Molly Jo Realy is the founder of New Inklings Press, author of The Unemployment Cookbook, and two digital devotions. She is an award-winning creative writer and currently volunteers as Social Media Marketer for the High Desert Chapter of California Writers Club as well as author Aaron D. Gansky.
When she’s not working, she’s writing. Her current work-in-progress is NOLA, a murder mystery set in the colorful city of New Orleans.
Her life overflows with family, friends, good food and great coffee.
Well-intentioned people tell me because she’s over eighteen, she’s an adult. But is she? Does one particular birthday hold a magic key that shuts off my parenting abilities? Are we less of a family now that she’s older?
She’s almost twenty. She’s in her third year of college, works full time, and has a boyfriend. She texts more than she talks and she’s out more than she’s home. She pays her car loan, her insurance, buys groceries, cleans her room and most times, the rest of the house as well.
She’s growing up. She’s independent. And she still needs me. She needs me to talk to when someone treats her poorly. She needs me to give advice when she doesn’t ask for it. She needs me to encourage her dreams. She needs me to remind her to save money, not spend it.
I write when she’s gone. I work the day job and come home to plot social media strategy, kill characters and invent new settings. She comes home when I’m in the middle of a thought and one of us has to wait. She rambles and I tell her I’m working. Or she doesn’t ramble and I pull teeth to make sure she’s okay.
I’m not allowed in her room sometimes. That’s where she hides the Christmas gifts she’s been buying since August. I give up the TV when she invites her boyfriend for a stay-at-home movie. She doesn’t talk to me like she used to.
I like my quiet time. I can have personal phone calls without interruptions. I read more than I used to. I go out more when she’s not home. I cook meals for one. I’m becoming independent.
She’s ready to fly the coup, because she feels couped up. But she’s not ready. She won’t make it. I haven’t taught her enough yet. She’s almost twenty, and I’m not done raising her.
She thinks she’s ready. But she forgets to turn off the stove or take her clothes out of the dryer. I don’t think she’s ready. But she has a car. A job. A boyfriend. And a savings account.
Is it too late to be her mom? Is it too late to sit at the table and memorize Bible verses or talk about responsibilities? Can I still ask her to play games with me or tell me how her day went? Does she want to know how my day went? Can we be in the same room together and interact more than not?
We schedule our TV watching. “Grey’s Anatomy” and “NCIS” are big in our house and nothing would interfere with those nights. Now, she has her own DVR and watches shows on her own time. Now, we make a Family Date to watch reruns.
I make dinner when I know she’s coming home. I leave leftovers in the fridge when she’s not. She doesn’t like it when I remind her to do chores. She doesn’t like it when I change the schedule or how we do things. I don’t like it when she rolls her eyes and grunts.
Is she almost twenty? She’s thinks she’s older. I think she’s younger. Does the calendar really determine how we should relate to each other?
“You’re still a child,” I tell her.
“I’m an adult,” she says.
“You’re my child,” I remind her.
“That doesn’t make me a child,” she storms.
We argue. I want her to respect me, listen to me, honor me. She wants me to let go more. Give her space and room to grow. Let her make mistakes. But why would I? When I see farther down the road than she looks. When I see around the bend, and it’s not pretty. Why wouldn’t I want to stop her in her tracks and turn her around? I’m safe. Home is safe. Out there is a scary, sad, big-person world and I don’t want you to grow up. I don’t want you to grow out of needing me.
And then the dust settles. And her look softens. And she hugs me and says, “I really do love you, Mom.” And I smile.
And she says, “So. Can I go out tonight?”
She’s not little any more. But I’m not done raising her.
She thinks she’s ready to leave. But she always comes home.
We’re not done being a family.