AWOL brain

So, yesterday, at the last minute, my eldest daughter explains that they are having a Christmas Party for her AJROTC group at her high school and she really-really-really-please-mom wanted to make cuppy cakes.

Being a moderate fan of the tiny little sneakable baked goods, I do the mommy mutter all the way to the store.  Bobble-head is in tote, squee-ing over the idea that she's baking for her friends.  She settles on lemony cuppy cakes, lemon and strawberry icing.  When we return home, she sets about destroying the kitchen.  

Standard Operating Procedure for a teenage kid with a sweet tooth.

Anyway, late into the night, the smell of warm lemon wafts through the house.  I start in on the whole be-a-responsible-adult-thing. "Now, darling, you realize you need to clean this mess before you go to bed, right?"

"Yes, mommy!"  

"All right.  I'm off."  And so I go to bed fitfully.  Stupid cold, stupid congestion.

I wake up to a catastrophe of epic proportions.  Shuffling down the hall and by the kitchen, I realize all the lights are off, save for the artificial glow of the white yule tree beaming at me good morning.

I tap on doors now, waking kids, who probably should have been awake at least half an hour before me.  When I reach my teenager's room, I call off into the darkness.

"You awake?"

"Am now."

"Good....because man, you're gonna be late."

Then I proceed to explain to her that when I say the dishes have to be done before she goes to bed, garsh-dern-it, they have to be done before she goes to bed.  I'm not mean, but I'm like, "Really?  Seriously?  What part of dishes-before-bed got lost in translation?"

With a groan, she sets about hurriedly doing all of her morning getting ready activities at top speed.  During this time, the trooper doesn't really complain, she just focuses at what she's doing while I take her younger sister to school.  It's only a few blocks away, and by the time I make it home, the teenager is now at the end of the driveway, balancing two plates of cupcakes on one arm and has a cake carrier full of cupcakes on the other (and a jacket over that arm, and a backpack filled to capacity slung on her back).

"Can you drop me off at the JROTC building and then take me back to the main building so I'm not too terribly late?  I have a test this morning."

"Crud, what do I look like?  Your mom or something?  A taxi?"

She giggles a bit and tries to figure out how to squeeze into the autobot, so I roll my eyes and take the cake carrier with a long-suffering look.

As we make our way to the giant hamster playscape that is her high school, it is not uncommon for cars to stop on the main thoroughfare and drop kids off, holding up all of those diligent parents which drop our kids off at the specifically designated drop-off lines.  A kid pops out of the car in front of us and shuffles along hurriedly.  My daughter rolls her eyes and mutters a name.

"That kid has no integrity whatsoever."

I personally thought that comment might be a little harsh.  I mean, he's a kid, and I'm just one of those fools that believes most people are basically good people.

"What makes you say that, dear?  What is the definition of integrity?"

"Integrity is doing the right thing, even if no one is watching," she recites, being that it's part of the creeds and definitions and what have you that she has to memorize for JROTC.

"Hmm.  Well, what makes you think he doesn't have any?"

"He's always late, mom.  He never dresses the way he's supposed to, never tucks in his shirt.  And never has his badge.  And he's really disrespectful to other officers."

I thought of this a moment.  "You know, when I was ya'll's age," (I think I died a little when I said that) I said slowly, "I did the right thing when no one was looking.  But I didn't care much...for rules.  Like tucking in your shirt and stuff.  Why should there be a rule for how I dress?"

"But mom, there are gangs."

"Well....maybe there are gangs because people don't like to be told every rules for every single detail of their lives.  Maybe if there were less rules, there might be less rule breakers."

Yeah, I was kind of surprised that came out of my mouth too, as she looked at me (as I looked at her, as I tried to drive 20 down the street and not hit kids).


So as she made her cuppy-cakes-like-drug-run drop-off, I thought about what I just said, and I thought about her responses.

My daughter wants to be a Marine.  To our family, and in regards to our friends, serving our country is an honorable thing.  We don't always necessarily agree with choices which are made, with war, but we do have a lot of respect for those that serve.  And while I applaud the idea that she is learning discipline, honor and courage, I also want to make sure that if she is going to follow along with the herd, that she is keenly aware of the exit gates conveniently located throughout the pen.  

As we grow older, our choices get distinctively and even more complex.  Add in the responsibility of guiding another person through the darkness with you, someone who depends on you (heck, I have two, and a partner in crime that is muddling along in the darkness with me), and it makes for a really insane run through the starless night.  Since 'perfect' isn't anyone on the horizon of my life or my person (Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if it had a  ghillie suit, bought itself a new identity, skipped down and was on the first boat to some uncharted island), I have a lot of those, "WTF ARE YOU THINKING?" moments.

This morning just happened to be one of those moments.