When I was little, I loved riding in the car at night. I would try to catch a glimpse inside the houses we drove past, peering into well-lit living areas, full of life and warmth. Even if I could not see inside, the brightness of the porch lights indicated that someone was home, and the house was happily occupied. In my child-minds’ eye, a house was happy if it was filled with people. I still feel that way even now.
This summer, we have an extremely full house. All six of my kiddos are home. And while I’m happy that they are, this old mama is having to learn how to parent all over again. These are different beasts, these teenage-young-adult years.
Since we currently have three young adults, two teens and an eleven-year-old, you can imagine the paradigm shift in parenting that has taken place. There have been some rough patches to be sure, and there are undoubtedly many more to come, but for this summer, for this time and place, we are in the practice of leaving our porch light on for our full home in a myriad of ways. Because, no matter their age, our children must always, always have a soft place to land. And we parents are that landing spot. Specifically, the mom. Is it any surprise that it falls to us? And honestly, would we have it any other way?
To start with, of course, our porch light *is* always on. We moved to our current home fourteen years ago, and the only times we’ve darkened our entryway is either Halloween night after the candy runs out, or when we’ve lost power altogether. Other than that, the porch light remains illuminated for our teens coming home from late nights out for work or pleasure. They need to know that our home has a hot shower and a soft bed waiting here for them. That we are here for them.
Another porch light moment? A full fridge. I have spent more hours at the grocery store than in my own home since summer began. Everyone knows that a happy teen/young adult is a full one. Now that I am home full-time, I have much more time to cook. Home-cooked meals are cranked out every evening, and meticulous planning has become my jam. I have had to re-learn the eating habits of my children. We are now the home of many smoothies, fresh fruit bowls, sautéed salmon, and cookie baking galore. (*smirk*) There is no rhyme or reason.
Helping out around the house is not a luxury, it has become a full-blown necessity. Eventually these cherubs will launch for good (right? Please give me some hope?), and taking care of their own space will hit them smack in the face if we don’t lay down some hard truths now. They are good at keeping each other accountable. Let me tell you, if a bathroom doesn’t receive the attention it deserves in a timely manner, you will suddenly have some very irate young men sending you nasty texts at all hours. It’s a good check. And the porch light moment? When Dad swoops in and does a deep-clean reset.
Above the creature-comforts and chores, the cleaning schedule and accountability, my all-important task at this stage of life is the listening ear. I could be doing anything—cooking, reading, writing, er . . . sleeping?—and it is all thrown to the side the moment one of the olders plops themselves down and opens up. I remember one time I came home early from school feeling pretty sick, only to be accosted the moment I got in the door. So, yeah, even with young adults, the mama is never sick. My “porch light” so to speak, is always on.
A happy home can be a full, well-lit one. May we always have the strength to keep that porch light burning bright.