Sunday, May 05, 2013

Wherein Heir 2 wears funny clothes

...and leaves his mother in tears

To my credit, I didn't cry until we were on our way home.

I have easily managed to remain dry-eyed through most of Heir 2's milestones. Heading out to drive a car on his own, his first fender-bender, high school graduation, heading off to college on his own -- nary a tear. I'm tough, you see, and I've always felt those maternal tears to be a sort of manipulation; as if I were saying, "This next step toward adulthood is taking you further from me and you're making your mother cry."

So I was blindsided by the strange emotions that crept up on me as we went through the obligatory rituals involved in a college graduation. It started the evening before the actual ceremony -- a reception held by the Computer Science Department of Roanoke College for the graduates and their families.

Dirtman and I haven't spent a lot of time with Joe at college. We always had to work Family Weekends. So seeing Joe interacting with these people he's been with daily for the past four years -- more than with us certainly -- was unique (Joe's summer job for the past three years has been in the computer science dept. at Roanoke, so he never spent summers at home).

This was the first time we were seeing him in his element, introducing us to friends and faculty, casually joking with his professors, exchanging puzzling shoptalk with his friends and laughing over phrases that may as well have been uttered in Klingon for all we could understand. This was the first time our relationship as child/parent was shaken to its core.

I don't think we were the only ones. I watched the other parents being ushered around by their children -- all of us with this slightly unbalanced expression. This was a shift we couldn't quite comprehend. We knew we should feel nothing but pride in the independent spirit of our offspring. But we were treading on new ground and didn't know quite what to do or say and not sound like superfluous old farts. If it's one thing we Baby Boomers avoid, it's sounding like superfluous old farts.
My chosen footwear

At the actual graduation ceremony I realized we (the parents) were all dealing with our new roles in different ways. Some of us were not going down without a fight -- mothers tottering on way-too-high heels with way-too-much makeup posing with their vibrant, youthful, lovely daughters; fathers organizing photo sessions like Patton commanding the troops while their bemused sons stole knowing smiles with each other. Some fit comfortably in their role, perhaps because the shift had already happened for them long ago.

Most of us, though, were still a little bewildered about the strange, unexpected sadness that was lurking just behind the joy and pride that were the order of the day. The world was no longer ours to command. It was theirs. We were being subtly, gently, politely asked to bow out as gracefully as possible. We love you...we appreciate all you've done...but could you step aside and make room for us?

Joe and Caisee
On a personal level, though, that's not was brought me to tears as Dirtman and I crossed over from Virginia into West Virginia and home. My Joe...was no longer preparing for his future; he was in his future...creating his future. He has a wonderful, supportive, caring soulmate who is all a mother could want to partner with her child. I could be no help to him now. I might provide a brief respite from the creative process, but there is nothing at all tying him to me except a love unadulterated by need or pity. And I am just egotistical enough for that to scare me.

And so the tears; the totally selfish, nonsensical, but necessary tears. And, when I'd had a good cry, it was over.

Well...had a good cry and thought of this: Four years ago I delivered to Roanoke College an employed, debt-free human being with an A+ average; four years later they gave me back an
unemployed human being with a B+ average and a school loan.

...And so it goes...


Leslie Shelor said...

I only saw my grandmother cry once and it led to me doing something really, really stupid. So you are wise to watch those tears!

Sisiggy said...

Same here (only it was my mother -- though I doubt she did it to be consciously manipulative) and it was a major decision too. I do try to point out, on the rare occasion I do cry in front of my kids, that it's just a release and has nothing to do with them.

Trasherati said...

So he's job hunting? Any specific geographic area in mind?

Sisiggy said...

Oh, yeah...He's looking in the D.C. area since Caisee has been accepted to grad school at American University. He had a chance to get a job with a Republican think tank in, I think, Falls Church, but he didn't think he could stomach some of the dogma.

Trasherati said...

Please ask him to look here:

There's an office in Fairfax, or lots of positions where he can work from home.
I can do a referral if there's something he's interested in.

Sisiggy said...

I appreciate it and Joe said to thank you!