“You guys are SO loud,” our 19-year-old daughter whined, loping downstairs into the kitchen where my husband and I were chatting. Her hair was a rat’s nest. One sock was half off, the excess flapping with each step. She was wearing the sweater she’d had on the day before and had slept in.
The clock read twelve-thirty-five in the afternoon.
“I’m sorry, Anna, did we wake you?” I said with enough sarcasm to curl the wallpaper. She yawned and poured herself a cup of coffee, tsking when she realized the pot had gone cold. Anna stood with the refrigerator door open for what seemed like eons, before selecting eggs and the fresh avocado I had bought for taco night.
There was a half avocado beginning to brown on the edges but perfectly usable, sitting right beside the new one. But after a semester of college fashion design classes, sorority functions, and weekend tailgate parties, Anna felt fully entitled to our hospitality while on winter break. That included laundry service, use of a vehicle, gas money, free wifi, home-cooked meals, the right to steal our phone chargers, and apparently, fresh avocado for her breakfast… or lunch, as it were.
“Pick your battles,” I thought. “We’ll survive without the avocado.”
Thirty minutes later, there was a knock at the door. “Taylor and I are going for a walk on the beach. Should I take the dog?” Anna called from the front hall.
“That would be great,” I replied, relieved to scratch the task off my To-Do list. “Just remember to keep him on a leash,” I warned.
“Oh,” Anna reconsidered, “never mind then.” Without brushing her pillow-head out, she pulled on her thigh-high boots, grabbed the fluorescent orange camouflage hunting jacket she’d recently bought from a thrift store, and propped a pink pair of reflective sunglasses on the end of her nose.
I watched as she pranced off in the odd outfit, silently totaling up the tuition we were paying for her to pursue a degree in fashion.
“Pick your battles,” I thought. “She’s artistic.”
Suddenly, I was startled by the presence of our 22-year-old son in the hall.
“Oh, Hayden, you’re up?” I said, genuinely surprised. While home on winter break from college, Hayden’s natural waking time was two in the afternoon and it was barely one-o-clock. “Why didn’t you come into the kitchen to chat with Dad and me?”
“I don’t know.”
Hayden was a few months shy of graduating from a major research institution with a degree in Computer Science. He was earning As and Bs in intensive courses such as cryptography and network security, linear algebra, graph theory, data mathematics, and parallel programming. He had already accepted a job offer to be a software engineer after graduation, at a starting salary that took my husband over a decade to attain in the Navy.
But, invariably, Hayden answered almost every question we asked of him with, “I don’t know.”
“Pick your battles,” I thought. “He’ll talk to us some day.”
“Hayden, will you walk the dog please,” I requested.
In bare feet and pajama pants with bits of pillow fuzz in his beard, he sighed. “Well, I’m about to eat lunch.” Hayden did take the dog on a long walk, but not until he polished off the rest of the good deli meat and expensive cheese. In his pajama pants. At three in the afternoon.
As military brats, our kids know that their father’s 28 years of active duty service paved and paid the way for their college educations. They respect that I stayed home to manage our family. Having lived overseas, they know the importance of worldliness, adaptability, and lasting friendships. Living on a military family budget, they understand the value of a hard-earned dollar.
But ironically, our resilient military brats are also self-absorbed Millennials who were forced to move every few years. Self-absorbed Millennials who gave up friends, homes, and schools many times. Self-absorbed Millennials who are now away at college most of the year.
“Pick your battles,” I thought. It’s okay if they can finally take home for granted.