Sunday, August 9, 2015

College Countdown

Eighteen. Eighteen minutes, eighteen hours, eighteen days, eighteen months...eighteen years. A mother counts her child in so many ways. When he was eighteen minutes, they wheeled him out of recovery. My husband looked at me,  then looked back at his first-born son, and said, "I'm going to follow him." I completely understood. I still follow him. I glance up, I glance back, I trace on Find My iPhone, while I convince myself that my parents would have traced me if they could have, and if it's on the ground then it can't be helicopter parenting...maybe.

Our first-born is eighteen. He leaves for college in less then a week. We're older parents, and I'm fine with that. I think we're not in charge of timing, and the timing was right for us. But how time has flown - I'm not good with that. When he went to have his senior pictures taken last year, all I could see was my mother-in-law's wall of senior pictures of the grandchildren. Ours won't be on the wall. She passed away his junior year. 

Last year Momma was able to come see his marching band. She loved seeing both our sons and their band, while my brother, and I were struck by how much Daddy would have loved it. He loved a good band. But he passed away, too.

I'm not sure how to approach being the parent of an adult. I knew or pretended to know how to handle an infant. Lots of love, clean diapers, food on time, and a dash of praying. Elementary school had its challenges - ADHD, and judgmental parents and teachers who should have known better. High school meant a lot of time convincing him to try harder on his schoolwork, and to talk to people. He wouldn't stop talking when he was young. Once he got to high school he wouldn't start. I was painfully reminded of that at my favorite grocery store not too long ago. The bagger was a kid I recognized. I said hello. He asked how he knew me. I told him whose Mom I was. Immediately he said that my kid was the kid who was such a clown and idiot, wouldn't shut up when they were younger, and when they got to high school he was known as the kid who wouldn't talk.

Well, bite my ass, punk.

No, I didn't say that, but I really, really wanted to. Amazing how immaturity hits you the moment it involves your child. I wanted to point out our son's every accomplishment. Instead I mumbled my way through my groceries while feeling the eyes of the cashier bearing down on me - 'what a lousy mother she must be.'

Our son has had criticism thrown his way from the very beginning. So have I. His hyperactivity was because of too much sugar or my slack parenting, take your pick. Except the kid isn't really big on sweets, and I didn't sit around letting him run wild. Along the way, he heard your comments, after all his ears are thirty-six years younger then mine. You people who went to anti-bullying rallies thought nothing of making negative comments about him. So the pendulum swung and he just stopped talking. If you're a close friend, he'll talk. Otherwise you can bite his ass. What strikes me is if I went up to you and said, 'Hey, your kid is fat.', what a horrible person I would be. I know nothing of the circumstances involved. But a kid who is very shy, it's perfectly acceptable to come up to me and say something. Seriously?? Do you think I'm not aware? I particularly enjoyed the teacher who went on and on about how slow he was, and forgetful, and how that would drive her crazy if he was her child, and she did this IN FRONT OF SEVERAL OTHER MOTHERS! Why, yes, a highlight of the years.

I'm petrified to send him off to college. I know just how cruel people can be, and colleges are not immune from that. If anything they are a breeding ground of selectivity enabled pompous asses (I keep using that word - normally I'm a much cleaner writer, but the word works). I remember the rejections of college. I want it to be a happy, fun experience. 

I've been posting childhood pictures of fun times - trips, fishing with his grandma, riding a tractor with one grandpa, and on a train with the other granddaddy. He's laughing or excited in these pictures, and then it strikes me. He's happy. He's got several close friends. One will be his roommate. And along the way the asses taught him a valuable lesson. His self esteem is not earned based on your approval. He takes care of his business, and ignores the ass who wants to give him a hard time because he's not interested in performing for your approval.

The pictures have reminded me not to grieve this chapter closing. His childhood was fun for both of us. Playgrounds, museums, battlefields, amusement parks, state fairs, beaches, mountains, music, and laughter have all been experienced. When they say that your child will grow up so fast - believe them. When you see some homily about housework can wait, go have some fun - do it. I will miss my child. But I look forward to meeting my adult son. I'm sure he will be more mature than I am about the asses of the world.

Finally, to quote a favorite song: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" Ashford & Simpson

Remember the day I set you free
I told you you could always count on me darling
From that day on, I made a vow,
I'll be there when you want me,
Some way, some how

Oh baby there ain't no mountain high enough,
Ain't no valley low enough,
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe

I love you, always, my beautiful baby boy.