I recently walked into my pantry and found one of my adult children looking guilty. So guilty, in fact, I felt compelled to pry. “What are you doing?”
The guilt gave way to a bashful grin. “I’m eating those cookies you said were grounds for eviction if we ate them.”
Well. At least he had the good sense to own up. I am a widely known push-over, especially if the offender can make me laugh in the process. My children are experts at quippy one-liners meant to cause me to giggle and forget I was ever mad.
But really … is it possible I’m fighting a losing battle in thinking I can keep the “good food” from my kids? Do our parents ever stop feeding us? Perhaps my own parents drew the short stick long ago, but I am still working under the impression that when it comes to me and my siblings, my parents only have two jobs: to love us and feed us.
They do a fine job of both. Even when I was a young child, my parents found the perfect balance of support and freedom. They were there for me, but I was allowed to make — and fix — my own mistakes. I would not be the person I am today without those mistakes. As any parent knows, however, there does come a time in a young adult’s life when that guidance needs to end, when it is assumed they can recognize and prevent those mistakes from happening in the first place. On their own. My parents wisely passed that torch to me a long time ago. I stand on my own.
But my parents still, whether they like it or not, feed me. If I am in a two-mile radius of either of their houses, I am apparently required to stop by and eat. I will phrase it as though I’m stopping in to say hello, of course, but make no mistake — cupboards will be raided. My mother lives in the Twin Cities, so typically has warning (i.e.: time to stock up) when I am visiting. My father and stepmother live closer to me.
Last week I texted them to see if they were up for a visit. Because they also raised me to be polite, I certainly made pleasant conversation for a while first. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes' worth? But then I excused myself to the kitchen under the guise of needing a drink of water.
I don’t think I got the water, but I did find cashews, potato chips, deli cheese for crackers and grapes. I chose the cashews because it is one of those items I rarely buy on my own.
This is not the first time I have gone for their cashews stash. In fact, they once gave me a 46-ounce bulk container of salted cashews as a Christmas gift. I laughed when I opened it and admired the gag, but it didn’t shame me into buying my own cashews. They just taste so much sweeter when they’re pilfered.
The Christmas cashews were over a decade ago. I have snacked from their cupboards countless times since. Because of this, my parents did not even blink when I emerged from their kitchen with an entire container of cashews and no water. I didn’t even have the good grace to pour a few of the cashews into a bowl. I just snacked directly out of the container. I’m fairly certain both sets of parents have given up on the idea that they are ever going to train me.
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. If my cookie-pilfering son is any indication, I have raised five young adults who think my sole duties are to love and feed them. Karma? Perhaps. Maybe my parents are laughing at me behind my back. Maybe I’ll have to get another job to keep all these people fed.
But if worse comes to worse and my adult children eat me out of house and home, at least I can visit my parents to steal a quick snack.
Kathleen Murphy is a freelance writer. You can contact her at KMurphyWrites@gmail.com.