When I send you into the wild I don’t want you to get eaten by the wolves.
I’ve said this to my sons hundreds of times throughout their teenage years as I impart my obviously sage wisdom on them for the assorted life tasks I feel they should know, but alas, are woefully behind or reluctant to learn.
I’ve been saying this with a chuckle and head shake since they went into middle school and started stretching their wings a bit more. It is, of course, a necessary part of growing up, to learn all the mundane tasks of daily life, the grown up demands, learning to use resources around you to make daily life easier and eventually to stay alive in the woods, outside nest where they’ve safely grown up all these years under my hovering wings.
In high school they started doing their own laundry. This proved successful in that they now know the steps; soap, softener, dryer sheet, start. But it required an entirely new level of patience in overlooking the mounds of laundry in their rooms, living out of laundry baskets draped with clean but unfolded clothes, wearing questionable attire on days when the choices of clean or nearly clean shirts ran slim, and even the occasional re-worn socks.
While all this imparting of knowledge brings it’s own level of aggravation, through it all there is a level of comfort in the process. My frustration of finding dirty dishes floating in soapy dishwater instead of being washed and stacked in the drainer is tempered, these last days of summer, because the blanket tucking us all in at night in our own beds down the hall still wraps us up tight and secure.
In 12 days that sweet blanket gets ripped off like a band aide by the angry drill sergeant of college move in day for my oldest son. And that moment, mixed with dread and excitement, that has always seemed so far away, so impossible, so surreal, is now staring us down. We all feel it. It doesn’t blink. It is the elephant in the room for every meal, every moment of every day.
And so, for the last month, I’ve been consumed by an exotic maternal mental cocktail of high anxiety, depression, strategic planning, and both high hope and unbearable fear. I experience moments of calm followed by stabbing bursts of adrenaline. I fall asleep exhausted only to fly awake with the thought of something I’ve forgotten.
And, for my son’s part, he is experiencing the head spinning treat of being expected to soak it all in. Yes, the son who listens to a list of instructions like this:
ME: “Walk the dogs, empty the dishwasher, finish your laundry, check your email, and then help dad with a project.”
HIM: “Wait… what?”
And so it’s come to this; a ridiculous futile attempt to teach everything I know he needs in these last remaining moments before he goes. I’m a whirling dervish of a mother, spinning into his room numerous times a day, to share “another thing.”
Let’s get you new underwear. You’ll be walking around in your boxers in front of people other than me and your brother.
Remember to eat breakfast, even if it's just a granola bar. I’ll get you some.
Carry a raincoat in your backpack.
Your room isn’t a good place to study. Use the Library.
Join a club.
Go to class, even the early Friday morning one.
Say yes. (But not random girls in bars)
Have an exit strategy for parties.
Have a wingman and don’t leave each other behind.
Go to football games.
Look for people who need to be included.
Wear your shower shoes.
Get your Meningitis booster.
Don’t put a red shirt in your white load.
Studying is your job, don’t get lazy.
Trust your gut.
Use your planner.
Text me back.
Know we love you.
It’s almost impossible to conceive that it’s actually going to happen. I can barely say it without a lump lodged in my throat. My soft-spoken, sweet, kind, homebody boy who never even went to an overnight summer camp, is about to leave us.
In time we will both be fine, my head is saying to my heart. In time we will rebound and settle into a new normal. But for now, I need to get out the ironing board and teach him to iron a shirt, before I release him into the wild.