It is a quiet Saturday morning. My husband and I sit in our family room and read the newspaper and drink coffee. We are both bone-tired, but we have this whole day to ourselves; to read, to relax, to do whatever we want. Our 17-year-old son is at work until evening. Our 20-year-old daughter is back at college. We spent the previous week helping her move into her first apartment that she now shares with four of her girlfriends. It is a move that we know is inching her closer to full adulthood, closer to true independence.
The dog is mercifully asleep in the corner and the room is warm with morning light. We're on our second cup of joe when my husband receives a text from our daughter.
"My shower head just broke off," she writes.
"Well, can you fix it? You'll need a wrench," my husband texts back.
"Nice response," I tell him. "She has to learn how to handle things on her own. This will be good for her."
"I agree," he says. "And if they don't have the tools, she can call the landlord." The issue settled, we go back to reading the newspaper.
A few minutes later our daughter sends another text. I watch my husband read it silently to himself. Then he tells me, "She's distraught. She's asking me what additional tools she needs to buy for the repair. The landlord is booked with other students since it is the first week of school. I guess I can walk her through it on the phone."
We do not want to be those parents. You know the ones: they hover, they rescue, they can't let go, they enable. They help to create their "boomerang kids," so the experts tell us.
The dog begins to stir, the light shifts and shadows fill the room.
My husband peers at me over the newspaper and says, "It's 10:30. If we leave now we can get there by 12:00 and have lunch some place nice."
"I'll drive," I say.
At noon, we arrive at our daughter's apartment and she greets us at the front door.
"Thanks for coming," she says. "Come see my room!"
Her room is simple and bright. She has painted the walls yellow.
She has rearranged the furniture. She has added some curtains. She has organized her closet.
We walk into the bathroom to examine the broken fixture. The sink shines and the tub is clean. She says she scrubbed it that morning.
The three of us drive to the hardware store and together, we find a $9.00 repalcement part. "I can afford that!," our daughter says. "And it's white. It will match perfectly," she tells us.
She is thrilled that she is able to buy her own shower head. She is pleased that it is just the right color. She is comforted to have her parents help her with her first foray into the hardware store for home maintenance. We buy her a wrench on the way out.
We stop at a restaurant for lunch. The portions are large and our daughter carefully wraps up her leftovers to take home -- something she never did before. "I can eat this for dinner tomorrow night," she says. "My food budget is running low."
We go back to her apartment and my husband fixes the shower. We visit with our daughter for a short while and then we decide it's time to leave. She walks us to the door.
"Thanks again for coming," she says. "It meant so much."
As my husband drives us back home, I sit in the car and wonder if today was a rescue. I wonder if we were being "helicopter parents." Then I wonder if we were simply offering an act of kindness that was met with heartfelt gratitude. I wonder if today, as parents, maybe we got something right.
We arrive home in the evening and it is dark. The dog meets us at the door and wants to be fed. My son sits in the family room and watches TV.
"I'm beat," my husband says to me. "But what a great Saturday."