I don’t care how many stories of woe I’ve heard about the empty nest and how you can get through it by taking up new hobbies or joining a gym. It just plain hurts when your offspring departs; and when it’s off to college, it is all the more shocking because you have to admit how grown up your child actually is. Michael is my case in point. My first born has a special place in my heart, as do all my kids, but he is the first to put my emotions to the test about easing up on motherhood and letting go. I dare not think about the next one to fly out of the coop.
Vigilant mother that I am, I had to check out the dorm and buy a new bedspread and towels. There was no private bath, of course, but fluffy softness around Michael’s young frame would help ease the transition from the pleasures of home. The showers were communal, of course, and not exactly state-of-the art especially compared to the amazing shower panel that my husband installed in our family bathroom. The showerheads were clogged and encased in a patina of use. Stop it, I thought. Just give him the towels and go. Michael, for his part, could care less.
Once home, it wasn’t hard to worry. How could he keep clean in that dungeon of a shower room? Would enough water come out of those antiquated heads? Would the water be too hard? I suddenly called to mind in a moment of emotional reminiscence how the kids used to love taking showers. Grace was the most avid but the others loved to indulge. Not Michael, however, At first he was terrified of the high falling water and insisted on bathing in a tub until he was eight. He wouldn’t even watch. We read a number of shower head reviews to find one that was the most gentle on sensitive skin, we tried special foaming soap on a rope, letting him go first in the morning, and waterproof colorful plastic earphones. He wasn’t taking the bait.
Michael eventually came around but never spend long hours liked Grace surrounded in heavy mist. Maybe that’s why the dorm shower was of no interest to him one way or the other. I foolishly even offered to donate a few inexpensive shower heads to the school and only got a low guffaw out of him. (He’s not much of a swimmer either, but I don’t want to even whisper the words “water phobia.” He wants to go river rafting during spring break so if he did suffer from a shaming condition, it is gone now.)
I love those nostalgic moments when I am at home alone when dinner is on the stove and the house is ready for the evening onslaught. Why were showers so important? Did the showerhead look like a gremlin or an alien being? You never think at the time to get into your kids’ heads to solve their problems. You are first and foremost an adult—the practical, fearless keeper of sanity and purveyor of reality. You banish illusions and the fears that underlie them. You don’t really confront them lest you find something else.