I’ve become concerned about some recent changes in my son Daniel, who just finished his freshman year of college. In high school Daniel was completely normal–he played football, had lots of friends, was marginally spoiled (but in a good way) and spent a lot of time relaxing on our couch. But now that he’s home this summer, I notice that Daniel is engaging in some very unusual and possibly risky behavior.
The first hint came about a week after he first got home when I asked him if he wanted me to do his laundry. He said,”That’s okay, Mom, I’ll do it.” At the time, I thought nothing of it.
But then last week we had an incident that was more of a red flag. It was late afternoon. I was at the grocery store. I called home, asking Daniel if there was anything he wanted me to pick up. And instead of saying something he would have said in the past, like “How about some Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream?”, here’s what Daniel said: “Can you get some tube pasta, zucchini, asparagus, parmesan cheese and sundried tomatoes? ”
His new habits got even more suspect when I got home. Daniel was in the kitchen with his girlfriend, wearing an apron. Him, not her. “Not only am I going to cook dinner tonight, but I’ll show you that it’s possible to cook a meal, cleaning up as you go along, without leaving the kitchen a mess.” Ouch.
V was out of town; Daniel’s girlfriend was allowed to watch but not to participate; I was urged to leave the kitchen. On my way out I noticed he’d already filled a large pot with water and put in the pasta. “Honey? You might want to boil the water first, and then add the pasta.” Great, I thought. He can’t even boil water.
Although I have a shelf full of cookbooks (some never even used) Daniel didn’t want to try a recipe; he wanted to wing it. A perfect expression for a kid just leaving the nest. But his freshman dorm had no kitchen, he never helped me cook, and I couldn’t imagine how he was going to magically make a meal appear for dinner.
My mouth dropped open when I saw it—and stayed open as I shoveled in the entire plate. Honestly I could not have made this pasta without a recipe, or even with one. Not only was the pasta seasoned and cooked to perfection, but each vegetable was cooked to the perfect consistency.
I told myself, not to worry. This new behavior is just an aberration and soon the old Daniel will be back. And then today, he went over the edge.
He was home from his summer job when I walked in this afternoon. I am always angling to spend time with him and he seemed willing to hang out with me. I was thrilled. And what Daniel wanted to do was….maybe you should sit down for this part….he wanted to clean out the refrigerator.
As I assisted, he took out and examined every single item in it. Was it spoiled? Expired? Do we really need 3 separate opened bottles of maple syrup? When was the last time I actually used applesauce?
Maybe you think I make these things up. Like the incident at Whole Foods with the spinach dip—even V asked me if that was really true. That happened. And this happened today. In my very own kitchen. In fact, there was a witness there besides me.
Right at this point Daniel’s friend Peter dropped in. Another normal kid who played football and stretches out on the couch. He’s also very familiar with the inside of our refrigerator. And although he abstained from participating in its overhaul, Peter took a seat in the kitchen to watch. Daniel was a man on a mission.
I left the room for a few minutes and when I came back there was something sitting on our kitchen counter that has never been there before. Labels. Daniel had written them out and was taping them onto each shelf of the beautifully organized refrigerator: fruit and vegetables, eggs and dairy, sauces and spreads. He stood back to admire the finished product.
There was no way I could be in denial any longer about the change in Daniel. Even Peter could see it. “I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “This is a little scary, Daniel.”
I agree. I’m thinking Peter and I might need to stage an intervention.