wish you were here

When my oldest child, who’s now a sophomore in college, began looking at schools, its distance from our home was never a concern. And frankly, at that point in our relationship, my thought was that a little space might do the two of us some good.

So when he decided to go to a school that was an eight-hour drive away from our house and far from any major airports or train stations, my reaction was, “Have fun!”

Kid #2, a daughter, was just one year behind and when she decided she wanted to apply early decision to the same big, state school, I went along with it. At that point, new to being single and working full-time, my parenting strategy was that if it wasn’t on fire and screaming, “SAVE ME,” I wasn’t about to over think it. “Go for it,” I told her.

In August, we stuffed our car with color-coordinated bins, towels and comforters from Target, set up her dorm room as if it was about to be featured in a House Beautiful spread, waved good-bye and journeyed home.

And that, I figured, was that.

They’d be busy with classes and making new friends and learning all about beer bongs, and before we’d know it, they’d be home with a mountain of laundry for Thanksgiving.

What do I fucking know?

It turns out, college can be stressful for these kids. There are exams that you bomb and classes that need to be dropped. You need to get used to having a flexible schedule and managing your time and getting to bed before 3 a.m. There’s no shrewish older woman living with who reminds you to wake up and go to sleep. No one is there to cut up a kiwi for your breakfast or tell you to eat your broccoli. No one gives a shit.

And then the moment arrives, a few weeks into fall semester, when the new college student comes to the stunning realization that he actually misses that place from which he couldn’t wait to escape and the people that live there. It dawns on that freshman that home was actually not so bad. And neither was his family.

And as a mom, it’s not so easy being on the other end of a text or a phone call when these moments hit. When I can’t just gather that kid close and tell him or her it’s okay and maybe sneak away to get lunch and spend time alone. Just us.

My son started texting me this week and asking about wisdom teeth and when does one know they need to come out. I’ve had very little experience with this subject, other than having my own removed in my early 20’s. (The incident proved yet another missed opportunity to realize that when my soon-to-be-husband, who accompanied me to the extraction, fainted in the recovery room upon seeing me, thus seizing all the attention of the medical staff, that I would never be the star of that relationship.)

So when my kid’s texts morphed from “What’s up with wisdom teeth?” to “My mouth fucking kills,” I was still hoping to downplay the situation. “Gargle with a little salt water,” I advised. “Take some Tylenol.”

This fire was too far away for a quick dousing.

I made an appointment for a consultation with an oral surgeon when my son returns home for spring break in March, and thought I had a handle on the situation.

Until that child called me around 11:00 Wednesday night, upset. Like, really upset because his mouth felt like it was actually on fire.

There I was lying in bed, half delirious with Stephen Colbert and his silliness lighting up my darkened room, with a really upset kid/man on the line and feeling helpless.

But of course, by 9 a.m. the following day, I had wrangled a prescription for antibiotics and made an emergency appointment with an oral surgeon this weekend. He and his sister will make the long drive home in the car they have down at school and regardless of whether that thing needs to be pulled or the doctor can just do something temporary to get my kid through to spring break, I am happy that I will be able to just have him here. I won’t have to rely on an iPhone photo or a text from him to know what’s going on. There’s great comfort in that.

And when Kids 3 and 4 start their college search, you better believe they won’t be going anywhere I can’t get to in just a few hours.


5 thoughts on “wish you were here

  1. Okay, I just had this conversation with Husband about how far away our only child should go when he sets off for college – Husband says no more than 7 hours. I say wherever he wants – let him spread his wings. Well Husband wins now. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Susan, I shared your mindset. Go. Fly. See the world. But the reality, for me, is that a little closer would be a little better. I never thought I’d say it, but it’s going to be a factor when the other two kids start looking around at schools.

  2. The constant connection to our college bound children is something we didn’t have with our parents. Would I ever think of calling them at 2AM when I felt sick or sad? Never. I would wait till the morning. But if I had an iPhone back then, a text to my mom would be answered in the middle of the night because I know she would have it set on vibrate under her pillow just like me. I think they find comfort in knowing we are always there even through text.
    Hope your boy feels better. It’s so hard when they a so far away.

  3. Hi Amy,
    I worked with a great Oral/Maxiofacial Surgeon in Shrewsbury, his name is Manolis Manolakakis. He’s on Linkedin, check it out, he took Cassie’s out and will do Coco’s. Good friend of mine. Good luck!!

  4. Enjoying your blog…so many things I can relate to.
    Just went through the wisdom tooth scenario with my daughter who is in LA. The tooth had to come out. It was a toss up for a flight home or just take a chance with a dentist there. My cousin lives nearby and gave us a reference. All went well…It was just part of the money pit we call higher education! The cost gets higher and higher and higher.

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