I am proud of her. So proud. Button-popping proud. If you knew her story, how she started at a pound and half, not breathing on her own, and how she is now going to an elite college that she earned all by herself, you’d be proud, too.
I am excited for her. So excited. She has already gotten to meet her roommate (through Facebook), who is from Pakistan. She has communicated with several of her professors, bought her bed-in-a-bag (and more stuff than will ever fit in a dorm room), and she is ready to go. That should all be in caps. Ready. To. Go.
All summer long, I have been excited, supportive, smiling, happy and, yes, a little braggy about her new life. In other words, I have been lying. I confess to you now that it has all been a facade — a false front spackled with busy-ness and held up by a rickety structure of self-deception all perched tenuously on that deepest and swiftest of streams — the Great River of Denial.
First there was graduation and all the attendant paperwork, including applications and financial aid for college. We planned the graduation party around my stepson and daughter-in-law’s wedding shower so we were busy, busy, busy.
Then there was the wedding in Seattle, surrounded by a three-week road trip out west. Before we left, we were busy planning and packing. I don’t have to explain how busy we were on the trip itself. Then when we got back, there was all that unpacking and laundry and shopping for the dorm room and registering the boys for school. Busy, busy, busy.
Busy-ness is the best friend of denial, and a key support structure for my beautiful facade. Things were going along fine until one day this weekend when my DH and each of my three boys said stupid things to me. Suddenly, the whole structure collapsed and went sliding into the river, pulled downstream by a torrent of my own tears. It finally hit me — my baby girl is leaving. But it’s worse than that. She is leaving me with all these BOYS!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my boys. They are amazing individuals — funny, insightful, bright as shiny pennies and genuinely kind. But, and I say this with love, they just don’t get it. My daughter looks around, sees what needs to be done and does it. My sons can’t find their hands dangling from their wrists at the ends of their arms.
I have to use complete sentences with my sons. When I talk to my daughter, a typical conversation sounds like this:
Me: “Don’t forget the thing.”
The Girl: “Got it.”
Me: “Can you believe _________?”
The Girl: “Oh, my God, I know. What an idiot.”
Me: “What should we do for dinner?”
The Girl: “How about flat bread with marinated artichokes, goat cheese, tomatoes and garlic. I just saw a recipe.”
Here is what a conversation with her brothers sounds like:
Me: “Don’t forget to take out the garbage.”
One of the boys (OoTB): “What?”
Me: “Please take out the garbage.”
(OoTB): “Now what?”
Me: “Take out the garbage.”
Me (reaching for an alcoholic beverage): “Garbage, garbage, garbage. Now, now, now!”
Sigh. It’s all over. No more girly movies. No more lunches and walks and shopping. No more knowing eye rolls at the crazy males who inhabit our house. It will just be me. And a lot of testosterone.
Some mothers I know who are seeing their children off to college are feeling sentimental, but not particularly devastated by the prospect. They need time and space and, in some cases, healing before they will want to spend time again with the overgrown teenagers who have taken over their lives.
I’m lucky, because in addition to loving my daughter, I really like her. And she has the grace to lie to me and say she really likes me, too. And so, yes, I’m happy and proud and excited for her. But I’m totally miserable for me. Please excuse me now, because I’m out of Kleenex and my keyboard is getting waterlogged and I’m on the verge of electrocuting myself.