Oh Happy Day!

by Joanie Butman

I have passed the point of no return. Actually, I’m thinking of starting a movement to officially shorten summer by two weeks. Every year at about the same time, I hit a brick wall and start thinking, “They’ve got to go.” This isn’t a recent phenomenon. I felt the same when they were younger and could never figure out who those people were at the bus stop crying as they sent their offspring back to school. For a nanosecond I’d think, “What’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong?” Just as quickly I’d answer, “Nothing! It’s them.”

I know what you’re thinking, “Your kids might read this someday.” Fat chance, but even if they do I say, “Good. Maybe it will give them the freedom when they’re parents to admit that too much togetherness is not always a good thing AND there is nothing wrong admitting that every moment with your children isn’t blissful.” Let’s face it, life’s not an episode of Leave it to Beaver, and I’m no June Cleaver. I’m sure they’re just as anxious to get away from me and back to their peers – who are a lot less demanding and way more fun.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus’ ministry didn’t officially start until he was 33? Divine timing? Perhaps, or maybe Mary finally suggested it was time to go. Come to think of it, wasn’t His first miracle in response to her prompting? Just saying…

This was my first summer of having a college-age child return to the nest, which added an entire new dimension to the summer. We had some awesome times and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time together, but the bloom is definitely off the rose. Parenting a quasi-adult who wants to enjoy the freedoms of adulthood without the responsibilities that come along with it is no easy feat. No, you can’t treat this house like an extension of your dorm nor can you waltz in at crazy hours and decide to take a shower in the middle of the night waking everyone up, then be surprised when we’re all irritated the next day when you arise at lunchtime. There are a couple of realities some kids just don’t seem to grasp. Number one: towels can be used more than once. Number two: there isn’t a janitor coming by to clean the bathroom, clean up the remains of your last meal, your empty coffee cups, soda cans and water bottles. Number three: “But I WORK!” isn’t a viable excuse for avoiding the most basic of household chores. So do most people. Get use to it.

My 17-year-old son who will be a senior this year had a grueling summer completing his college applications. It could have been finished in a few weeks if he hadn’t needed to take a break after each sentence he wrote for either a nap, a snack, a video game or some exercise. It was slow going. One day he informed us he decided not to apply to what had previously been one of his top choices. Curious, we asked why. Apparently, he was working on the application when he came across this question: “Talk about a book you can envision yourself discussing over coffee with your roommate.” Doug explained, “If there are people who do that there, I don’t think it’s the right place for me.” My husband and I exchanged knowing glances realizing this was going to be a little different process than with his sister who had color-coded files for each college by this point and every essay done with a few extras as backup. Doug was also under the mistaken assumption that any day he worked excused him from all other responsibilities, despite the fact that his shifts never exceeded 3 – 4 hours and were intermittent at best.

My husband and I are looking forward to reclaiming our house, which looks like a cross between a storage facility and a locker room. It’s amazing how much gear comes out of one miniscule dorm room. Given the volume of ‘stuff’ littering our abode, I have to wonder exactly what we were paying to store in Virginia.

We have a long way to go before our children can claim independence in its truest form – meaning off the payroll completely. Even though my niece and nephew are older, this summer I watched with amusement as my sister-in-law and they negotiated the terms of their iTunes divorce. I think they’ll need a mediator to resolve a number of custody issues of shared songs.

So what’s the solution to my parenting malaise other than my idea to shorten summer, which has already been instituted by the way? Well, my husband and I could choose to move into one of those over 55 communities. Now I know why they became so popular just as the baby boomers became young adults. Our parents were seeking refuge. Relocating isn’t really an option at this point, so I decided to get a job next summer, which according to their logic will preclude me from cooking, cleaning AND will keep me away from the mess. Out of sight, out of mind. The thing is, messy rooms don’t bother me as long as they keep the door closed. It’s when the sprawl takes over our common areas that it causes a problem. My husband, whose most valuable possession is his Swiffer, has had a harder time tolerating the mess than me. I feel like a delivery room coach. “Take deep breaths, it’s almost over” was the only encouragement I could offer.

Make no mistake; we love our kids – just not their baggage or their garbage. I am leaving today to drive my daughter back to school and set off with a song in my heart. “Oh happy day……”

On a more serious note, teenagers may be messy, but so is life. As we age we just learn to hide ours better—keeping our doors closed in a sense. I’m not much different than my kids littering the world with my ‘stuff.’ I have to believe that God must feel much the same about me. Yes, He loves me – just not my baggage or my garbage. Fortunately, He always welcomes me home despite the trash I repeatedly create. Why? The same reason we welcome our own kids home—because I’m His child. Even with that said, He can’t coexist with messes either which is exactly why He sent his Son to assume the role of ‘servant.’ Christ willingly sacrificed His own life to clean up humanity’s mess – including my contributions. And He did it without expecting anything in return. His sacrifice is free for all. That is a truth which puts the same song in my heart. “Oh happy day……”

If I had more time, I would have made a lip-synched version with like-minded moms performing, but this was best I could find at short notice. Enjoy!