College + Life: Year One

It’s been an interesting year and writing about it on July 6 is odd considering most people think about doing so on January 1 when they’re busy taking stock of their lives, yet again caught up in the idea of promising themselves the moon if only they might eat less, organize more, drink less, exercise more, want less, or earn more than they have in preceding years.

Go ahead.  Just try and say that three times fast.

My reason for this reflection is to acknowledge my youngest son’s 19th birthday and with it, the conclusion of his first year of life away from home.  No birthday cake and no wrapped prezzies.  Out of tune renditions of Happy Birthday sung through a shared receiver.  An agreed upon mini fridge for his dorm room being delivered shortly so he won’t have to walk to the corner for a snack or soda after remembering we tell him not forget to eat.

What strikes me as most significant about this past year is his adaptability.   When others ask how he’s doing, we respond that he’s doing extremely well, loves San Francisco, has made friends, and is happy.  He enjoys his classes, is interested in what he’s learning, and has a level head about how he’s doing performance-wise.

Those inquiring seem surprised by our assessment, and signs of that surprise lessening has coincided with an equal lessening of inquiries made.  A collective huh if ever there was one.

Or, in the words of Wally and The Beav, “Go figure.”

The MoH would say I’m being irrational, but he listens to me as I blather on about it all being so curious.  Not our son’s adaptability — others’ reactions to it.  Perhaps everyone had their doubts.  If a kid doesn’t exude hard charging in-your-face drive while he’s growing up, then the assumption is that he’s unmotivated — or even incapable, I suppose.  If he’s not wielding a bat, or tackling someone on the opposing team, swinging, pedaling, spiking, serving, then maybe, just maybe he lacks muster.  Stick a mirror under his nose to see if he’s breathing, I guess.

But I know better.  Still waters run deep.

When I think of my youngest, I’ve come to the conclusion he quietly indulged his father and I all our fussing over him throughout his childhood.  Even my mother has muttered, “Well, he has been somewhat sheltered.”  But bear in mind that much of the fussing was our attempts at not acting like we were fussing instead of actually fussing which had to be comical on most days, exhausting others.  He endured it — and us — with patience, grace, and a quiet but determined focus to carry on with his interests his way.  The occasional flat-browed silence following the semi-terse exchanges one expects between a teenager and his parents notwithstanding, of course.

He continues to indulge us, tolerating requests to have an online chat at a particular time on a specific day, numerous texts from his father (I lack that function on my cell, lucky kid), and horror of all horrors to many others his age, I’m sure — comments on his facebook wall.

You gotta love parents who don’t get it — or act like they don’t get it.  That would be us.  But we do get it, which is why we’re omnipresent — well, sort of — in his life from a manageable distance of 600 miles or so.  Not quite helicoptering, but close.  Very, very close.  Telescopic helicoptering?  I wish.

After getting his driver’s license in the nick of time late last summer and with no practice until returning home this June for a short four weeks, after one reminder session with the MoH, he was on his own, remembering to ask if I had plans to use the car before driving away to meet with friends.  Suppressing the urge to sneak out the front door to snap 10 or 20 photos of him driving off the first time by himself, I had a little talk with God about keeping him safe instead.  And I’m not one who talks to God, but the stars weren’t out, so I couldn’t see talking to a sunlit sky making sense.  I count myself lucky that I didn’t have to deal with the worry of his wanting to drive when he was 16.  The three years’ wait time gave me a chance to mature a bit or find out a few screws were loose.

I think what I miss about him the most is the conversation we’d have.  A glimpse into what he was interested in (sci fi, video games, modeling…) and what he found funny (LOL cats?) was always an excuse to stop what I was doing to listen, watching his eyes as he talked, the start of a smile thinking about what he was telling me.  Nice kid.

It’s a challenge to get much out of him on the phone now, and worried he might feel compelled to talk to “Mom,” I usually make it brief and on the not so fuzzy side of things I warned him I’d remind him of periodically, like, “Are you eating enough, and washing your hair?  Taking showers, cleaning your face, putting on your deoderant?” before he cuts me off with an even-toned, “Mom” and patient explanation that he is, in fact, taking care of all of those things.  Good answer.

You’re wincing, I’m sure, but someone has to remind him.  It might as well be me.  Call it a public service.

The MoH and I are fairly jealous that he’s getting this opportunity.  That he gets to be in our favorite city every day, and when he leaves his dorm for class, it’s to walk among those who live there, work there, and vacation there.  And then there are those who hang around the streets there, too, but that’s part of life, isn’t it?   Knowing when to be aware, safe.  It feels like we’ve made two steps in one with this experience of sending him out into the world — that he’s getting his education, but he’s getting it in a big city instead of on a traditional college campus.

We’re happy for him.

And proud.

Happy Belated, Doog.  We love you.

p.s.

Has your mini-fridge arrived yet?