In early August, my oldest child turned 18, and today we dropped her off at college. And my state of mind between these two events has been this: what. The. Hell?
(This isn't going to be a syrupy blog post about watching children grow up while "Landslide" plays in the background as I look on fondly. If that's what you're expecting, you've been following the wrong blog what with me being a bitch and all. Which, if you're okay with that, will work out fine for all of us.)
Frankly I'm annoyed at the whole growing up thing, because my daughter blatantly ignored explicit parental direction, to wit: knock that shit off. Also, it proved King Al right, which is just annoying. (King Al = my father.) Rewind 18 years, my husband and I were living in Quincy, MA, our daughter Christina was three weeks old and that was also as long as I'd gone without a shower. Also my boobs hurt, my feet hurt, my face hurt, my brain hurt, my wrists hurt, my spinal cord hurt, my elbows hurt, my appendix hurt, my adrenal gland hurt, and my ankles hurt. (I had no idea that sleep deprivation, among other things, made everything sore. Because there was no reason for my wrists and appendix and spinal cord to hurt. I don't think. That period in my life is pretty fuzzy, and in later years when I asked Christina about it she wasn't much help. She was a lazy and forgetful baby.)
My parents were visiting, which was awesome, because it meant that while they were in town I didn't have to change a diaper, cook a meal, run an errand, or bang a husband. Not that much of the latter was happening anyway (see above: 3 week old baby, boobs hurt, brain hurt, and nothing kills the mood faster than my dad pounding on the other side of the wall with his bowling ball sized fist: "Can you two either hurry it up or keep it down? Amateurs!").
But my folks were leaving the next morning, which I handled with trademark maturity ("No, no, no, no, no! Don't leave me alone with it! Her, I mean! I'll hold my breath until I turn blue or my brain stops hurting! Ow, stupid brain."). (It must be said, Tony wasn't quite as upset as I was.) Also with trademark maturity, I was bitching about what a pain in the ass it was to be trapped in an apartment with a tiny precious blessing from the angels. "I wish she could walk and talk," I bitched (warned you!), "and I wish she could wipe her own ass and drive and read and also, I wish my brain didn't hurt. And I wish she could give feedback, ANY FEEDBACK, that isn't negative. It's like living with a tiny, jerky boss who only tells me when I fuck up and wants me to carry her everywhere and make food for her with my body, and gives me a negative performance review every ten minutes. If I'm so bad at this shit, why doesn't she just fire me already? Huh? Why?"
"You wait," my dad said as my mom pried my fingers from her ankles (throwing myself full-length on the floor kicking and screaming hadn't worked, so I'd just sort of clutched at them and they'd dragged me to the door). "She's gonna be doing all that stuff so fast you won't believe it. Subjectively speaking, in about two weeks? She's gonna be getting married. And you'll wonder what happened. And you'll want to turn the clock back, and won't be able to." My response to this incredibly stupid inaccurate prediction was to fling myself back into another tantrum so I wouldn't say, "Shut. UP! Before I put my fist down your throat!" to the man who gave me the gift of life. (And don't think he doesn't STILL hold that over my head. Like the gift of life was soooo tricky. Give me the gift of forever having a balanced checkbook, give me something I can use, dammit.)
My daughter isn't getting married, but ignoring my instructions to stop growing up and going to college is just as defiant. Because a funny thing started happening when she started to talk and walk and read and drive: I got really, really attached to her. She was still a tiny jerky boss, but not all the feedback was negative once she left the newborn stage behind. Some of the feedback was...kind of...what's the word? Dazzling.
The toothless grins, for example. As a baby, Chris went apeshit for strained peaches and pudding of all kinds, and had plenty of non-verbal praise for the silly bitch in the stained t-shirt who kept buying jars of the good stuff. Later, when she was verbal, there was a lot of, "Good Mommy! Goooooood Mommy!" when I'd done something that particularly pleased the teeny tyrant. There was the way she'd chortle and kick the bars of her crib so hard the whole thing would shake when I'd come to pluck her out of her crib after a nap. The way she'd rock out in her car seat when I'd crank Madonna's "Ray of Light". The way she'd run my errands for me once she got her driver's license.
Her brother came along a couple of years later, mostly because I'd lost a bet with my husband (long story, in which I come off pretty drunk), and when the baby would snuggle against my chest and toddler-Chris would drape herself across my shoulders while we'd watch The Little Mermaid and I'd wonder where the bitchy mermaids were, I'd feel surrounded, but in a good way. As with his sister, the newborn stage was weird, fuzzy upon recollection, and stressful. Stressful because when baby Liam would cry, Chris would sprint to wherever I was and holler, "Mommy, the BABY is CRYING!", as if I'd gone selectively deaf. That was always my sleep-deprived cue to also burst into tears, and more than once my hapless husband would walk through the front door to find all three of us sobbing. Chris would tattle on me ("The BABY is CRYING and Mom won't FIX IT!"), I would tattle on her ("The BABY is CRYING and Chris won't SHUT UP about it!") and Liam would just wail and turn purple. Not as purple as me, though. Amateur.
Soon enough there were two short people who were as generous with the positive feedback as they were with the negative, and also, they knew words my husband and I didn't. Things weren't spooky, they were smooky. The whirlpool tub wasn't a Jacuzzi, it was a Maguzzi. I was still the woman in the stained t-shirt (laundry never being a high priority in the household), but they were always pleased to see me. It was pretty impossible to not be charmed. Not that I didn't try.
When Chris started kindergarten, I realized with stark dread that they were going to keep growing, that one day they'd be out of the house and living their own lives. So I forbade them to grow up. I don't put a lot of demands on my family, just that they eat and sleep and be as happy as possible under whatever circumstances, and in return I don't kill them, so I felt this was a perfectly reasonable request. One both kids cruelly ignored. And it doesn't help that their father didn't enforce the rule. He thought it was fine that the children were getting older and taking on responsibilities. What can I say? I sleep with a monster.
Proof that the monster didn't enforce and the l'il monsters didn't listen is Exhibit A: college! Blatant defiance, I thought as I gave her a good-bye hug. Might have been a little too hard, since she groaned like a python was hugging her goodbye, a python wearing a "The book was better." t-shirt. That's all it was, blatant defiance. And look at the baby! He's fourteen and has hairy legs! He'll be getting a learner's permit in less than a year! This...is unacceptable.
Unfortunately, when I called Social Services to demand they FIX IT I got a whole lot of "this request is weird and also, she's 18, so please stop calling about this, okay?" nonsense. Not only are the rotten brats blatantly disobeying, they've got Social Services on their side! Is there no end to their evil empire?
All this to say King Al was right (so difficult to type those words; my fingers want to type "s;dgihaesg;h" instead). Chris did learn to walk and talk and read and drive, she graduated high school and started college and yep. It took about two weeks.
I hate when that happens.