Keys. from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Linus BohmanFlickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

You know what happens when your children grow up and move back home because you live less than two minutes from where they go to graduate school? They start doing annoying things, like trying to break you of bad habits.

Ben now claims that every single day since he started driving some eight years ago, I’ve said the same exact thing whenever he walks out the door.  “Love you! Be careful!” I call. For years he’d respond, “Love you too, Mom. I will. See you later!”

Now days when I say it, he calls back sweetly, “Love you too, Mom! Don’t worry, I won’t be.” or “Love you too! No thanks!”

I laughed out loud the first time I heard it. I’m sure it’s a little much after four years in college, suddenly having your mommy tell you to be careful all the time. It’s an adjustment for all of us, and we’re trying to give him lots of room and treat him like another adult in the house. He jokes to his friends that he shares a house with these two kids named Becky and Todd. Humor helps. And so does unloading the dishwasher!

But his “Love you too! No thanks!” has me thinking.

I didn’t realize that my parting words were always “Be careful!” until he started teasing me about it.

Did I really think my “Be careful!” would make my children be more careful? Would they really be less likely to check their texts while driving or look both ways? We had taught them to drive carefully- at least I hope we had. Would they really resist the urge to fiddle with the radio just because I had uttered the magic words?

Did you see Downton Abbey last night? At one point Mr. Bates is telling Anna how happy and excited he is, and she cautions him not to get too excited just yet. He giggles that everything will be fine, and she says, “Bad harvest, bad harvest!” It’s a superstition from the olden days, when farmers would yell it to discourage the gods from spoiling their good fortune when times looked bright.

Had my “Be careful!” turned into the same thing?

And on a deeper level, is that how I wanted to send my kids off to school or work or wherever? BE CAREFUL, CHILD. LIFE IS FRAGILE. YOU COULD DIE. Alrighty Mom! You have a good day too! Love you!

My literary boyfriend Buechner is right, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” And so was Peacemaker Tom, when he said to Lady Mary, (what a great night for quotes!) “There’s no such thing as safe love. Real love means giving someone the power to hurt you.”

So Frederick and Tom- and Ben, I’m turning over a new leaf. Or at least I’m trying to. Now when people leave my house, I say something different. “Have fun! Enjoy the day! Hope the day goes well! Love you!”

Now I just have to work on, “Don’t forget your coat!”

Love, Becky