"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
- Anais Nin
Saturday, December 20, 2014
The Boy is home from college. This is as it should be, since the semester has ended and the holidays are upon us.
What isn’t as it should be?
He’s not going back.
He informed me of his decision just a few weeks ago. “I’m not sure what my path is,” he told me, “but I’m sure this isn’t it.”
This isn’t it?
This path I’d worked my tail off for eighteen years to afford him - he was just going to meander off it after one semester? Abandon my hopes and dreams for him? Turn me into some statistic about how single mothers fail their kids?
Because it was all about me, right?
I told him I felt he was making a mistake, that he ought to just tough it out through the spring semester and see if he felt differently. But I also silently owned up to the fact that this was opening old wounds for me, and I was going to have to work to keep from imposing my issues on him.
See, I never finished college. The full story is one for a book. The Reader’s Digest version is this: I was unhappy at one school, and when I found myself in a downward spiral of Girl, Interrupted proportions, I decided transferring to another school would be the answer to my problems. Then I decided to defer my enrollment and work for a while. One year became two, two became three. I found myself married and pregnant and divorced (more or less in that order). I chipped away at my degree over the years, but as a single mom working full time and attending night school, I had more than a few moments where I wanted to travel through time and throttle my eighteen-year-old self.
Which, I suppose, is why I wanted to throttle my kid when he dropped his bombshell. I mean, didn’t he get it? I thought of all the years I’d have given anything to go back to the days of having a dorm room and a work-study job and enviably few responsibilities. Didn’t he understand how good he had it? Couldn’t he learn from my mistakes?
Of course he couldn’t. None of us ever does.
A few of my friends suggested that I tell The Boy he had to stay at school. That coming home wasn’t an option.
Have you met my kid?
Pretty much since conception, he’s upended my every plan. My pregnancy (which I’d intended to spend quilting cute things for his nursery) was miserable, thanks to Hyperemesis Gravidarum - you know, the brutal 24-hour-a-day variety of “morning sickness” that everyone now cares about because Kate Middleton suffered it. And those dreams I had of singing lullabies to a sweet, cooing infant or writing for hours while he napped? Not a chance. My baby was colicky for a full six months, which basically meant that he never slept more than two hours at a stretch, and when he was awake he was often screaming inconsolably. I kept waiting for his little head to spin around like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. And though the colic ultimately passed, his defiance of norms became his defining trait throughout childhood and into adolescence. ‘Strong-willed’ would be the kind term.
The funny thing, though? Things have a way of working out for The Boy. I’ve learned - time and time again - not to sweat his quirks. He can be frustrating as hell, but he’s also smart and funny and has a better sense of self than anyone I’ve ever met. And while there may have been times when I wished I’d made better choices when I was eighteen, this much I cannot ignore: the path I took brought this awesome kid into my life, and being his mom has given me more joy than I can quantify. There’s a lesson in that.
As it turns out, The Boy has a fairly concrete plan for his schooling: spring semester at community college, then transferring to an in-state school for the fall. He’s done the work to make the shift. He seems happy. Truly happy.
And I can’t think of anything I would rather have my son be.