Cartwheels and Cuervo
Do you have a kid who graduated from high school last spring and is leaving for college, or just left?
Chances are, this was the summer of your offspring's discontent. Yours, too. Admit it, by the 4th of July you were secretly counting the days till he or she said adios.
I was reminded of that a couple of weeks ago in Bed, Bath & Beyond when I stumbled upon a stand-off between a bedraggled mother and an angry daughter in the pillow aisle.
"I can't wait to move into my dorm and get away from you," the girl hissed, grabbing a long shopping list out of her mother's hands and throwing a pricey Tempur-Pedic head holder into the basket.
"Oh, I can't wait for you to go," the mom snapped.
I wanted to put my arms around them and tell them to soldier on.
These recent grads are going through some sort of pre-college separation exercise. I'm sure the field of psychology has a word for it. What begins with simple bickering escalates into a full-blown blitzkrieg. By the time the SUV is loaded with college stuff, you're chugging Jose Cuervo out of the bottle.
During orientation at my daughter's university - Ole Miss - a decade ago, we parents were asked to raise our right hands and pledge not to cry in the parking lot when we left our little darlings on move-in day.
"I won't be crying," I muttered. "I'll be doing cartwheels.”
I didn't cry. Surprisingly, I wasn't in the mood for gymnastics, either. It might have been the Mississippi heat.
Fact is, unless you reared an exceptionally delightful, well-adjusted child, the post-high school summer is filled with unbearable conflict. Every parent I know experienced this to some extent.
Squabbles arise over curfews, drinking and friends.
Each scrimmage is met with the same ridiculous line of reasoning:
How dare you try to enforce teenaged rules on me when in just a few weeks I'll be living the life of a carefree college freshman, pre-gaming and playing beer pong all night. Coming and going as I please.
I gritted my teeth, glared at my kid and thought, I’m going to try very hard not to kill you before you leave. It won’t be easy.
Frankly, it takes mad parenting skills not strangle your 18-year-old spawn when he or she looks at you with red eyes and breath reeking of Budweiser and says something insane like, "At least I don't drive when I'm drunk. You should be proud of me.”
Proud? In what world?
It's almost over. Sure, you thought you'd spend the summer cheerfully picking out cute bedspreads and matching dorm room accessories. Instead, you're squaring off in the comfy sleep section of Bed, Bath & Beyond.
It gets better.
By November, your kid will hate his or her roommate, be sick of dorm life and weary of cafeteria food. He or she will have forgotten the summer of misery and be looking forward to Thanksgiving, the old childhood bedroom and your mac and cheese.
Believe it or not, by then you'll be tired of the silence. And the neat house. And the empty chair at the kitchen table.
Everything will be fine. Harmony will rule. Until you catch your kid in the liquor cabinet.
This post is loosely based on a column I wrote for The Virginian-Pilot in 2013.