The Best

Teenagers struggle for their independence from parents.

They have to.

It’s a rule.

As a parent, I simply had to accept the rule and learn to flex authority only when necessary. I failed at times, of course. On both sides. Fortunately, both Elder and Younger never felt compelled to obliterate the boundaries I had in place.

But, now and then, Elder, in frustration and with teenage arrogance, would demand, “You have to treat me with respect, Mom.”

And I would assure him, “I am, Elder.”

He did not believe me. Until he went to college and listened to some real arguments between his roommate and his father. Then Elder started to glimpse the true meaning of disrespect — on both sides. And I never heard that demand again.

But the other day, Elder called me. “Hey, Mom, I just wanted to say thanks for putting up with me and my writing.”

He was writing an essay. And while doing his own editing and revising, he realized the effort I had applied to that task first in his four years of high school then his last three years of college.

Then last night, he ended a call, “Well, Mom, I’m going to get a sandwich and go home. I’ll talk to you later. You’re the best.”

I knew he was growing up.

He’s taller. His shoulders are broader. His voice is deeper.

And, well, his age keeps climbing.

But, sometimes, I forget he is also getting older.

And maybe, just maybe, wiser.

Because, you know, I’ve always been the best.

He’s just now catching on.




One of my favorite aspects of teaching is interacting with students, especially the ones who are sincere about learning. So, when they come to me with questions, I, of course, do my best to answer them, even when the questions focus on issues other than composition.

The other day, one student could not access her Word program. With a few clicks, I showed her how to verify her account, and she could once again type her essays. Then I moved down the line. The next student had one paragraph on one page and the next paragraph on the next page with a lot of white space between the two, but she could not figure out how to get the second paragraph to move back up and into position. I clicked a few keys and the disobedient block of words jumped into the correct location.

“Wow,” she murmured. “You really are magical.”


I. Am. Magical.

I think I will have that printed on a Tshirt.

No one can argue with a Tshirt.

Come Again

The other day, as we were driving through Rolla, we heard Younger mutter from the back seat, “Oh.”

At our confused looks, he explained, “I read the sign wrong. I thought it said mortality rates, not motel rates. It was kind of scary.”

Then he added, “And I thought that really was ‘budget’ accommodations. ”

Not what they mean, Younger.

Not what they mean.


The Little Ways

As the boys have grown older, I have been fortunate that they continue to tell me, “I love you, Mom.”

But I have also learned to listen for other ways their love for me and my husband is shared.

The other day, we helped Elder set up his apartment for this school year, his senior year at Mizzou. He did not accept my offers of vacuuming or organizing or general tidying — my attempts at saying “I love you.” But as we left the apartment to visit a local restaurant, he told me, “You can ride with me, Mom.”

And Younger has his own way of expressing his feelings. Last week, his first week as a freshman at Missouri S&T, we chatted for several minutes on the phone about his orientation activities, ending with “I love you.” Then Younger added, “And tell Dad I tolerate him.”

Love is in the little moments.

And the little ways, too.

Use Your Words

So, Younger and I had to spend hours shopping for dorm room necessities and college clothes, and neither of us considers shopping to be an enjoyable past time.  But we did manage to laugh once or twice . . .

In the car between stores, Younger murmured a few lines of “Margaritaville,” causing me to glance at him with furrowed brows. “I don’t think it is ‘stepped on a Pop Tart,’ Younger.”

“What?” Then he laughed, shaking his head. “No, Mom. Pop top.  But I do think that might be the only thing that could improve the song.” And so he twanged, “I blew out my flip-flop, Stepped on a Pop Tart.”

Then later, he asked “Hey, Mom, did you see that lady at the grocery store who checked out behind us? With all the bread? I mean she stacked bread on top of bread on that treadmill.”

“Treadmill?” I stared at him for a moment. “You mean conveyor belt?”

“It’s a treadmill for food, Mom.”

Shopping is not for wusses.

And, apparently, neither is English.


Today, Younger and I locked ourselves out of our house. I actually engaged in most of the action involved, but he was standing close by, so I will include him in the necessary finding of fault. And I realized our mistake as soon as the door clicked shut behind us.

So, we searched the vehicles for a spare set of keys we might have forgotten even existed.

Then we circled the lower floor of the house, twisting door knobs and pushing on windows.

Younger eyed the distance to the porch roof while I loudly protested that particular thought process.

Then I remembered seeing Younger’s discarded driving permit license in the door of the car, useless after his obtaining his real driver’s license.

“Okay,” I told him, grabbing the somewhat flexible but still decently firm card. “You check the perimeter of the garage for any keys we might have forgotten we hid, and I’ll try carding the door.”

He looked at me dubiously.  “Sure?”

And while he peered around baseball bats, golf clubs and bicycles, I slid the edge of the card between the door and the jamb, my tongue caught between my back teeth as I tested several angles.

And then, “Ah-ha,” I cried, triumphantly, turning to grin at Younger in probably somewhat arrogant delight at my breaking and entering skills. “You’re impressed now, aren’t you?”

“Uhhhhmm,” he drawled, glancing from the bent card in my hand to the door swung open behind me.  “I’m concerned.”


But as Richard Nixon once proclaimed, I am not a crook.

I am a mother of boys.

And innovation by necessity is my superpower.

Well, one of the superpowers.

I can’t give away all my secrets, now, can I?