Maybe he just wanted to know that I was doing okay. He does that sometimes; he checks in… on me. My college student checks up on his mom. Go figure.
When my son had tried to get in touch two weeks back we played text-tag trying to schedule a call. And when he actually telephoned rather than emailing or using other media, I knew he genuinely wanted a slot of time to talk. To really talk.
When he called and it was late and I was nearly asleep, I had to put him off until the next day. No maternal alarms were sounding, so I knew it would be fine.
Under normal circumstances, I would have switched on the lights and happily chatted. But my partner in crime was sound asleep next to me, and my lower back was screaming at me NOT TO MOVE. So short of an emergency, dragging myself out from under the covers and into another room was not going to happen.
About 12 hours later I found myself in parent-student conversation, and I could hear the relief in his voice, or so it sounded to me. Relief was followed by our familiar ease as the discussion flowed, which reminded me, as it has in the past, that I am home, the voice of home, the sensation of home.
This is something I never had with my own mother, and I am happy that my sons, best I can tell, experience it with me.
As for the College Kid (in all of us?) — when you’re tired, when you’re stressed, when you’re hundreds or thousands of miles away, isn’t a taste of home a warm and relaxing respite?
It was indeed more than the sound of my voice or my being a reliable shoulder that he needed; though both are aspects of our mutual comfort. It took years to develop the trust, the bond, the understanding of each other, the reliance on knowledge and open-ended questions that is what we have forged — as parent and child.
This is no small accomplishment. This is never a done deal. This requires practice.
This is not to be taken for granted, this communication that demands a willingness on the part of both of us to keep our channels open, to keep our minds open, to keep judgment at bay and yet to speak freely. And of course, it’s about caring and respect and love.
I recognize, too, that our bond is aided by the fact that I am not especially emotionally demanding. My own mother was the quintessential emotionally needy parent, and the consequence of that is, in part, an over-attentiveness to my children’s rights to privacy.
I have always given them space as they were ready and able to take it; I do not want to intrude, preferring to be invited in.
As we talked, as my son spoke about his relationship but only in passing, as he spoke in more detail on his current architectural design project, the wheels whirring as he did so, as he spoke of the bitter cold and his roommates and a recent meeting with alumni, I realized that we would have topics to discuss for years to come, just as we are able to enjoy companionable silence — a gift that is harder to come by than some might imagine.
I also realized that by virtue of articulating his challenges aloud, and not with a fellow student, he was able to formulate new ideas, consider possible solutions, and examine his own processes.
This is no different than what I do when I speak with him or his older brother about issues in my life, all the while respecting appropriate boundaries. This is no different than what I do right here, except that the two-way communication, when it occurs, takes place on the virtual page.
And I am reminded how special and privileged a role I am able to play — that of a parent.
I am reminded that I need to reach out more often, to be less concerned about disturbing his schedule, and to be as available to him now when he needs me, as I always have been, whenever it was possible. He may be at university, but I am the one who is tenderly schooled as he continues to teach me to listen well, to love in ways that evolve as we evolve, and to be a better parent.
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