As a teenager, I spent lots of time behind my bedroom door. Usually, I was serving time for missing curfew or bringing home grades that didn’t meet my parents’ expectations. But other times, I isolated myself in protest of my parents’ oppressive house rules. Back then, I had no idea why I always had to be the first to leave the party to make my ridiculously early curfew or why I had to study when everyone else was watching Rap City. All I knew was that my parents were killing any chance I had of being considered among the cool kids.
I knew better than to fix my lips to talk back or challenge their authority. But behind my bedroom door, I wasn’t just sulking and listening to Jodeci. I was plotting my escape. I’m not talking about running away with a knapsack and no destination. My plan was strategic – get a great job that would take me to New York City – a place far enough away from home to live by my own rules but close enough to come back if the whole thing fell apart.
My plan came together in my early twenties, and things were different when I left home. I had no one to answer to, and my parents only knew what I told them. They knew when I got praise for a project at work or had plans to try a new restaurant in my neighborhood. But they didn’t know when I cried my eyes out after a devastating breakup or fell asleep on the subway after a night out with my girls. Because if they did, they would have been on the first plane to NYC to bring me home.
But just before my 34th birthday, an unexpected surprise made everything make sense – I became a mom. From that moment on, the world got a whole lot scarier. I understood why my parents wanted me home before the streetlights came on and wondered why they let me go out at all. I worried about everything from climate change to my daughter losing the right to make decisions about her body to my son having a potentially deadly encounter with law enforcement.
There’s a proverb that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” But how do you prepare your kids to go when secretly you want them to stay?
Don’t get me wrong, I want my children to have experiences and stories that start with “can you believe we did that?” And I know that can only happen if I cover my eyes, push them out of the nest and let them find their own way. But I’m not going to lie, I kind of like knowing that when I open their bedroom door, they’ll be there. So for now, when I send them to their room to think about violating one of my oppressive house rules, I hope they know that if their escape plan doesn’t work, they can always come back.