THE BLOG
02/14/2014 01:57 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2014

The Bubble List: 31 Things My Sons Should Be Able to Do Before They Move Out

It was another harbinger of the inevitable. My oldest son informed us a few weeks ago that he wanted to take his girlfriend out to dinner over Valentine's Day weekend. He had the venue picked out and was regularly depositing his paycheck into a bank account so that he could use his debit card to pay the bill. Our kid was growing up -- and there continued to be nothing I could do about it. Or was there?

Mom, can you make a reservation for two?

I didn't think twice. Of course I could help my sweet boy arrange for a nice evening. I jumped on Open Table and when the restaurant wasn't listed there, I made the phone call. Dinner for two. Saturday night. 6:30. Done. I was pleased for him -- and proud of myself for the assist. But then I started to wonder if he would know how to use the debit card with the server when the meal was over. Sure, he had seen my husband and I pay for meals and calculate gratuities countless times. But when alone in the wilderness of mediocre dining, could he fend for himself?

I wasn't certain, and made a mental note to run through it with him before the big night. Yup -- before my son heads off to college, he needs to know how to confidently execute this social maneuver that we adults have taken for granted. Hmm. He probably needs to know how to make a restaurant reservation as well.

Darn. In helping him arrange his evening, I had missed a teachable moment.

The parental slip got me thinking about all of the lessons my boys have yet to learn before they leave the nest and frankly, the list I came up with in a minute's time left me a little panicked. So, in an effort to maintain some semblance of control of a situation over which I have none, I created 'the bubble list.'

Since we grownups have a bucket list of things we must do before we kick the bucket, our kids have a bubble list of things they must do before they leave the bubble of our home and our protection.

As my sons go hurtling towards independence, both my husband and I are here to help them check the following off their list:

The Bubble List

  1. Write a check
  2. Pay a bill
  3. Make travel arrangements
  4. Navigate an airport, train or bus station
  5. Deal with a cancelled flight
  6. Take a taxi
  7. Catch the subway
  8. Plunge a toilet
  9. Change a tire
  10. Check the oil
  11. Shave with a razor
  12. Withdraw cash from an ATM
  13. Pay for dinner
  14. Self-prescribe over the counter meds
  15. Call a doctor
  16. Cook a meal
  17. Cancel a membership
  18. Buy clothes
  19. Return a purchase
  20. Pack a suitcase (without inspection)
  21. Do the laundry
  22. Iron a shirt
  23. Go food shopping for themselves
  24. Negotiate a deal
  25. Make hospital corners
  26. Sew a button
  27. Remove a stain
  28. Replace a fuse
  29. Remove a splinter
  30. Enjoy a drink responsibly
  31. Say "no" with confidence

As I reflected on this list, I was struck by how long it was. I wonder what I had missed and how much we will be able to cover in real time before they leave. But even more so, I can't help but fret about those lessons that will never be on this list -- the ones that we can't prepare them for, no matter how much we wish we could. The how to's for getting their hearts broken, failing a test, losing a friend, standing up for themselves, feeling disillusioned, disappointing someone who matters or saying they are sorry. I can't create those practice scenarios for them -- only the universe can. And they inevitably take place outside the bubble.

So we will get busy on the list -- with one final item added:

BONUS: When hurting and in doubt, call home

When it comes to this skill, there is no such thing as too much practice.

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