Well, it happened.
After months (like…lots of months…) of pulling teeth, pointing in this direction or that, passing out task lists, creating ignored spreadsheets, giving up, stepping back in, and taking a comfy seat on the sidelines, we got our first acceptance letter to college.
Well, yes, ‘we’ didn’t get it – Zoe got it. But it still feels like a win for the whole family and our small village of parents paddling along in the same boat. After sending the congratulatory responses to Zoe, my next step was sending a news update text out to the village – we’d gotten an answer! Zoe would go going somewhere!
Mind you, we never thought she wouldn’t get in somewhere. But the process is much more involved than in 1989, enough to put a mild, low, constantly churning bit of anxiety in our bellies. Sort of assuming the best while secretly preparing for a giant ‘but what if?’
Zoe was accepted to Old Dominion University – a school out towards the coast of Virginia and picked, by her nagging parents, as a back-up because of it’s great biology programs. Zoe was obviously relieved to get her first ‘yes’ while also maintaining a bit of teenage eye roll to remind us that this was not her first choice. Or second. Or even a place she wanted to apply to.
She may even have been a little embarrassed at our level of excitement including the balloons, posted copy of the letter, insistence that she call all relatives and to start buying dark blue and silver clothing. Reel it in parents…reel it in. We are just proud – even with the eyeroll – and a bit terrified, because this letter really, really represents her leaving. So while we have secretly started stashing ‘things Zoe will need for college’ in a corner of the house, my brain immediately started noting the non-thing things she may still need. And the list is so stupid – I get it – like, of course, she’ll be able find a Walmart without me (right?).
But this is how my trips around the house have gone this week, in no particular order.
Laundry…putting clothes in the dryer only to find the lint trap completely jam packed with three inches of lint. I remember that Zoe was the last one to do laundry (check, she knows how to use the washer) and think ‘why didn’t she empty the lint trap? I know she knows that. Right? Does she know that? I thought I showed her. Multiple times. Did she forget? What if she burns her dorm down?’ Makes mental note, ‘remind kids to empty the lint trap.’
Cabinets…I stroll into the kitchen and notice the open cabinets. For the 792nd time, I wonder who in my house thinks cabinets are magic – able to tell when you’ve gotten out a glass or dish and gently closing itself as you walk away. I wonder if that same person has noticed that the magic cabinet door closer seems to be on the fritz and is unsure of how to respond. Typically, this interaction with my kitchen ends here. Not this week – this week, I then went into deep thoughts of whether Zoe would close her cabinets in her first apartment or if leaving them open would be the thing that makes her feel like her first place is really hers while shaking a triumphant fist at her old life . Would we walk into a kitchen full of open cabinets on our first visit? Would I be able to control my OCD and leave them open, because maybe that’s how she likes it?
Linen Pantry…I went late night shopping in the upstairs pantry for some allergy meds a few days ago and two things came out of it. The first thing I found was the empty bottle of Claritan. Okay. Perfect – I live for finding the ghosts of items I’m looking for and the knowledge that someone used the last of it and thought ‘oh, that’s empty, I’ll just leave it here, empty, so that the elves know to get some more.’ Does Zoe think there are pantry elves? Fridge elves? Gas elves? Will she figure out that when something is running low she should proactively add it to her shopping list? (Spoiler alert: I’m the elf)
The second thing I found was another set of magic doors. I used to find the pantry doors (both upstairs and down) open all the time. We’d even put the self-closing hinges on the kitchen pantry for a few years as a certain dog saw the open door as an opportunity for shopping. Yet it wasn’t until three weeks ago, and I’m dead serious, that I put a note on the upstairs pantry door saying ‘These are magic doors, if you press them they will close’ that the kids reacted with the awe of discovery. They were legitimately surprised to find out the doors had a (I don’t know what it is) thing on the top of the door that latches it shut. IF you press the door closed.
Every morning, we come downstairs after the kids have left for school and find our front door unlocked. We’ve asked the kids repeatedly to lock it until just giving up. In the interest of ‘things have improved’ they used to leave the front door wide open, storm door unlocked, and I’d have images of the UPS guy sitting at my table waiting for coffee. Or of the dogs out wandering the neighborhood as Finley is an expert door opener. I don’t know yet at what point kids learn to lock the door when they’re leaving (evidently not at 17 or 14), but realized that in less than a year, Zoe would be leaving her own room or apartment, heading off to classes…and, um, will she lock that door?
Towels. I have gone through several parenting rights of passage with the towels in our house on many different levels. There’s the level where you run around the house at night picking up wet towels crumbled in various corners. There’s the level where you are done picking up the towels and graduate to gently asking the kids to pick up their towels. There’s the next level where you ask over and over why it’s so difficult to hang up the towels. There’s the level where the towels reach the bathroom, but not the hooks, residing on a different floor. There’s the level where you add rings to the towels to ease the hanging up process. There’s the level where you steal all the towels and force your kids to check them out and in each night. Then there’s the level where your husband tells you you’ve gone completely apeshit and takes over Towelmageddon. In short, will Zoe pick up her towels? Or will they become mold laden experiments that send her allergies into high gear?
Will she learn to clear the trash out of her car (or, for that matter, her room) before leaving? Or will she pack her suitcases on top of the 42 empty Wawa cups, 23 Panera takeout boxes, various articles of clothing, a single shoe, two records and the remains of various fast food bags that reside in the bag seat? Will she figure out that fast food 24/7 is not great? Will she still shower if we aren’t there to insist that she should? Brush her teeth? Her hair? Will she ever learn that items placed on the stairs are meant to go up the stairs and often belong to her? Will she learn the mantel is not where socks live?
I know she’ll be fine. I really do. I have yet to find a news article that started with “A freshman at the University of Jingle Bells was recently found with no knowledge on using cling wrap” or “Students being expelled in record numbers due to inability to smell out a full trash can.” Yet, I still secretly wish there was a skills checklist for us to sign off on before sending her into the world.
I suppose it’s not only about trusting her – but also trusting ourselves. That we’ve given it all she’s got, captain, and what she’s forgotten, she’ll figure out and what she’s remembered is gravy.
Life Skills: #1: Do something with your towel.