We moved our son to university last weekend and honestly, it brought me right back to therapy my first day of university 23 25 30(ish) years ago. Look, this isn’t about how old I am, okay?? Focus! It’s about my boy and how eerily similar our experiences were: His sense of urgency was non-existent astounding; his organizational and planning skills were non-existent mind-boggling; and his emotions were non-existent all over the place. It was a regular Thursday whirlwind, let me tell you!
For the two days leading up to his move to campus, I had out-of-body experiences town meetings. Before leaving, I reminded our capable son to do his laundry. Upon seeing my lips move, he strummed his guitar and nodded. At least I think it was a nod. There was definitely head (no eye) movement. To be sure we were on the same page, I texted him later that evening. I kept it loose and friendly to offset his underlying emotional turmoil:
Me: Hi. What did you do today? Say ‘laundry’ or I’ll drive off a bridge I swear to God.
Me: Please remember to do your laundry and I’ll help you pack tomorrow ok?
The tone of his text was persuasive and reassuring; therefore, I knew I had nothing to worry about. He was on it! I slept like a colicky baby that night. The next day I checked in again to confirm that things were status quo on schedule:
Me: Hi. How’s it going?
Me: What are you up to?
Max: Just hangin
Me: Did you do your laundry yet? Say ‘yes’ or I’ll drive off a bridge I swear to God.
Max: Nah. I will
Me: You leave tomorrow…Are you trying to kill me going to be ready??
On the drive home from my meetings the next day, I panicked about the lack of time left for the meds urgency to kick in. I would have to move away things along. The following timeline reveals how effective I was. Check it:
5:00- I arrive home to this:
5:05- I Google directions to the nearest bridge remind Max that we have to start packing.
5:30- I remind Max that we have to start packing.
5:45- I remind Max that we have to start packing.
6:00-He finally gets it.
6:30- Max decides he needs binders. He goes to the mall.
7:30- He returns home with five binders and some pens.
7:45- He throws in a (massive) load of (multi-coloured) laundry. I drink a B52 in the image of him finally taking ownership.
8:30- He puts his clothes in the dryer and takes a much needed break.
8:40- I ask him to drive me to the nearest bridge put in another load and fold the first one.
8:45- I ask him to put in another load and fold the first one.
8:50- We put our foot down. Enough is enough.
9:15 I get my tubes tied the bag of toiletries I bought him.
9:30- Max finally gets emotional and unloads: “Did you buy me razors?” I choke up, obviously.
9:45- He throws his worldly goods into garbage bags and says something profound, “There. Done.” I reach for more Kleenex.
The next morning, he raced out of bed at 11:00 and downed
six bowls a bowl of cereal. There was very little eye contact. He tried to mask his pain but I saw right through it. A mother knows…
As I watched my baby boy gather his things, I flashed back to my first day of university and how I had a mental breakdown cried when I left home. I insisted on taking some pictures. It killed me to see his lip quiver. Zoom in-it’s there:
We loaded up the truck. During the drive I gave him one last opportunity to share his feelings with me. I asked how he was feeling and if he felt ready for this new chapter in his life. He responded as I’d hoped: “Good” and “Yup”. Don’t be jealous.
After we dropped him off, unpacked him, bought his books, bought him snacks for his room, and paid his residence fee, my husband and I declared bankruptcy it was time to go. He walked us out. I was hit by another memory of my mother and me crying as we said good-bye on the campus steps and me threatening to jump off a bridge I waited for an emotional farewell with our boy. We hugged him and I told him to text me hourly if he needed anything. He walked back to his residence and pretended not to hear as I hollered, “Wait! You forgot your Thomas the Tank lunch box, sweetie! Good luck!”
On the drive home, I checked my phone to see if he’d texted. He hadn’t. Obviously, his battery died. Duh. As I tucked my phone into my purse, I got a speck of dust in my eye and had to wear my sunglasses all the way home. Stupid milestones dust. Whatever.