And Other Thoughts
My son was born thirsty. He would nurse voraciously, gulping, urgently, as if he could not fill up fast enough. He brought this habit to his bottle, to his sippy cup, to his big-boy cup, and ultimately to the gallon of juice in the refrigerator at all times. I felt compelled to tell him, at the age of 7, that he will need to learn to sip alcohol, sloooowly, to savor the taste. I was terrified of the horror stories of 18-year-olds going off to college and guzzling their beer or throwing back shots until they die of alcohol poisoning. Okay, so it was more than 10 years away, but I figured it was never too soon to discuss.
Here we are.
We’ve made the checklists. We’ve got the stuff from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. You know, the shower caddy and shower shoes, new bedding (Extra Long Twin for those weirdly long and narrow dorm beds), hangers, a surge protector, a desk lamp, an umbrella, and myriad other supplies for living away from home. We’ve gone through his old toys and games and art projects. Keeping what has sentimental value (some of the sweet Lego figures he played with in the bath) and giving away the games he never opened. (They seemed like a good idea at the time.) And laundry. We’ve done a ton of laundry. He doesn’t mind doing laundry, so I think he’ll have clean clothes in college. Wrinkled but clean. We’ll see.
Now we wait.
Some of his friends have left already. Some don’t leave for a while. He leaves later this week. We’re sort of ready. (Can you ever be ready?) Kind of eager to get the emotion behind us. Kind of dreading it. Will he like his roommate? Will he like his classes? Will he be homesick? Will he be okay? Will he be happy?
He’s a loyal friend. He’s had a few close friends his whole life. It took him a while to develop and nurture these friendships. He is sad to leave them. He wonders how these friendships will evolve when they are far flung across the country. I try to reassure him that his closest friends will remain close. I am still connected with several of my friends from high school. They were crucially important people to me at a time when we were becoming ourselves. I love them deeply.
I think of all the things I want to say to him. Usually in the middle of the night. I try to nag less and be present more. I try to be near by in case he wants me. I try to tell him my middle-of-the-night ruminations during the few moments when he will allow me into his room, into his space. Stuff like:
- You don’t have to have it all figured out. Try new things. You can change your mind.
- Rent your textbooks. Don’t buy them.
- When I look at you, it’s because I love you, not because I am judging you.
- Take your vitamins.
- You can tell me anything. I know you think you can’t, but you can.
- Go to all the extra help sessions and office hours with your professors.
- You will make new friends.
- Take advantage of the city. Explore!
- You have a deep and loving heart. It is my favorite thing about you. You are a good human being.
- Choose your professors carefully. The teacher is more important than the class topic.
- Use the credit card for necessities. Use your own money for entertainment.
- I am sorry for all the times I disappointed you. Like that Friday night when I was the one who had a tantrum because you didn’t do what I wanted you to do.
- Be you.
I am proud of you. I will miss you. (More than you know.) I love you.
Oh, and don’t guzzle your beer.