10/30/2013 05:49 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

How I Dealt With My Adult Son's Visit Home (Right After He Quit Smoking)

A few weeks ago, I had just finished telling someone how nicely my son had turned out. How he was quite the lovely young man, how he's grown up and no longer visits with friends wearing only his boxer shorts, how he's stopped scratching body parts at the dinner table, how he's stopped asking his girlfriend to pull his finger. I was saying how good he is with money and how he can make soup. A man that can make soup is a good man. No sooner had the words left my mouth when he came back home -- and on the same weekend that he'd decided to quit smoking. I do want him to quit, believe me. I wish he'd never started. But he was trying to quit in my home, on an island, without the patch, without gum, and without bringing me a three-day supply of Ativan.

For the first day or two, he slept and ate and said it was good to be able to breathe again. Then there was the deep-breathing phase, and the breathing turned to yoga -- he started doing strange bird poses in the middle of living room. His leg would unexpectedly swing behind him. He walked in the woods, happy as Snow White -- I expected to see little bluebirds flitting around his head. As he started feeling better, he began lifting weights -- me. Without any warning, he'd lift me up and try to bench press me while screaming in a Scottish accent, "How many stone are ye, woman?"

As the nicotine leached out of his system, the emotional outbursts started. Think of the terrible twos except with a terrible two-year-old that could bench press you. He was like someone suffering from Tourettes Syndrome. He would just started swearing and freaking out for no reason. No, I don't want to do the dishes. No, I don't want to go to bed. No. No. No. But not as cute as a two-year old you could distract ... or knock out by slipping a Gravol into his sippy cup.

Then the cranky stage got replaced by the ridiculous question phase. The following exchange is a sample

"Mom, Mom. Mom. Hey, Mom. Was I a bastard? "

"No, son. You certainly were not a bastard."

"But you and Dad had to get married."

"We didn't have to get married. We chose to get married."

"Because you were having a baby."

"No, we had you and then got married. Remember I told you I had to breastfeed you in my wedding gown?"

"I see. So, I was born out of wedlock?"

"Well, technically, yes."

"So I am a technical bastard!"

"What, are you from the '50s? You're not a bastard. How many times do I have to tell you?"

The whole night was full of tangential bursts and non-sequiturs.

"Mom, tell me honestly. Do you think Ninja Turtles was a better TV show than Power Rangers?"

"I don't know. They were both better than that flipping Little Mermaid we watched a million times. Where was that girl's mother? I'll tell you where. Dead."

"Mom, if you were forced to sleep with Sailor Moon or Pink Power Ranger, who would you pick?"

I said it would definitely be the Pink Power Ranger. Sailor Moon is under-age.

"Do you think Polly Pocket or My Little Pony was the worst toy ever?"

"Pogs were the worst toy ever, with Crazy Bones coming in a close second."

I made some supper and he ate half a side of beef, which I served on purpose. I thought all that red meat would put him into a drugged-out coma, but all that blood seemed to just wake him up.


"Hey, Mom. How would you survive a zombie attack? Would you shoot them with a gun, or stab them with a knife?"

Let me say, I don't believe in zombies. They are right up there with aliens as far as I am concerned. I don't think you should give aliens or ghosts or zombies any sort of encouragement. Because I'm sure it's like the law of attraction. If you start believing in them, they start believing in you, and before you know it you're in the psych ward because every time you see a meat thermometer you burst into tears.

By the way, the reason I knew about the zombie thing is from Facebook. In fact, when I YouTubed "How to Survive a Zombie Attack," I found many handy tips. And it has over 100,000 hits. Jane Jacobs' thoughts on urban sprawl and how we can survive as a human race, has only 688. Go figure.

In honour of preserving the family relationship, I played along with the zombie thing.

"I'd kill the zombie with a knife because I don't believe in guns."

"That wouldn't work, Mom. Zombies have incredible lower arm strength and would take the knife out of your hand and you'd be dead."

"Then why did you give me the knife option?"

"I was testing you. I need to assess your chance of survival."

See this is the thing about my son -- he likes to have a plan. As a kid, he used to get up and demand to know the day's schedule. He always wanted rules, which I wasn't great at providing. I remember one day after I had been out for the night, the army called my house. The woman from the recruiting office asked for him.

"Is Master Brendan there?"

"No. He's at school."

"Well, he called last night about joining the army."

"He's in Grade Six."

When I asked him why he wanted to enlist, he said he needed discipline, and his father's and my methods were too willy-nilly for his standards.

So I knew if we were going to get any rest, we needed to get the zombie plan in place.

"All right, then. I'd splash them with water, like the Wicked Witch of the West."

My answer just made him hostile.

"If you're not going to be serious about this, we're not going to play." By this point he was so desperate for a smoke, he was trying to light a pencil in the toaster.

"Play? This is supposed to be fun?"

" No, I mean it, Mom. Smarten up or I'm not even going to talk to you."

"Really? You promise?"

I excused myself and put myself to bed before I did some serious damage. As I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a voice drifting up from the TV room.

"If you don't shut your mouth, I am going to stick a cigarette up your butt."

No, it was not an alien from another planet. It was the shrill sound of my daughter who had just arrived home. She was screaming at her zombie-loving brother.

As they hissed back and forth -- Screw you! No, screw you! -- I thought, "Wow, it's great to hear the tittle-tattle of big people in the house."

The next day he bought the patch, keeping the Export As at bay. No zombies showed up unannounced, and I YouTubed Jane Jacobs, giving her 689 hits.

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