On Sunday, I met up with a friend of the family after Church and we chatted on our walk down the center aisle as we left. Like our family, he and his wife have children leaving for college this fall, children that are only one year apart in age. Their older daughter started last fall; their younger girl starts in a few weeks.
We joked about our kids being gone and I couldn't help it; I admitted I was brooding about it and would soon begin a deep depression. Without missing a beat, he said, "That's because you have sons. Every mother of daughters I know is absolutely ready for them to leave."
Hmmm. As the mother of not one daughter, I have no idea if that's true. I do know many women who have confirmed that as their daughters trudged through that horror show called adolescence, they drove them "spare," to borrow a word favored by British a colleague of mine. I do think that despite their own unique challenges - like when they claim that they've been showering for weeks and weeks but the bar of soap in their shower never seems to get any smaller, like the incomprehensible fact that the same boys who can see a flash of light lasting one millisecond and indicates an enemy about to attack in Halo 3 are blind to a single, unblinking green "finished" light on the dishwasher, and like having no clue about things like checking in with prospective roommates to see who has a mini fridge and who has a TV - boys seem much less complicated than girls. (The girls I know who are about to leave for college have color-coordinated their dorm rooms with the roommates they haven't yet met.) These kind of quirks make me crazy. Can you imagine what I'd be like if I had daughters? Exactly. That's why I was positive I'd never make a good mother for girls and have endless admiration for mothers who have raised delightful young women. God bless.
But I wonder: could what Tom said be true? Are most mothers of daughters absolutely ready to give them a hug and then kick them out the door? Are most mothers of sons quietly weeping into the towels they find in heaps all over the bathroom floor?
How could that possibly be true if you believe in that sad old saying: "A son is a son until he takes a wife; a daughter is your daughter all her life." Believe me, that also gives me pause. I picture scenes ten years from now. Some woman - okay, my daughter-in-law - somewhere is sitting next to one of my sons while he gives me a call: "We're going to ___'s mom's house for the Thanksgiving...we'll see you soon though, alright?" My friend Mary and I joke about spending holidays together in the years ahead - she also has a son. Just bracing for the inevitable, I guess.
That's the thing about parenthood. It promises to delight you but mostly confounds you. You read about breast-feeding, and end up expressing milk into the bathroom sink one night to relieve the pressure and then live through thrush. You get over three rounds of chicken pox in a matter twelve weeks and then face something called Fifth Disease, whatever that is. Yesterday's banged up skateboard turns into the car with a dented front end that will run about $1800 to straighten out.
So now what? You spend almost two decades raising your kids and they make you nuts and make you cry and make you proud and then all of a sudden they're moving out. You're staring into space, trying to remember that this is all good, it's all as it should be, it's all just super.
Maybe. Ask me in about ten years.