Gift Horse

Gifts.

Whether for a birthday, anniversary, graduation, Father’s Day, bar mitzvah, parole hearing, promotion, or just because we choose gifts for special people in our lives to represent our feelings about them on their special occasion.

Brides are given gifts that are useful in setting up a new home. College graduates might receive a professional-looking black leather briefcase or maybe a fancy pen.

And don’t forget the oohs and aahs associated with baby shower gifts of onesies and cuddly blankets.

What about someone going off to college for the very first time, learning to take care of themselves for the very first time with no parental involvement? No reminders of when-to-d0-what?

What would the perfect gift be for them?

Maybe an alarm clock, a bottle of multi-vitamins, laundry soap, an umbrella, an endless supply of clean underwear, or maybe a bottle of aspirin and a box of band-aids?

Nope.

Frogs.

Amphibious frogs that live in a tiny tank and spend their whole lives imitating fish with legs.

Apparently when you are just learning to be responsible for yourself, remembering to eat on a regular basis and do your own laundry, the next logical step is to give you two more lives to be responsible for.

My son came home from a good friend’s house with two frogs, given to him by the friend’s mother as a going away gift.

He thought they were pretty cool, but it was a total surprise to him.

And me.

I’m pretty sure this breaks section 5, article 23 of The Mom Code, which stipulates “under no circumstances are you to gift anything that breathes or poops to the child of another mother.”

But off to college the frogs went, sloshing around in their plastic prison tank and most likely getting carsick on the way.

I’m so skeptical they’ll survive life in the dorms that I’ve actually wagered money on them.

But at least I know what to buy a certain friend when he goes off to college in two years.

Dreams

It’s been one whole week since my son left for college.

You’d have thought I would have posted several tissues-required posts about it all by now.

That’s usually how I roll.

But the words didn’t come this week. They stayed trapped in my head or lurking beneath my fingertips, struggling to come together on the keyboard and form more than two complete sentences.

Or at least a Facebook status.

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He asked me to make sure he woke up on time the day he left. His alarm clock was already packed away; iPod set aside in one box or another.

When enough time had passed that morning and he hadn’t been seen, I went to his door and waited outside just a bit. I waited remembering how many times I had lingered outside that very door, listening for a horrible cough or maybe just waiting to tuck a little boy into bed.

We keep the door closed all of the time now. I like to say it’s to keep the still puppy-ish dog from stealing socks and school papers but it’s really because teenage boys are quite messy.

If you have one, you know.

I opened the door quietly, not wanting to startle him awake.

And there he was, in his big boy bed, peacefully sleeping.

Quite the big boy now, complete with two-day beard stubble on his face and size eleven feet hanging over the end of the bed.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen him sleeping, actually.

I have always been one to linger by the side of cribs and big kid beds, watching my children sleeping and wondering where their dreams were taking them. It mesmerizes me to watch them like that; so innocent and fragile, so full of hope and promise and dreams.

So for a few moments that morning, I lingered. I stood by his bed and took in the absolute breathtaking wonder that it is to gaze at your very own child. Fragile yet strong; small yet mighty; so young yet somehow so old.

We’ve raised him to this point and now it’s his turn.

And I knew exactly where his dreams were taking him that morning.

5 Things Your Son Needs for College (Not)

My son is leaving for his freshman year of college in four just a few days (who’s counting?).

I may have blogged about it a few times here and there (and maybe here too).

Some of you are overly concerned for my well-being after he leaves. I’ve been finding business cards from mental health professionals left under my front door mat.

I’m pretty sure that was Dr. Phil tailing me in his BMW as I drove to Starbucks yesterday morning to drown my sorrows.

But seriously, this is an exciting time for all of us.

For him because he gets to realize his dreams, get started on his future, move away from his oppressive parents, leave home just as his little sister hits her teens, stay up as late as he wants, and drink as much Dr. Pepper as his stomach can handle.

And for me because I can finally dig through that room, find the carpeting I’m pretty sure we installed twelve years ago, and open the windows to let the fresh air waft away the smell of boy.

I may even find that cat I think we used to have.

In the final days of preparing him to live on his own, we went on a bit of a shopping spree the other day.

His list was long and detailed and (luckily) we already had most of what he needed.

Cha-ching cha-ching.

But apparently there are certain items that a college-bound boy finds no need for, and should a mother mention them? Eyes will roll.

Kleenex tissues He has informed me that these are unnecessary, since he is taking a roll of paper towels.

Shower caddy Apparently no self-respecting dude would be seen with one of these handy totes for carrying your shampoo/shaving cream/toothpaste and brush/etc… to and from the communal bathroom. Who knew?

 Face towel If you’d seen the look of disbelief he shot me when I asked how many face towels he needed you’d have thought I asked him to pick his favorite shade of nail-polish. I suspect this has more to do with how many times he’ll have to do laundry than it does the actual usefulness of the face towel, because he does use one at home.

Ironing board/iron I still remember the cute table-top ironing board my mom bought me when we did our pre-college shopping trip. Come to think of it, I remember ironing things for several of my guy friends, which is probably why they don’t need their own.

Any items in any color other than black This kid’s got a black thing going on…not in a goth way, but just in a I-wear-black-all-the-time way. The only items he’s packing that aren’t black are white bath towels and a white laundry basket. Only because the laundry basket didn’t come in any other colors black.

Of course, this whole experience will not be of any help the next time I send a kid to college.

My 13 year-old daughter has already started listing all of the incredibly cute and colorful dorm room items she is going to get when she goes away in five years.

And I’m pretty sure she won’t want that white laundry basket.