Eighteen blinks

Nobody warns the mothers about the time.

Those hours and days that seem like they will never end.

The errands, the preschool drop-offs, outgrown shoes, skinned knees, play-dates, mac and cheese, playground woes, spilled milk, bad haircuts, and kindergarten projects made of beans and glitter. The hormones, driving lessons, AP tests, cramming for finals, outgrown jeans, messy rooms, mac and cheese, and sleeping until noon.

Endless time, years of it.

The time that passes so quickly…that slips through your fingers somewhere between diaper duty and senior awards night.

When they placed you in my arms all those years ago, you should have had a warning label.

Handle with care. Love unconditionally. Caution: will melt your heart.

Warning: Object in your arms will grow more quickly than it appears.

Eighteen years passes so very quickly.

Eighteen blinks later, you sit across the kitchen table from me… coffee cup in hand, reading the newspaper. This, this is what years of parenting lead to? A scruffy-faced young man with principles and ideals and morals and thoughts all his own? No longer to be shaped by my influence or advice?

This was exactly what I was supposed to do. I mothered, I cuddled, I talked and I listened.

And then I took a backseat.

I am so very proud of the young man you have become, and look forward to the years ahead as you grow and shape yourself even more into a young adult.

But this nagging feeling that there must be something I forgot to do with you still persists deep inside.

So forgive me if I invite you for an ice cream, pour you a cup of coffee, challenge you to a game of Scrabble, buy you a silly book, ask you about dinosaurs, offer you a ride on my shoulders or touch your thick wavy hair when I walk by.

I might not be finished with this mothering gig after all.

 

Coming Home

college student coming home for holiday

How do you feel, when you walk through that door…

Home for a quick visit; a week at best.

Dropping your heavy duffel bag onto the floor while the dog slathers you with welcome back kisses.

Same old home, same familiar spaces where you’ve spent most of your young life.

But maybe a bit foreign to you now.

Does it feel like home, like a place you’ve never left in your heart?

Or just a vaguely familiar memory?

When you walk down the hallway to your bedroom, do you see the little boy there, picking up jelly beans that the Easter Bunny left in a trail?

I do.

And in your room, your big boy room at the front of the house…

See that small boy standing at the window, waiting for the garbage truck?

He’s still there.

This empty room is still filled with him, everywhere I look.

And then, when you are here in the flesh – all over-six-feet of you with stubbly beard and deep voice – the room fills again but the memories are new.

No tucking-you-in at bedtime; no rushing to the window to greet the garbage man.

Do you still feel at home?

Or too anxious to get back to your new life?

With each visit home, you take a step further away.

That was the plan all along…

Simple words cannot express the pride I feel, watching you grow into a young adult.

But my heart misses that little boy sometimes…

 

Tell Me a Story

His voice surprises me every Sunday evening.

Sundays are for phone calls home. Time to talk about midterms and dorm food; to tease his sister a bit and catch us up on his life away from home.

It’s the only time each week I hear his voice now. It’s strong and deep.

The voice of a young man.

That very same voice that I remember hearing incessantly, ever since he found the usefulness of language and started to babble.

He told vivid stories, long and detailed…about dinosaurs or Bionicle characters or knights in shining armor. And in that long part of the afternoon, when dinner is looming too far away and naps are finished, he would tell his tales.

On car rides to grandparent’s houses, or just a trip to the neighborhood store. The stories, they flowed.

Once his sister was born, he had a new audience. She listened and watched and smiled.

And he went on and on.

I know I tuned out quite a bit; continued to shake my head and nod, throwing in a few “uh-huhs” for good mom points.

He was creating worlds that made him happy, that made even the worst day at school seem easy to handle.

I just couldn’t imagine a time when the stories would end.

Or turn into grown up stories.

Of paying bills and managing laundry; scheduling classes and planning for his degree.

These once-a-week stories from a young man’s voice have nothing to do with pirates or knights; and yet they are magical.

He’s building his own world, one independent step at a time. Chasing a dream, following a passion, developing a future for himself. Something to call his own.

And crafting his tale one Sunday night phone call at a time.

And just maybe, those stories he told for hours on end helped him get where he is today.

I’m glad I listened.

At least half the time.

The Long Goodbye

I think I’m still adjusting to it, to be honest with you.

That empty bedroom down the hall.

When my son came home from college for Thanksgiving, it was magical. He had only three days to visit, so we crammed in all the laughing, chatting, eating, and hanging out that we could muster in that short period of time. It was his first visit home since he went away to college in September and he seemed genuinely happy to be here.

To sit and watch him pester his sister, play with the dog, and stretch his lanky frame out across my couch again?

Pure awesome.

Christmas break was a whole month long…at least a week too long, we all decided. After the first week or so we had all settled into old routines for the most part. Almost as if he’d never left.

His floor was once again littered with socks, more of his friends were home to make plans with, and we were suddenly back in the business of parenting: curfews, chores, do-this, do-that, get a haircut, clean your room.

When he finally went back to school in early January, it was time.

And yet…

I found myself tip-toeing past his closed bedroom door, still thinking he was in bed and sleeping late. Buying his favorite snacks at the grocery store, only to remember that he won’t be home until April. Setting aside the Sunday comics for him when I brought in the newspaper.

Old routines; familiar little mothering stuff that only a mom understands.

Little mothering stuff that I can’t do for him anymore.

I sat in his room for a bit yesterday, after I had remade his bed with clean sheets in anticipation of his next visit.

This big boy room that we moved him to when his sister’s birth was imminent. The big boy bed he slept in straight from the crib. Awards hanging on the wall, movie ticket stubs taped together in a long strip on the mirror, silly photo booth pictures from Senior Ball stuck to the mirror.

The memories in this room are piled 16 years deep; and yet they are right on the surface of my heart.

He smiles back at me from the Senior Ball picture; or at least I think he does.

And I know he’s exactly where he needs to be right now.

But there’s a hole in that empty bedroom down the hall.

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It’s Wednesday, and that means I’m also hanging out over at Moonfrye! Today I’m coming clean about how I almost lost it all last week but nobody was the wiser. Or at least, that’s how I remember it. Come visit me over there…I promise I won’t make you do any chores.

So Unfair

‘Twas ten days after Christmas, and all through my pad…

There were no cookies, no fruitcake, no fudge to be had.

The daughter had been wrestled from snug in her bed…

And returned to her classroom; what each teacher dreads.

With hubs in his sweatshirt, and I in my slippers…

We drank lots of coffee, but still weren’t quite chipper.

When from the teen’s bedroom there arose cell phone chatter…

We opened his door to see what was the matter.

“Let’s go bowling; then we’ll get lunch! Let’s see a movie, maybe a bunch!”

“To Starbucks! To McDonald’s! To the big downtown mall! Now drive away, drive away, drive away all!”

As restless college kids that before the end of winter break  sigh…

When they have to hang out with parents, without asking why…

So off to his adventures with his posse he flew…

With a wallet full of gift cards, and a wad of cash too.

And we heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight…

“I’ve got one more week of vacation, suckers! I’ll see you tonight!”

***********************

Got friends? Great, amazing girlfriends? Then you’ll understand my Moonfrye post today, That Kind of Friend. Would love to have you visit me over there today.

And bring a friend.

 

Pick-Me-Up

I’ve picked him up from school thousands of times over the years.

Backpack thrown over one shoulder, walking briskly to the car; anxious to escape the school that held him captive for an entire day.

I have always tried to be on time.

But today I took a wrong turn, was held up in traffic, and I won’t make it on time. It’s only a few minutes, but I’m late.

As I get closer to the school, students on bicycles weave in and out of traffic, raising my heart-rate just a notch. Not a care in the world, they seem oblivious to the cars around them. I worry for their mothers; wonder how many are hit by cars each year.

The parking lot is practically empty when I pull in.

My eyes dart around, trying to remember where he said he would wait.

And then I see him.

Walking briskly towards the car just as he has so many times before. That same little-boy smile, his hair grazing his eyes but not hiding that sparkle. Now in his stride I see eagerness, confidence, a strong sense of self.

Not looking to escape anything.

I feel like I might burst when he opens the passenger door and slides into the seat.

No backpack, just my boy.

Forty whole days since I’ve laid eyes on him.

We have a dinner date as I pass through town after a conference. An hour and a half of listening to his college stories, melting in his laughter, and taking in the amazing young adult who sits across from me in the restaurant.

Yes, he’s still my little boy inside.

But what a young man he’s become.

And I was really the one who needed to be picked up today.

What You Wish For

I hate to admit it, but I’m kind of one of those moms.

No, not the one who still spoon feeds her 6 year-old or makes her 10 year-old boy wear knee pads and a helmet when he wants to climb trees at the park.

Not that mom.

It’s just that I love the look of a freshly-made bed.

Comforters lined up neatly along the edge of the mattress, several decorative pillows arranged in a specific way and plumped perfectly. Like those pictures in magazines, only in my own house.

My own room isn’t the problem. I have my own little obsession routine. I neatly make the bed when hubs is in the shower, so it’s done before I leave for work and I can cross it off my mental list.

I realize that many of you are crossing me off your lists right about now, or at least emailing me the names of mental health professionals in my area.

The problem with my little obsession has always been the kid’s beds.

When they moved to their Big Boy/Big Girl beds, somewhere between the ages of 2 and 3, I made a big production of letting them choose their bedding and pillows and which stuffed “friends” would get to sit on the bed during the day.

After it was made, of course.

I taught them to make their own beds right from the start.

They rarely did it to my satisfaction but I kept my cool.

After all, it’s just a bed. They get back in and mess it up after bath time every night, right?

But I had a little secret.

After they made their beds, arranging their pillows and stuffed animals just so, I would sneak back in and “fix” it. You know, straighten the comforter, rescue the small stuffed animal wedged between the sheets and the blanket, make sure the pillows are an equal distance from each side of the bed.

I have an issue with symmetry.

This was all fine and dandy until the day my daughter asked me, “Mommy, why do you go in and change my bed?”

Crap.

The boy never noticed. Or else the boy realized that one day his wife would be doing the same little changes to his world on a daily basis and he was better off just giving in now.

So I stopped “fixing” their beds. It was really hard for me.

Somewhere last year, amidst the craziness of getting out the door to work/middle school/high school in the mornings, I stopped reminding them to make their beds. It just started to feel like a battle not worth fighting anymore, and their doors are closed most of the time anyway to keep the destroyer dog out.

And my wish for that perfectly-made bed? Comforter all lined up neatly, pillows aligned symmetrically and perfectly fluffed? It’s come full-circle now.

That Big Boy bed my son hasn’t slept in since he left for college a month ago today?

Still perfectly made, mocking me from down the hall.

And I can’t wait to watch him mess it up over Thanksgiving break.