Friday, April 23, 2010

It's All My Fault

As parents we blame our kids for so many things….You forgot to take in your homework. You didn’t make your bed. You left wet towels on the bathroom floor. You left the door unlocked….and the list goes on. But sometimes, sometimes, the blame is all ours, and we have to take responsibility for what has happened – no matter how embarrassing the situation.

Even though our precious bundle is all grown up, it happened again last week. A situation arose and it was my fault. Well, mostly my fault. Ken helped, but I take the blame, or at the very least the responsibility.

It all started when Matthew asked us to stop by to see him at college on our way back from our trip. We had gone to Tennessee for a few days last week and came back through Cincinnati - fortunately just a hop, skip and a jump from Oxford and Miami University. So we stopped by to see Matthew and had quite an experience.

It seemed our offspring had an ulterior motive for our visit (which, in all honesty, he mentioned when he asked us to stop by). Not that he doesn’t love us and all, but gee, it would be great, he informed us, if we could take some “things” back home, since he was so close to the end of the year. And that certainly made perfect sense to us. With only 11 actual school days remaining (yes, he had them counted), we all knew time of his illustrious freshman year was short and he was streamlining tasks, preparing for finals and the end of the school year. Since that also meant moving home, anything that we could take back with us meant that much less he’d need to bring home himself in less than three weeks. It did make sense, and of course we were happy to oblige.

So, we expected to see lots of hoodies and winter coats, boots and the like. And we did. Way too many, as one might expect for a first-year college student. However, nothing prepared us for what else we saw. Drawer after drawer, bin after bin, and container after container were pulled out of his dresser, closet, and from under his bed (I had happily supplied him with lots of organizing containers). In them were items that looked familiar but which had clearly never been used. There were items that we had bought for him, thinking he would use, hoping he would find helpful. These items - which had been intended for good - had been stockpiled, unopened and untouched. Had Y2K been real and happened a decade later, in 2010 - Matthew was ready!

Matthew in his kind and gracious way had thanked us for our generosity as we prepared to send him off to college all those months ago. We bought things for him and insisted he take them “because he might find them useful” or “he’d be so glad he had them,” but clearly he had never needed. In our zest to prepare our first and only child to adequately face the collegiate challenges before him, we must have tried to send any and every possible thing the child could use throughout the year with him. Of course, HE didn’t know what he needed. Clearly, we didn’t either. What I learned on Sunday was that I apparently didn’t need to send extra supplies with every care package. I know this now because I saw enough school supplies and personal hygiene products accumulated in those containers for his entire 3rd floor. You think I’m kidding. (Next year I’ll know when I ask him on those telephone calls and emails if he needs anything and he says, “No, I’m good,” he means it!)

Then there were the other items. There was, for example, what I called the ‘boot butler’ which is a big plastic, cookie sheet-looking thing for putting wet, snowy boots on when you come in out of the cold. Well, it DOES snow in Oxford. It’s Ohio, you know. Apparently it doesn’t snow enough to need a boot butler, tho’. So, it was resting comfortably UNDER the containers holding the OTHER items he didn’t use. For example, there was the ‘flu kit I put together for him, complete with thermometer, masks and chicken noodle soup, among other things. You remember the swine ‘flu scare this past winter, right? Well, a mother can’t be too careful when it comes to caring for her child, you know. So that package was on its way to said university (no doubt along with some post-it notes, mechanical pencils, deodorant and toothpaste, based on the overabundance of those items we saw in the bins, too).

And there were more things. LOTS more things. Way too many to mention. Can’t you see I’m embarrassed enough? And I take the blame. I do. I meant well. And in my defense, all of these items are good. They are just not all necessary – certainly not in the confines of a 11’ x 14’ dorm room for two. Next year he'll know what he needs. He can decide what to take. It might only require one vehicle to get him moved in!

I think back to a year ago at this time, when we were getting supplies together for college. I inquired on Facebook if anyone had a good checklist for college. I was told by a friend, “No such animal exists.” I took that as a personal challenge to create one. A really good one. And I have to say, I’ve developed a pretty conclusive list. It might even be enough to set up housekeeping for a family of four.

Just so you know, it’s not always the kid’s fault. They can’t help who their parents are. Poor things.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Under the Umbrella

It was my privilege to introduce two dear friends to each other last summer. On the left is Joyce, one of my college freshmen roommates from Bowling Green (whom I met in 1979). On the right is Linda, a close friend I've met since living in Orrville.

As I put the finishing touches on our upstairs office reorganization, I can’t help but look outside longingly. The sun shines beautifully, even though I know it’s much cooler outside now than it was last week at this time. I want to go outside and sit to soak up some sun and forget the long Ohio winter. I look over the back yard, lovingly cut in perfect lines by my husband (who hopes to soon relinquish the handles of the lawnmower to our son returning home from college for the summer!).

My eyes move to the trees where little buds are happy to be sharing space. Jeffrey Bob (the tree, for any new readers) finally has some company! Then I see the patio umbrella. The sad umbrella is the lone, unhappy creature in the backyard, it seems. Instead of being wound up, stretched out and opened to reflect the sun, the umbrella is unused, unopened, unfulfilled.

As sad as it is for a moment, it’s only a moment. Because it is at that time that I can’t help but smile as I remember fun times when the umbrella was used last summer. I remember family nights and grilling out and dinner on the patio and dessert nights and great conversations. I remember talking with our son about the new life that was before him. I remember his excitement and sense of adventure. I remember the hesitation and concern I felt. I remember the pride I felt, too. And I remember the excitement for him as I thought about my own college days.

And then I remembered visiting with my own college friends under that very same umbrella last summer. Some of the college friends I met 30 years ago were here last summer to share laughs and memories and new friends with us as we grilled pizzas and made new memories. Priceless memories.

I look forward to sharing new memories with family and friends this year in our backyard and under that patio umbrella. Hopefully we’ll enjoy the same friends and family and hopefully we’ll add some new ones. There’s always room for more! Are you free to join us?