My text in response: WONDERFUL. WE’LL BRING THE S’MORES. WE’RE ABOUT TO EAT NOW, SO WE’LL BE OUT THERE AROUND 9:30.
He and his friends weighed the evidence to determine whether I was serious. They decided it wasn’t worth the risk, so my son sent OKAY. WE’RE GOING TO AUGUSTA FIRST TO EAT DINNER FOR PJ’S BIRTHDAY. It was a plausible excuse, they reasoned, for not being at the campsite when his father and I arrived with the party treats.
HAVE FUN. TEXT US WHEN YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY BACK. WE’LL MEET YOU OUT THERE. My husband read the thread over my shoulder. “You’re terrible,” he said. “Why are you torturing him?”
“I know!” I exclaimed. “He’s squirming.”
Meanwhile, the boys huddled and put on their thinking caps. My phone buzzed again. OKAY. IF IT RAINS, I WILL PROBABLY SPEND THE NIGHT AT ERIC’S HOUSE.
I quickly tapped off: AWESOME. WE CAN BRING THE S’MORES THERE AND BURN A BARREL. LET ME KNOW WHAT Y’ALL DECIDE.
OKAY? was all his fingers could muster.
Delight filled my heart. I pounced. I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE GOOD WITH US JOINING YOU LATER. DADDY THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE MAD. SEE YOU IN A LITTLE WHILE. I LOVE YOU.
“Still at it?” my husband asked. I read what had transpired since last he checked in.
Forever passed before our son’s personal essay appeared on my phone’s screen. It read: ALRIGHT. WE’RE GOING TO ERIC’S AND ME AND ERIC ARE RIDING DIRT ROADS WITH PJ. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TIME WE’LL BE BACK AT ERIC’S HOUSE. AND IF YOU DO GO TO ERIC’S DON’T MAKE A LOT OF NOISE. HIS SISTER JUST HAD TWINS AND HIS DAD IS SICK.
He and his cronies didn’t count on: ARE YOU TRYING TO DITCH US?
He immediately cracked out: NO MA’AM. I’M JUST TELLING YOU WHAT WE’RE DOING.
Strategically, I let 30 minutes expire. Then I messaged WE’RE HERE. WE CAN’T FIND THE BARREL. WHERE SHOULD WE LOOK? BTW ERIC’S SISTER CAME TO THE DOOR WHEN WE KNOCKED. THE TWINS ARE SO CUTE!
He sent back: I TOLD YOU WE’RE RIDING DIRT ROADS.
I sent: OKAY. BUT DADDY AND I NEED THE BURN BARREL SO WE CAN START MAKING THE S’MORES. WE’RE TRYING TO BE VERY QUIET.
My phone rang. An agitated boy voiced confusion when I answered. “I can do this all by myself,” he said (in essence). He’s right. But I don’t know if I can.