Sappy Rerun #2 describes the trauma of taking the Golden Child to college for the first time.
As a side note -- I was fortunate to read this essay a few years ago for a Mother's Day episode of "Tales From the South" -- a wonderful podcast available on iTunes (and great fun to do).
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Do You CUT the Umbilical Cord, or Carve It Away Slowly?
I hit a profound turning point in my life a couple of weeks ago. I delivered my baby boy (the Golden Child) to Indiana University to begin his freshman year. (It was probably a huge turning point for him, too, but this is all about ME.)
The actual day of the move was well-organized on the part of the school, given that 35,000 students were moving in at the same time, but it was hectic nonetheless. I had tried to structure the day so that we would have some quiet time at the end before I left him, but I underestimated the number of MEETINGS he'd have to attend well into the evening.
This was probably for the best -- I had been dreading the painful good-bye, anticipating another cut of a metaphoric umbilical chord, this time sans anesthesia.
The dramatic parting didn't happen -- we ran out of time. GC walked me to the car, obviously anxious about being late to his next meeting and eager to get there. He hugged me, gave a little wave, and headed off.
It wasn't at all satisfying. Here was this monumental moment, passing with just a squeeze and a wave.
"Bye, Punkin!" I called after him.
"Bye, Mom," he replied with impatient affection, still walking away.
"I love you!"
"I love you, too, Mom."
One more turn of the sidewalk and he'd be out of sight. I was desperate for adequate closure.
"DON'T DO DRUGS!"
And he was gone.
At first, I found "good" reasons to call him often. I called him to let him know I was headed to the airport to fly home. I called him to let him know I made it home safely. I called him to make sure he had gotten everything unpacked and to see if he needed anything else. I called him to let him know the Season 2 "Lost" DVDs would be out on Sept. 5. And that was the first two days.
I was shocked out of my hovering ways on Day Three by a stunning realization: almost overnight, GC had become a Mumbler.
We managed to get all the way through his high school years without seeing the symptoms. Before getting off the phone with him, I would always say, "I love you." He would always say back, clear as day, "I love you, too, Mom." Regardless of who was with him.
Three days into his college career, that response became, "loveyoutoomombye."
Since then, I have resisted the urge to call every day, every hour, and it's been very, very hard. He's my child -- when he's not WITH ME, he's IN DANGER. He's going to be faced with new challenges and new decisions, and he can't possibly manage without the benefit of my experience and wisdom.
But I couldn't keep calling. No, that would be intrusive. So I hacked into his computer account at the university.
I just wanted to make sure his meal points had been posted!! Really!! After all, he was going to have to figure out how get his own meals, it was going to be hard enough for him without the added burden of having to straighten out an accounting error with the Bursar's office.
Not only had the points been posted appropriately -- he had already purchased food. He was eating at college without my help. A few days later, the knife in my heart got an additional twist: he had used his campus access card with its associated funds to do laundry. LAUNDRY!! BY HIMSELF!!
I was devastated. First, the Mumbler appeared; now, this. It was almost too much to bear.
After holding out for five whole days (a perfectly respectable phone hiatus), I called on the weekend to see how his first full week of classes had gone. He mentioned in passing that he had injured his wrist.
"What happened?!" I asked.
"I was playing soccer and tripped on the ball. I landed on my wrist wrong."
I was appalled. "Punkin!!!"
"It's okay, Mom. It doesn't hurt as much anymore, and most of the swelling has gone down."
"You played SOCCER???!!!"
Every day, someone asks how GC is doing at college. I force a smile and say, "He's doing really well." That INGRATE.