Our oldest kid went off for his first year of college just over a week ago. He didn’t decide to move an hour away, or a state away, but a good two-day drive away, halfway across the country. Come to think of it, he was pretty eager to go.
At least we can still text.
We’ve been texting ever since he started middle school and began walking to my office after school. Every day I required a text when he was leaving the school grounds, a text with explanations if he was late arriving, a text letting me know how his day was, a text informing me of his homework assignments, a text telling me if he was hungry or not… and that was in just the first fifteen minutes after school.
You think I’m joking, do you? Not quite – it’s amazing how many texts I used to get when I threatened to take his phone away. (We did pay for it, didn’t we?)
But now we’ve hit a new world. The world of college. And I can already tell things are going to be different. Of the last thirteen or so texts I’ve sent our son this week (So what if I’m keeping count?), the average response was 9.2 words long.
That didn’t include the texts about money, of course. Those were notably longer, pretty thorough and informative. And who can blame him? If I thought talking more would get me more money, introvert or not, I’d start babbling to just about everyone I met.
Other than money talk, though, I got 9.2 words from my son. 9.2 words to tell all about dorm life, about new classes, his roommate, etc etc. Either he’s really going to shine at crafting the shortest of short stories, packed with a thick blend of info and emotion (nod to Hemingway, author of a profound four-word story) , or I’m not going to get much out of him. The latter is more likely. No offense, son.
So when my husband and I compared this evening the number of questions we’ve shot in our son’s direction with the number of answers we’ve been granted in response, we realized it was time to check our expectations. My husband hatched a plan to limit the number of questions he sends, so as to maximize the chance each question will be rewarded with a response.
I found myself crunching numbers in my own planning. I figure I’ll be allowed 11.5 words per day. We give him an allowance for books and supplies, and it appears he grants us an allowance in return. 11.5 words per day.
Hmmm. Should I take them all at once, binge on a good long conversation consisting of 80.5 words on a Sunday afternoon while I sip my coffee, or would I prefer smaller doses, savoring a few sentences every other day?
He must have an inkling of what I’m going through. My son must know all those questions I’m dying to ask that I haven’t even typed into the phone. He already guessed a few of the words I’m desperately holding back, “Are you eating right?” Because he sent me a pic of his breakfast one day.
This isn’t going to be easy for me. I mean, I’ve just written over 500 words here already. Geez.
But, that’s part of letting go, isn’t it? Here’s my first taste of my own parents’ experience, living half the country away from their daughter. For decades.
But I can take it.
I’m happy for him, after all. I’m excited for his new freedom, for the ups and downs, the discovery and satisfaction that come with being on his own, with shouldering more responsibility, with making his own choices on an hourly, daily, weekly basis.
11.5 words a day it is, then.
Or… maybe I can manipulate my texts about money, sneak in questions about other stuff, make use of those extra words he’ll throw at me if I talk dollars. Let’s see… how about this one: “Money question: have you made any friends in your classes who might be meeting you for coffee later? Need to know how much you’ll be spending on coffee, for the budget…” Okay, that was awful. I’m gonna have to work on this.
Really, I’ll love any response I get from him. Because even a message with only one word will tell me he’s alive, and at least his thumbs are still intact. That’s something.