“When I turn 18, I can do whatever I want, and you can’t do anything about it.”
This statement, this declaration has been uttered by probably 90 percent of the teenage population at one time or other for generations.
I said it.
The good Lord knows I said it. In fact, I am sure my guardian angels are pretty good negotiators based on the fact I survived my teenage years with this phrase coming out of my mouth on an hourly basis.
I couldn’t wait to turn 18.
Only problem was, I turned 18 in December and had until June to graduate high school.
So, I would be eighteen and a half and I would be able to be officially an adult and could do very well what I pleased.
Or so I thought.
Mama’s comeback was, “My house, my rules.”
To which I responded, “Not your house – it’s your apartment on your Mama and Daddy’s house. So, technically, you have no rules.”
“Oh, yes, I most certainly do,” the crazy redhead said, Virginia Slim 120 poised in the air for punctuation. “I am the captain of your ship, little one. You can think you are grown all you want but you are not. Not by a long shot.”
I pulled and pushed against her words, fighting for a way to be independent, wanting to be my own person and know I somehow was in some kind of control of my life and my destiny.
“I am dropping out of school,” I stated one day. “I am going to be a writer and hang out in coffee shops, experiencing life and writing about it.”
Mama gave me a sideways glance. “Don’t you think you it would be silly to quit this close to being finished? Just get your high school diploma and then you can hang out in coffee shops all day.”
She didn’t tell me I couldn’t do it. She just questioned my logic.
“So, when I turn 18, I can hang out in coffee shops, writing and experiencing life all day?”
“If that’s what you want to do,” she said nonplussed. “But, you may want to see if you can wait tables to pay for your coffee.”
Mama evidently forgot what a horrible waitress I was. My toting a tray of hot beverages would be a disaster waiting to happen.
Once, I declared I was going to go live with my father. She was an unfair and unreasonable tyrant. Keep in mind, I hadn’t talked to my father in a year and didn’t even know his number. I just needed luggage, so I could pack.
She opened my bedroom door and threw a box of Hefty bags on my bed. “These will do just fine,” she said. “I am not paying good money on luggage, so you can leave.”
Of course, I was indignant and furious. How dare she give me garbage bags as luggage. I stomped around, pouted, and rolled my eyes for several months to make my angsty point.
A few months later, when Christmas rolled around, guess what she gave me?
Yup. A set of luggage.
I cried. Did my mother – the woman who nearly died just to bring me into the world – want me to leave?
“Of course not,” she said. “But, I am not going to force someone I raised to be around me if they don’t want to be. You think you are grown. And you are of legal age to decide who you live with. If you want to leave, I think you should at least do so with proper luggage.”
Needless to say, I didn’t leave.
In fact, I stayed put for about another 11 years.
Even though I had turned 18, I still had rules to abide by.
As Mama put it, if she was footing the bill, I had to go along with her laws of the land.
I couldn’t just stay out until all hours, and when I decided to drop out of technical school after one quarter, I had to get a job. Since it was a part time job, she told me to get two.
“That is so unfair!” I cried.
“Who said life was fair, Kitten?” she asked, not even looking up from her crossword. “It’s not. But if you aren’t in school, you should be working. Them’s the brakes.”
I stomped, I had a fit, I pouted. But I was barely making enough to pay my phone bill – I couldn’t exactly live on my own, even if was 19.
I was all grown up and, quite frankly, I had it pretty dang good.
At the time, I didn’t realize it. But once I did move out, it became pretty clear and I had a new appreciation for what a donkey I had been and how she had allowed me to grow up.
Then the other day as Cole and I headed to the store, he made a declaration of intent for what he was going to do when he grew up.
I completely disagreed with this decision.
“I can do what I want when I turn 18 and there is nothing you can do about it!” he said.
I laughed. Hysterically. For about eight minutes.
“You keep thinking that,” I said. “I’m 45 and I still don’t do what I want!”
Then, I cried all weekend.
Where was the cute, precious little boy that never wanted to leave Mama? The one that couldn’t go to sleep without snuggles and Piggie? The little boy who adored me and hung on my every word?
Mama was sympathetic. She had, after all, been there.
“I survived you,” she said. “You will be just fine. Don’t fight him so much. That will make him more determined to do what you don’t want him to do.”
Had I taught her that or did she learn it on her own?
“When will it get better?”
“Boys may be different, but you? Somewhere around 30.”
I had been a horrible daughter. I cried even harder.
“I feel like I owe you an apology for everything I said and did from age 13 through 29,” I said.
Silence. Two solid minutes of silence.
“I accept,” she said.