As freshman at Sewanee. (Click for larger view at your own risk)
"Raising teenagers is like nailing Jell-o to a tree" ~ AnonymousI didn't take this picture but I think it was in her dorm room. I liked it because of the cereal. Yes. The cereal box in the right background. LIFE cereal. It just seemed appropriate to have a box labeled "LIFE" in a picture of a college freshman. College is the beginning of their life, at least the part of life away from their parents. It is the four year stretching of that cord which has to be broken for them to become a whole person in their own right. I love Vicki's term "starter person." It gives me a different picture each time I think about it. Today I see sourdough bread, the starter mix you use to make the bread and then keep a little bit to pass on or make another loaf. I've taken a bit of myself and put it into my daughter and now have to sit back and watch the bread rise. Watching this particular bread rise can be agonizingly slow at times and sometimes we wonder if we left something out.
Take today. We now have Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to get it all together and loaded. Yes, we don't have to take all the winter stuff because William & Mary is one hour away instead of twelve hours like Sewanee. But, there is college stuff everywhere; in storage, under beds, in bedroom closets, in hall closets, in bathroom closets, on book shelves, on the dining room table, in the garage and all points in between. It has to get organized and sorted and packed in as small an area as possible. There are clothes to be sorted, cleaning supplies, toiletries, books, computers, backpacks. Someone needs to make a master list. She is sure it will be a snap and no problem to get done and still talk on the phone, sleep in and instant message all her friends. I don't.
I hate this. Not so much her going as the process of getting her there. I like to be organized. I am the person who cleans the garage the night before leaving on a trip to Disneyworld, Italy or Austria. And I do mean clean. This includes cleaning off and straightening all items on the shelves, cleaning and defrosting the small fridge and freezer in the garage, vacuuming the garage floor and then washing it out with Lysol cleaner and rinsing with the garden hose before putting a fan on it to dry. I cannot go on vacation with a dirty garage.
Nyssa, on the other hand can live in squalor and mess and not bat an eyelash. When I walked into her room at Sewanee in May, I thought a tornado had hit or at least straight line winds. Shoes were everywhere, boxes were half packed but you couldn't shut the lid, much less lift them. I can't begin to describe the suite bath, but the word "Ewwww" comes to mind. How any of them knew where any of their stuff was I don't know. She is the same here. There is this weird thing about drawers. She doesn't shut them. There is a dresser and a tall chest of drawers in her small room. I tried to go in; that's what you do, stand at the door and try to go in; it's debatable if you'll make it all the way in or not. She had all three of the drawers she uses in the chest open and one of the drawers in the dresser open as well. Socks, t-shirts and shorts were hanging out. Why? The drawers are not stuck, not broken and the contents will fit. Answer: "It's just more convenient to find things." OK, picture a plump momma with mouth hanging open down to her knees and head shaking. That would be me. Who is this person and what has she done with my Nyssa?
Nyssa won't believe this but she used to be neat. Her bed was always made before school and she picked up her toys. Sure she occasionally tried to get out of it by pleading "Momma, I can't make up my bed because Clover's (cat) on it and won't move", but it got done. She knew to put away one toy before getting another out to play. The "change" happened around age 12. Unfortunately, her "change" corresponded with my "change". You see, I was 33 years old when she was born so when she turned 12 I was 45. Someone should have explained this math to me. There is a reason why most women have their children in their twenties and this is it. She was going through puberty and adolescence while I was starting to go through menopause. I was a single mother because of divorce. We were living alone together with no third intervening party. This was not going to be pretty. For several years we had more raging hormones in all different directions at once; there were definitely too many hens in the chicken coop.
The hormones are better now, at least mine are. I got mine taken care of. Hers still rage each month, but I try to just stay out of the way. It is a lot easier to stay out of the way of these hormone surges when she is at college. This is a blessing to remember when the sadness of her leaving hits.