My daughter and I are both counting the days until she returns to college, but for different reasons.

My daughter and I are both counting the days until she returns to college, but for different reasons.


She can’t wait to move into her first apartment and spend more time with her friends and boyfriend.


Meanwhile, I’m dreading the same date because it will forever mark the end of having both children live at home.


My son leaves for his freshman year about a week after my daughter goes back for her junior year. He’ll be back next summer, but I know by now that coming home is never quite the same. And next summer it’ll just be him. His sister has signed a 12-month lease and plans to keep studying and working the summer between her junior and senior years.


So here I am, trying to wring every last bit of family enjoyment I can out of the little time that remains.


I’m also constantly thinking of one thing after another I wish I’d have emphasized or taught more. I ought to have given more laundry and cooking lessons. I ought to have shared with them more information about financial budgeting. It’s now or never, so now I’m perhaps a bit overzealous.


This has led me to annoy my children in a variety of ways, packing the last few words of wisdom into their unwilling brains.


I’ve pressed so many novels into their hands that if they actually read them all they’d flunk out of college from spending 14 hours a day reading instead of going to class.


I have sought to teach my children how to cook various favorites and to get them to understand why living on Ramen and instant macaroni and cheese is a very bad idea. Every day I think of another thing I wish I’d taught them or warned them about or otherwise shared with them.


Realistically, I’ve had 18 and 20 years to fill their little heads and should have done a better job. The problem is that while smaller children’s heads are nicely sponge-like, at a certain point (and earlier than you’d think) they begin, annoyingly, to think for themselves. They choose what they want to read, what they want to listen to, and even what they want to think.


Also, their opinions about the proper way to do just about anything are different from mine.


This has been a source of frustration for some time, but my follow-through has been weak, mostly because of the number of times I just haven’t been home in order to enforce things. This is a big regret of mine that I’ve been trying to rectify, mostly unsuccessfully, in my last summer as Family Dictator.


Just one example:


My method of mowing: Mow entire front and back yards. Use weed-whacker to edge around structures, flower gardens, sidewalks, etc.


Their method: Mow the front yard one day. Feel free to skip the part between the fence and the house because nobody but Mom will notice. On the following day, mow the back yard, skipping the back portion of the side yard. On the following day, depending on Mom’s volume level, try to convince your sibling to do the trimming. Leave weed-wacker and extension cord lying on front porch, conveniently located for next person to use in a week. Or two. Or whenever Mom’s volume level (not the grass height) dictates.


One day I ordered my son to mow the lawn, but he failed to remember to do it in the morning, and then it was time for him to head to his fast-food job. He came trotting home around 9 p.m., full of apologies for having forgotten to mow, and preparing to settle in and enjoy the rest of the evening.


I told him he’d still have to mow. He countered it would annoy the neighbors. I told him that our new electric mower was quite silent. He countered that it was dark. I handed him a flashlight.


My husband and I and a friend of ours sat on the deck trying not to laugh as we watched the flashlight bob back and forth and back and forth across the back yard.


I hope it doesn’t make me a bad mother to admit that I took more satisfaction in watching the Midnight Mowing Show than I did in my official, stated reason for making him mow at night, which was to teach him a lesson, by golly, so that next time he would be more responsible about mowing when he was told to do it.


I guess that’s just one of the millions of things I’m going to miss about having children at home.


Michelle Teheux may be reached at mteheux@pekintimes.com.


The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.