My son is a college student now. A Cadet at West Point, no less. And I thougt I was handling it well. I haven't called him nightly, or even bi-nightly. I have only lurked minimally (yes, I am using MY standards on this one, so we'll go with minimally, okay?) on his Facebook page. I accepted that he was off and on his own....even admitted (reluctantly) that the whole idea of him leaving was a lot worse than the actual reality of it. Let's face it, he's 6'3" and there is a whole lot more milk and juice in the house now. I didn't blink when he and 4 friends rented a car to drive to an away football game. I even allowed myself to feel vaguely superior to moms who complained that their new freshman didn't call enough. I was okey dokey with it..
And then came that away football game. It was held at a college right near our hometown...so of course, any kids from this area took advantage of a weekend and came home to watch their school play the local school. They made it home fine. The game was fun - from tailgate to win, a good time was had by all. Parents, friends, siblings...even the friends who attended the losing team's college....
It was later that night as he bent over to scoop up the doggie for a hug...that reality gut punched me. All because of a pair of boxers. There they were....right there....above the waistband of his jeans. The band of an unfamiliar pair of boxers. Whoa. Where did this madras plaid come from? I had certainly never seen them before.
I was the one who always bought him new undies. "Mom, I need new boxers." And off I went to get them. This was a much easier job than when the statement was "I need new socks." Any idea how hard it is to find no show socks for a size 13 shoe wearer? Over the years, those purchases had changed in style (from Thomas the Tank Engine to Buzz Lightyear to Power Rangers and Pokemon and eventually to the teen approved boxers). But I was the one who had bought them. Me. Mom.
Back to that madras. Where....how....whattheheck?? Do you mean to tell me that this child...my firstborn, my little boy...BOUGHT HIS OWN UNDERWEAR? No way. That was my job. MOM buys that stuff. Along with deodorant and toothpaste and shampoo and.... there he was. Wearing new undies that he had gone to the store and bought all by himself.
Of course I opened my mouth. "Are those new boxers? Why did you buy them?" And of course I got a very patient, exasperated look and the response, "I bought them cause I needed them, Mom."
Gulp. Gasp. WHAM. It hit me. He was on his own now. It wasn't the fact that he was in college, living away from us. It wasn't that he was living a life without us. Making his own decisions. Taking responsibility for studying and watching the balance on his debit card.
Nope, it was those damn boxers. He woke up one morning and his thoughts weren't on advanced calculus or American government. The thoughts were telling him that he needed some new underwear. And he went out and got it and I wasn't there to do it and it was such a small, insignificant purchase...but he did it on his own. With his own money (ok, that definitely added to the shock value...). Such a mundane little thing he did. But in doing so he told his mom that yup, he could handle it now. He was a grown up. He had bought his own underwear. He really could handle it all. Cause if you can recognize the fact that you need new underwear, you are on your way.
And there he went. Cheers to him...and a few tears for me.