By Beck

If you really want to see Fate have a good chuckle at your expense, just try laughing at another parent’s predicament. WITHOUT FAIL, you will face the same predicament yourself in record time. It’s true! (sort of!)

For example: a friend was fretting about her children heading off for a week with her in-laws, and I made the sort of half-sympathetic/half-chiding noises we make when we’re fairly smug that someone else doesn’t really have a problem. Then I hung up the phone and my mother-in-law phoned to invite the Boy to her camp for the rest of the week. Ha ha, self!

So he’s off. I can’t even bear to write about it.

When I was a child, I was always enchanted by the slightly off-limits bedrooms at my grandparent’s house that had been my youngest aunts. Their posters were still on the wall, their teenage dolls and perfume still waited on the dressers, their childhood books were still on the shelves, even though the girls themselves were gone, grown up and moved away. If the clock suddenly turned backwards, their rooms were ready for them, ready for them to fall backwards into church dresses and Love’s Baby Soft and the pretty dolls smiling at nothing.

The Boy – MY boy, my sweetest kid, my smiling heart-breaking child – is gone until next week. And it’s not going to be a long time for you, but for me? Phhff, the whole place is full up of him: his Legos scattered across his bedroom floor, his hat hanging on the hook, and all that’s missing, of course, is him.

And he will be back in next to nothing (for you) and in long, long days (for me), but this isn’t a story with an ending. Parenthood has a point, and it’s not the point that it seems to be, when we’re first parents and everything is sweet smelling baby and sweet toys on a shelf and long-drifting days and it seems possible that parenthood might be, possibly, about making you, the parent, happy. But it’s not, of course. The point of parenthood is to make adults, to make people who grow up and leave their rooms behind. And to leave me behind, too.

I spent yesterday – when I didn’t know he’d be going anywhere for the rest of the week – pretty annoyed with him. He was in QUITE the mood. But now that he’s gone away for days and days, I could tell you endless good things about him, this idealized boy stepping into his place for the time being. When they’re gone for any length of time, I can see this stretching in front of me, of me becoming  – eventually – the place that someone came from, the place that waits for their return. And that’s how it eventually stays, I guess, the toys waiting on the shelves and the storybooks getting dusty and inside my heart their idealized, golden childhoods.

14 Responses to Crybaby
  1. Sue
    July 8, 2010 | 7:50 pm

    Fortunately something better steps in the way of all that. Grandchildren. The replacements come and they are twice as sweet and smiley.

  2. Nicole
    July 8, 2010 | 7:57 pm

    Oh! I know what you mean. A couple of days will seem like forever. Just think of how lovely it will be to see him, and I’m sure he is going to have a great time at camp. That said – *SOB* – I feel for you!

  3. christine
    July 8, 2010 | 8:09 pm

    “The point of parenthood is to make adults,”

    this is something i always have to remind myself of when the kids hurt my feelings, etc. it isn’t about my feelings, my ego. it is about teaching them how to on their own, and good, kind, independent adults.

    and i woudl miss my kiddos, too.


  4. Fairly Odd Mother
    July 8, 2010 | 8:28 pm

    I love your comment about fate—-oh, you are so right. SO RIGHT! It’s kind of like when you proudly say, “Junior is sleeping SO WELL through the night”, you’d better be ready for an all-nighter b/c it’s coming.

    And, hang in there. My kids haven’t left yet for more than a day, but, oh my heart when they do.

  5. suburbancorrespondent
    July 8, 2010 | 9:01 pm

    When they’re teens, it’s really fun to have them go away for a bit. Or maybe I’m just a monster.

  6. Tracy
    July 9, 2010 | 7:04 am

    Collin has been gone for FIVE!! weeks this summer counseling at a Boy Scout camp 2 1/2 hours away. He’s 15, and I’m heartbroken. You’re not alone.

  7. De
    July 9, 2010 | 7:17 am

    My daughter stayed overnight with my sister last week. It wasn’t really long enough to miss her, but I was worried about how I would feel, passing her open bedroom door during the night. We called before bedtime to let her younger brother say goodnight, and when it was my turn, I could hear how excited she was through the line. I am so appreciative that I have other family members who enrich her life and give me the opportunity to see her in a different (less annoying) light.

  8. tracey
    July 9, 2010 | 7:19 pm

    Damnit, Beck. Thanks for making me cry.

    But really, a beautiful post. And one that has me signing off to play with my own boy…

  9. Anitra
    July 9, 2010 | 9:49 pm

    My very young toddler has already been away overnight once or twice (basically, the family who was babysitting for us said “don’t bother picking her up, we’ll see you in the morning”)…

    We didn’t really have enough time to _miss_ her, exactly; but when morning came and she wasn’t there, it did feel kind of empty (for about an hour, until we left home and met up with her again).

  10. Painted Maypole
    July 9, 2010 | 10:29 pm

    for a brief bit i thought I would be sending the May Queen ahead to Michigan without me, and that I wouldn’t see her for 2 weeks or more, and it was a bit soul-crushing. But as it turns out, we’ll be heading up together. I’ll then leave her for a week, but I’ll get to see my brand new god-son, and a set of new twins, and will be full to the brim with baby goodness when I get to return to my girl, who is so much closer to adulthood than I like to think about.

  11. erin
    July 13, 2010 | 6:39 pm


    Will you marry me?
    And if not, will you teach me how to write like you? I swear I’ve got to stop coming over here. Every time I do I get bitten by that annoying green bug named Jealousy.

    Another freakin’ fantabulous post. With another amazingly perfect last line. Is it as effortless for you as it seems? how long did it take you to write this?

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