Not Long Enough

Writing, Parenting, and Transitions, Oh My!

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

And just like that . . . she stopped writing again.

23 days have passed since I last wrote on what is supposed to be a daily blog through my 49th year on this planet. There are now 138 days left until I celebrate my 50th birthday. I spent a good deal of time beating myself up yesterday for not sticking to the writing every day.

If you have been reading since May, you know that I’ve never stuck to much of anything. Marriage — there were some bumpy moments; Diet Pepsi — first love was Pepsi and I’m not sure I get points for stick-to-it-ness for an addiction.

Growing up I took ballet and piano. I quit ballet when I was learning the recital dance to the song “I’ve Got No Strings” and the teacher mentioned performing on stage in front of all our parents. I had strings. I had lots of strings!

I stayed with piano longer and actually lived through a couple of recitals, well, at least one. I like to believe I stuck to it at least two years, but I really don’t remember now. I do remember I had a lovely pink dress for that one recital and Mom somehow managed to get my straight hair into ringlets which lasted long enough to get a picture. I have no idea what my recital piece was. When I begged Mom to let me quit, she warned me that it would be something I would deeply regret when I was grown. She spoke the truth. And the pattern continued with my own children. We can all practice scales and play Miss Mary Mack really well, but that is about it.

It is easier to just stop altogether. To pretend I never set a goal knowing that anyone who has been paying attention will move on quickly to other things. It is harder to face the page and admit that I can’t hold it together.

I have a dear friend who is training for a mini-trialtholon. Dear Friend is not an athlete and this experience is going to give all of us a lot to laugh about, but here is the thing. When Dear Friend says they will do something, they do it. I am loyal and dependable and all, but I do not have that kind of persistence. I’m afraid I’ve passed that along to our kids.

Speaking of kids . . . Kid #1 starts college classes today. Hubby and I loaded up two cars and drove him a couple of hours from home to move into his dorm room this weekend. I DID AWESOME! We only snapped at each other a couple of times. I only insisted on making his bed and left all the rest an unorganized mess that made me hyperventilate. He wanted me out of there. And, that was fine. It is his room, his things, his experience. (I can wait until I’m writing a blog post to make it all about me!)

We had a great day, the three of us, that included me driving him in his car and listening to his favorite podcast together. We laughed and talked about religion. Once we had all of the things inside the room, Hubby, he, and I headed out the back door to drive together another two hours to buy a car for Kid #2. Hubby was turned saying something to Kid #1 and opened the door without reading the three signs that were hanging there.

“Emergency Exit Only.”

The alarm sounded. Kid #1 is an anxious sort. He doesn’t like to be noticed (unless he is controlling it) and he doesn’t like to feel like he has caused a problem. Hubby took off walking very fast back down the long hallway to let the Resident Director know that it was him. As we passed RD in the hallway with his keys in hand to go turn off the alarm, he asked in his Jamaican accent,

“Is that your dad?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Come on, Dad! His first day of school!”

We laughed. We will laugh harder about it in a couple of years. Truly it was the perfect thing to happen.

Then, we carried on with our surprise for his sibling. I think it was actually a great way to spend our day. He loved being a part of the surprise and getting to see the car first! On the way, we stopped and had a great meal together. We talked about lots of things. The conversation was interesting. We would talk about a podcast. Then there would be a moment of quiet. Then he would share something else he was nervous about. We would talk about that. We had no answers for him, but I was glad he had the vocabulary to talk about it. That isn’t surprising.

Kid #1 has had lots of words his whole life. I’m convinced that they were all there in his head before he could talk and once he started, he articulated those thoughts and feelings in ways that were beyond his age. I was reminded of his tiny self saying to me, “I’m feeling very scared about going to this party because I don’t know this person as well as I know others” or “Please watch the movie previews while I wait outside the theatre. Come and get me when the movie starts. I don’t know what to expect from the previews and that is too scary.” This was between the ages of 3 and 6. We learned very early that he needed as much information as possible to prepare for new situations.

This weekend we took him and dropped him off to do something that neither one of us ever did — living in a dorm. We never had to be alone. We went from living with our parents to living with each other. (Hubby did live alone for a few months. I wonder if he ever felt scared about that. I’ve never asked.) If we were afraid or confused or didn’t know what to do, there was someone sleeping in the same bed to help us talk through it and figure it out. We have no answers to the millions of questions he has. There was no prepping him for this, not really. He just has to do it. And, so he is.

Because we had taken another trip within this momentous trip, when I was about to drop him off that night, I said, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to pee before I go home. I am perfectly happy to do that at a gas station if you prefer I don’t come in the dorm.”

“You can come in the dorm. Use the public restroom. I’m going to go on to my room and not watch you leave.”

“I will need to hug you at the car, then.”

“Yes. Okay.”

When we pulled into the parking space, he blurted out,

“I changed my mind. I don’t want you to come in.”

“That’s okay. Really.”

It had started raining.

I could tell he didn’t even want me to get out of the car. That was probably good for lots of reasons, not the least of which is I may have peed my pants if I tried to stand up.

He reached over from the passenger seat and hugged me.

“We can do this,” I said.

He got out of the car and I watched him walk toward his dorm in the rain. It was one of the most beautifully heart-breaking things I’ve seen in my life. Flashbacks to watching him through a glass in the NICU when he was only hours old.

I cried a bit sitting there, but not a lot. I still had to pee! As I made the journey home, I found myself at first thinking about how weird it all felt. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but the further I drove from him, the harder it got. The greater the physical distance between him and me, the greater the pull. It felt a bit like the umbilical cord was still attached and being stretched to its limit.

Hubby brought Kid #2 outside as I drove into the driveway. Surprise! I rode with him as he drove it around the block. We took photos, of course. When we went inside, I got the piece of Sarah Lee frozen cheesecake that I had saved from dinner a couple of nights earlier. Kid #2 hugged me. I held on tight.

“At least you still have me for another three years.”

“It isn’t long enough,” I said. “It isn’t long enough.”

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T. H. McClung, she/her(s)

T. H. McClung, she/her(s)

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In no particular order: Writer, pastor, Mama Bear, LGBTQ+ ally, wife, preacher, watcher of TV, seeker, mystic want-to-be