What emoji do you use when your kid hates college?


“Whoever said college was the best time of your life was lying.” — The Dude.

This was followed by the poop emoji.

How quickly things change. Just a few weeks ago, he couldn’t wait to leave. He was ready for college.

He is ready for college. He may have had a few unrealistic expectations, that’s all. Those unrealistic expectations will get you every time.

He has a nasty cold. I’d send him chicken soup if I could. He’d like that too, since he says the food sucks and isn’t very healthy. I’ve suggested vegetables and salads, but he isn’t taking advice at the moment. If there was a stone wall emoji, he’d use it.

Over nineteen years, we’ve made it through colic and croup, new math, buying a jockstrap, “Medieval Day”,The Iliad, Homecoming, driver’s ed, and the first and second transgressions that will not be named. I thought I was old hat at this, but when he’s unhappy, it twists me worse than a telephone cord (I had to use that analogy before it became irrelevant. I think I only had a few minutes left.)

He texts my husband about more mundane matters, like money. My husband says that’s a sign that it’s not so bad. I am parent A, the one that does out cookies and sympathy. Parent B tells the child that this is life, suck it up and soldier on.

So much of his life is going well. He has a terrific roommate, who he likes and gets along with. They were paired at random, so this was not a given. He’s playing intramural sports and has joined a couple of clubs. He’s even learning how to play golf. Classes, however are harder than he anticipated, and the old high school habits aren’t enough to get the grades he’s hoping for. My sage advice draws nothing more than a “maybe.” I have a feeling I know what emoji he’d use if he could find it, but he’s smart enough not to use it. I’m the one with the cookies and sympathy, after all.

His friends at other colleges have it so much better, he says. Life is one big party for them, and he has major FOMO. He doesn’t consider that they might be embellishing. “Why would they do that?” he says. He believes people are inherently truthful. Cute, isn’t it?

I tell him that I begged to transfer halfway through my first term and my counselor told me to hold tight and it would get better. I tell him that it did, and I stayed where I was. I knew it wouldn’t be any better somewhere else. It was not the time of my life, but it set me on the path I wanted to be on. There’s a lot to be said for not peaking too early.

He’s forgotten how long it takes to build friendships and how long it takes to feel at home somewhere new. He’s forgotten that he once said moving to Virginia, the place he so longs for, was the worst thing that ever happened to him. Patience is not his forte. Neither is perspective. After all, he is a nineteen year old. It’s exactly what he needs, though, along with some decongestant and a perhaps a box of pop tarts.

I text to ask how he’s doing and he answers “sick.” I suggest he visit the health center, but he’s “busy.” I won’t even bother suggesting he go to CVS. I tell him to go to Noodle and Co and get some chicken soup, and if he’s running a fever, by all means go to the health center. He texts back “How do I know if I’m running a fever?” I ask if he’s hot and achy. He answers “My dorm has no AC. I’m always hot and achy.”

I know this conversation could go on forever. He has made up his mind to be miserable, and there is nothing I can do to change it. I ask my husband if he’s heard anything from the Dude. My husband just laughs.

Overcome with motherly concern, I break down. I know it’s unhealthy, like a drug addiction. I do it less often than I did in the beginning, just after he left. I’m down to once or twice a day. I open the Find My Phone app to see where he is.

He’s playing golf. I guess that’s why he’s busy.

I send him a blowing kiss emoji and say I’ll check in later, then put together a gift package; decongestant, a thermometer, tissues and a box of pop-tarts. We’ll both make it through another day.

Advertisements

Momaiku – The freshman drop off edition


How can this much stuff

All fit inside the Prius?

“Don’t open the doors”

_______________________

Sure you’ve got it all?

“What could I be missing, Mom?”

I’m sure we’ll find out

___________________________

“When you clean my room

Please don’t look under the bed.”

Wouldn’t dream of it

________________________

And the trunk closes

I can’t believe we did it

“Where am I sitting?”

_______________________

“When will we get there?”

At best, a 12 hour drive

“Just wake me for lunch.”

________________________

So here is your dorm

“It looked better in pictures.”

Most things in life do

_________________________

Don’t be afraid Dude

The RA will not tase you

Unless you earned it

__________________________

“You can hug me Mom.

I’m sure nobody’s watching.

It won’t hurt my cred.”

________________________

I don’t shed a tear

Until we’re all the way out

Of our parking space

________________________

“There are no parties.

This school sucks. I’m transferring.”

It’s been five hours

_________________________

Was today better?

“Yeah! I met a guy who knows a guy.”

LALA  can’t hear you

________________________

“I’m doing laundry!”

Separate your lights and darks.

“Yeah, whatever, Mom.”

________________________

“My tee shirts are pink!”

Washed your red sweatshirt, did you?

“How did you know that?”

__________________________

“The Wifi here sucks.”

Use the ethernet cable

“The whada whada?”

__________________________

“Forgot nail clippers

Can you Amazon Prime some?”

Can you CVS?

—————————————-

“My dorm room’s spotless.”

I’m sure your roommate thanks you

(I give it three weeks)

__________________________

I text, I love you

He texts “Please send me food.”

It means the same thing

_________________________

“Classes start Monday

I hope they don’t cramp my style.”

If they don’t, I will

______________________

“How do you and Dad

Manage without me around.”

We have lots of sex

________________________

“Very funny Mom.”

We cry from morning ’til night

(We have lots of sex)

_______________________

So that’s all I’ve got

Until I get the next text

Two, three hours, tops

Waiting for the sun to come home

IMG_0942I’m fine, but I feel sorry for the cat. That’s what I tell myself. It’s a lie, although I do feel bad for the cat. He misses the Dude, too. It’s okay, I tell him, as if he could understand me. It’s only college, he’ll be back in November.

The cat leaps onto the kitchen table each morning when he hears the bus, ready to watch the boy make his way to the bus stop. He waits, still and silent until the bus pulls away. Old habits are hard to break. When he doesn’t hear thunder from upstairs he gives up and dashes off like he has somewhere to go. I do the same.

The cat knows something has changed. The door to the boy’s room has been open for days. The room is clean. The bed is empty. The scene stops me every time I pass his doorway on the way to my own. I’m not used to seeing the floor.

He whiles the hours, my furry sundial, tracing the patch of sunlight across the living room floor, waiting for the arrival of the brightest light of them all. At the end of his travels, however, he finds my feet. I’m waiting as well. Old habits are hard to break.

He perks to hear the bus again, ears tipped forward to catch the sound of his sneakers. Surely today the boy, his boy will burst through the door and drop his backpack to the floor. He ducks behind my legs, waiting until the shoes fly across the room to run to his side, when the boy would hoist him into the air, just like the Lion King. I know the cat hates the gesture, and misses it at the same time, just like I miss having my son tuck me under his chin to show me how tall he is.

I pat my lap, and the cat takes his time getting there, making a circle from the arm of the sofa, around the back, to my side and finally settles in. I give his head a rub and he purrs.

I share all the advice I’ve gotten, just in case it’s useful. “Travel. Explore,” I tell him. “The house has sunny spots you haven’t even seen yet, and hidey holes for days. Just come out for meals, okay?” He gives me a slow blink. “Work on your relationship with the other cat.” I’m not sure how that will work, since they alternate between curling up, yin/yang style and depositing tufts of angry fur on my newly vacuumed carpet.

Or perhaps we’ll stay here and chase the sun across the map until it comes back home again. November isn’t that far away.

The not-so-last supper with my college bound son

IMG_0460Dinner wasn’t how I imagined it. What ever is?

I’d planned multiple not-so-last suppers. These dinners would give us memories to sustain us until Thanksgiving, when the Dude would return, all collegiate and wise, asking for wine with dinner while discussing the Greek debt crisis.

If only he’d show up, they’d be great.

It was the day before the day before he’d head off to Indiana, but he had plans, maybe, or maybe not, or yes, but not sure when, or if they included dinner, and he’d let me know when it was settled. It wasn’t a surprise. We’d been dancing this tango all summer long.

By the time he’d figured out he needed dinner, it was too late to cook something and have it done in time for him to eat it. Shrugging off his overwhelming disappointment, he told us he was going to get carryout. My husband and I offered to take him somewhere, but that would risk us being seen together, so my husband offered to bring in dinner for all of us. The Dude liked it because it meant he didn’t have to pay for it. I liked it because it meant I didn’t have to cook. My husband said it would give the Dude more time to avoid packing.

“Why rush things,” said the Dude.

Despite heading off to college, the Dude has the eating habits of a toddler. One steak and cheese, no onions, no mushrooms, no peppers, no sauce. Only meat, cheese and bread.

Something this simple should not be hard to accomplish, yet when the Dude unwrapped his sandwich it was clear that the order was all wrong.

“I’m out of here. See you later.” We heard the rev of the engine, the thump of the base line, and with the opening and closing of the garage door, he was gone.

Beyond opening the wrapper, the Dude never touched his dinner. No amount of scraping or removal of the offending items could salvage the culinary travesty. The sandwich stared back at my husband and I, wondering what it had done wrong.

I took a deep inhale. My husband closed his eyes and snapped his plastic fork in two.

“May he fall in love with a vegan foodie,” I said. Nothing cuts the tension like a good joke. This one wasn’t good enough.

“He’s tone deaf to everyone else’s feelings.” My husband found a new fork. “He could have at least said thank you.”  He continued to vent. He took time he didn’t have to get take out he didn’t really want so he could share dinner with his son who couldn’t be bothered to stay and eat. “It’s a slap in the face.”

I have little sympathy for my husband. This happens to me almost every week with food that I actually prepare. But I didn’t bring that up because I know it wasn’t the real issue.

Knowing goodbye is coming is almost as hard as the actual goodbye. The Dude is pulling away because he is as afraid of missing us as we are of missing him, only we’re allowed to acknowledge it. He’s heading off to the best time of his life. Just because he’s ready to leave, however, doesn’t mean he has the emotional lexicon to do so gracefully.

We are dealing with the omnipresent “last”.  Our scuttled dinner was only the second to last, meaning we still had more, but only one more. We could pretend one more time that it’s just another dinner in a thousand dinners we’ve shared around our table, but this was the last time we could.

“I’ll talk to him tonight.” It was our own ritual of “last”;The Dude and I, both night owls, would stay up and watch television and talk, sharing foot space on the ottoman. Sometimes I made popcorn, sometimes he made pancakes.

“Dinner was uncool,” I said to the Dude as we both reached for the last few kernels in the bowl. He knew. He has a tell–a particular expression he wears when he’s already composed a response to the question he knows is coming.

His reasons sound so much like the ones his father dishes up. The workday was long, He had too much to do, and too little time. The weather was too hot, and the kids uncooperative. His friends can’t seem to make up their minds about plans, and change their minds too easily. He never asked for his Dad to get dinner, and then it was the wrong sandwich. It was all too much.

Goodbye is so hard.

“I’ll apologize to him tomorrow.”

The next day, while I was preparing dinner, the real, last dinner, my husband came home. He poured himself a scotch, and I told him I’d talked to the Dude about the prior evening.

“I have a few things I’d like to say.” I hoped my husband could find the emotional lexicon to get his point across while preserving our last “last”.

The Dude sidled up and shoulder checked him, and said, “Hey.”

My husband put him in a headlock.

All was forgiven. I went back to cooking dinner.

I guess he had all of the emotional lexicon he required, although it wasn’t the conversation I’d imagined.

What ever is.

It’s our fault. We taught them to share.

Eleven days left

Until I claim his bedroom

Paint the mother pink

_____________________

Not that I’m eager

Go ahead–count those chickens

What could happen now?

______________________

Damn, I had to ask

Mono outbreak in his squad

Grad party whiplash

______________________

Tracing through the snarl

Of who has hooked up with who

Dating duck, duck, goose

______________________

Rumors burn the wires

His prom date is patient zero

Glad he’s got no game

______________________

So the lesson, Dude?

Keep your tongue in your own mouth

Until you’re thirty

______________________

Can’t breathe easy yet

He and his sick best friend have

Shared “water bottles”

_______________________

Calculate backwash

From a “water” pong tourney

Twenty kids, two cups

______________________

Google Hail Mary

Can Fireball kill off germs?

It tastes like it can

______________________

The answer is no

But it makes good antifreeze

It tastes like that, too

_______________________

You haven’t had it?

Think of a bowl of Red Hots

Steeped in Jack Daniels

_______________________

“The symptoms?” he asked

I said, “You get real tired–

I’ve had it for years.”

_______________________

“I have to be fine

Welcome week is important!”

(It has the parties)

______________________

Sleeping in all day…

When teenagers have mono

Can you really tell?

______________________

So far he’s okay

Luckily the health center

Is next to his dorm

So Funny I Forgot to Laugh


The Dude and I stayed up late and watched television. I’m not normally a T.V. person, but the Dude leaves for college in two weeks and I don’t want to miss anything good. He keeps telling me he wants to get as many “lasts” in as possible. Last meals at home, last parties with friends, and of course, last philosophical arguments with Mom.

We both love The Daily Show. I thank Jon Stewart for making current events and politics relevant to the younger demographic that traditional news outlets have left for dead. I am dismayed, however, by reports that his show allegedly had a working culture that was unfriendly to women and minorities. I voiced my disappointment to the Dude.

“But he’s so progressive,” said the Dude, and I agreed.

“But what one does is as important as what one says.” And when one has a platform the size of Jon Stewart’s, what one says is pretty damn important. I don’t mean to single him out. His is not the first man to be accused of running a comedy boy’s club. The same has been said of SNL, and even *sniff* The Colbert Report.

“I hate to say this but…”

This is the Dude’s way of saying “I’m about to say something I know you’ll go batshit over, but I’m right, so I’m going to say it anyway.” I start relaxation breathing immediately.

“Women aren’t that funny.”

He didn’t even say “present company excluded.”

Humor is subjective. I tell myself this whenever people don’t find my writing funny. That doesn’t make it untrue. Humor is largely contextual. The scope of humor can go from one person (Sometimes I am the only person who finds me funny) to universal (Even my parents liked The Incredibles). Would my 18 year-old son appreciate Any Schumer’s “Last Fkable Day?” Probably not as much as I do. But to deem an entire gender not funny?

Based on his expression, I must have had that feral alien cat look I get when he’s said something that hacks me off, like I think feminists are shrill.

“You might not find them funny, but that doesn’t mean they’re not funny. Your opinion isn’t fact. I don’t find Daniel Tosh funny. You find him hilarious. Lots of people agree with you. Just not me.”  Daniel Tosh has his own show. I do not. Maybe not a great example.

“So Jon Stewart hires people he thinks are funny, and people like his show. Why should he hire people that other people think are funny.”

That is the important question underneath it all. Why does diversity matter? I didn’t point this out, since nothing shuts down conversation faster than talking about real stuff.

“I suppose it depends upon his objectives. As a political satirist, shouldn’t he care about half of his viewership?” Actually 46%, according to the Pew Center. “He’s been a pretty good standard bearer for progressive values, but he’s missed an opportunity to speak meaningfully to a segment of his target population by utilizing writers who speak the same language.Diversity ensures you aren’t breathing your own exhaust.”

I’m well aware my audience isn’t teenage boys, so I don’t worry about whether he thinks my writing is funny. I know he wouldn’t. That’s why I don’t show it to him.

“You’re studying marketing, so this is an important lesson. If you drive with blinders on, at best, you miss a large portion of the view. At worst, you get t-boned.” Like the company that made a tablet for women preloaded with apps for shopping, dieting and exercise. I bet they just loved the press they got.

The Dude seemed willing to acquiesce on the larger argument, but had some issues that hit closer to home. The young women in his peer group.

“They make these jokes and laugh their heads off, I don’t get it. Neither do my friends.”

“They are referencing something that is personal to them. That’s what context means.” We repeated this exchange several times. Clearly, he thought my answer should have been that their attempts at humor were just that, attempts at humor.

It was time for him to consider another source for his problem.

“Maybe you should be asking yourself what they know that you don’t.”

“You always said that if I don’t know what they joke is about it’s probably about sex.”

“That was true when you were younger. Now, if you don’t get what the joke is about, it might very well be about you.”

I was wrong. Talking about real issues isn’t the quickest way to clear a room. Guess I’m not so funny after all.

Because I said so, that’s why.


I sat on the back porch swing and watched fireflies chit chat while the bluetooth case of my IPhone occasionally flashed hello in return. At least I’m hoping it was a hello. I’d hate to think I’d confused them.

My Kindle screen had gone dark several minutes ago. The Dude played basketball in the driveway, and I searched for subtext in each thump. My husband said the child hadn’t left the dinner table angry. That made one of us.

It was a stupid argument. His room is a yawning pit of entropy. I’m expecting those British ladies with swabs to show up any minute now to detail how many types of bacteria are festering in his carpet.

I asked him to clean it. He could have said “Sure,” ending the conversation. He wouldn’t have even had to mean it. I’m smart enough to know that an affirmative response only means he heard words coming out of my mouth. As far was listening to them and heeding them, I know there is no guarantee.

He said, “I’m busy.” I suppose it’s true at some level. He hasn’t been up before noon all week, and he disappears every afternoon to play basketball, then hangs out with his friends. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for housework.

Informing me that he was too busy to clean his room, however, felt like a kick of sand in the face. The Dude has been extremely resistant of late. Not that he ever does as I ask. He’s usually not so hostile about it.  I’m usually not so hostile in return, either. He gets around to things eventually. Today was not one of those more reasonable days.

“Maybe I’m too busy to give you the keys to my car until your room is clean.” Take that, you little shit.

With my response, dinner was over and he was gone.

I told my husband that it was about respect. I was not his slave. He’s not above cleaning his room, and he can’t just expect me to do everything for him. What a load of hooey.

The firmament my son and I stand on is dividing, like one of those cartoons where the earthquake splits the earth in two sides with a deep crevasse between them. He is going away to college and I don’t get to come along for the ride. I don’t even want to. That doesn’t make the change in the power structure of our family any easier to navigate.

I remember the summer before I went away to school was much the same. My mother and I argued. She complained I was never home, there was so much to do to get ready for school, and I was being snotty and disrespectful. I thought she was being controlling, stressing over details that I didn’t care about (I mean really, do you really need to comparison shop a shower caddy), and overreacting to my supposed overreactions.

I hate it when lessons I learn as a parent result in an apology for my own adolescent behavior. I’ll add this one to the ever-growing list.

Come fall, I will be a mother without a child to mother, but for now dammit, I’m still in charge. Who told him he was his own master?

Oh wait. That would be me.

I find it ironic that after years of warning that he’d have to take responsibility for his own stuff without my supervision and now that he’s doing it, I don’t like it. It makes me feel…. irrelevant.

It doesn’t bother my husband so much. I guess there’s a reason they call them apron strings and not suspenders. He is more prepared to let go. He is also not the one that will have to don the bunny suit and clean the boy’s bedroom and bathroom after he leaves for college. Just because I’m realize the argument isn’t about the Dude’s armpit of a domicile doesn’t suddenly make it clean.

As the day faded away, so did my anger–enough to let it go and move on. When I came in, the Dude was busy watching television. I could have cleaned my own bedroom. Instead, I sat down and watched along with him.

These next few weeks will be difficult, but I’ll make it a little easier by giving up the idea that I have control over anything, least of all my son. When the time comes for him to leave, we can fall into the crevasse, or we can use the time we have to build a bridge. As long as his bedroom stays on his side we’re good.