Dear Abby, Help?

Dear Abby,

I am a married mother with two children, both boys. If you add my husband I really have three boys. If you add the boys who sleep over every weekend during the school year and most days and nights on summer break, I have 10-12 boys. Anywho, the reason I’m writing is to get your professional opinion on whether or not I’m experiencing the normal anxiety over my oldest child heading off to college.

I am a married mother with two children, both boys. If you add my husband I really have three boys. If you add the boys who sleep over every weekend during the school year and most days and nights on summer break, I have 10-12 boys. Anywho, the reason I’m writing is to get your professional opinion on whether or not I’m experiencing the normal anxiety over my oldest child heading off to college.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be writing if I had the time it takes to find and visit a good therapist who specializes in parent/teenager relationships. I’m not even positive you still answer these things. The last time I saw one of your columns, I was in college. One was always hanging on my mom and dad’s refrigerator. Every time I’d visit, Mom would release it from her “I lost my ass in Vegas” magnet and read it to me.

Back to my oldest. For the first four years of his life, he had my undivided attention. We did everything together. I tried to parent the “right” way. I read to him every day, kept him on a strict sleeping/eating schedule and I even thought about using cloth diapers (that’s got to count for something, right?). My older sister, who is also the mother of two boys, would often warn me about those tough teen years. I knew my oldest would be different. And he was, until somewhere between the ages of 14 and 15.

We hit a good stride the summer before his senior year in high school. Too good. He started talking to me about stuff. Good stuff. The kind of stuff that makes a parent think, “He’s going to be fine. He’s going to make mistakes, but he’s going to be fine.” Everything was so good that before I knew it, the year flew by, and now, in just three days, we will move him into a dorm to start his first year in college.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll enjoy never running out of cell phone data, ice cream or hot water. It will be nice to walk past his bathroom without gagging because someone forgot to flush. I suppose I won’t miss finding empty food wrappers in couch cushions, under beds or inside an empty box that’s sitting in the pantry. But I’m going to miss him. Just when I think I could throw myself in front of his car as he pulls out of the driveway to pick his brother up from school (sniff, such a good kid), he does something that makes me want to force him to live in his car until it’s time to move.

Is it normal to one minute, feel physically ill about the thought of not seeing your child every single day to the next, wanting to pay for an UBER to take him as far as $50 can take him?  Just last night he ignored me when I told him he was grounded because he hadn’t started packing his clothes yet. Was that too much to ask? I mean, it’s just his clothes. I’ve packed (AND PURCHASED!) everything else. After our little argument, he packed.

Then I felt horrible. He has three more nights until leaving, and I’m grounding him. Who does that? So, I knocked on his door to apologize. When I walked in, every item of clothing in his closet was taken off of hangers and laying in a pile on the floor. In his bag, he had packed 30 pairs of underwear, two Xbox controllers, laptop, cell phone charger, deodorant, three pairs of jeans, a handful of running shorts and sneakers, at least one dozen t-shirts, razor and shaving cream. He looked up from what appeared to be a very intense thread on Reddit, smiled and said, “I told you I packed.” I turned to walk away. “Mom? Where are you going?”

“To order an UBER for you.”

Is this normal? It’s been said that children are a gift from God. Does that mean that part of the gift will result in pushing his mother over the edge into a nervous breakdown? And if so, does God have a return policy?

Thank you for any guidance.

Sincerely,
Mother on the edge

Dear Mother on the edge,

The good news is you both will survive, and he may even appreciate all the work it took to get him ready to face the big, bad world.

The bad news is, it won’t likely happen until his own child heads off to college. As far as the feelings that can go from happy to sad to mad in the same breath, this unfortunately is something you will have to get used to. Don’t get too excited about those four glorious weeks he’ll be home for the holidays. By Christmas Eve, you’ll be ready to order another UBER to carry him back to school.

Abby

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