This Summer's Gonna Hurt Like a Mother

I heard the catchy refrain to this new Maroon 5 song one day on the radio.

The song immediately made me think about my son D., and what it feels like to be the mother of an only child when said child is preparing to go off to college. I have been holding my breath since September anticipating the day.

“This summer’s gonna hurt like a mother, uh huh…”

I thought it was a great song, even though the lyrics have nothing to do with parenting teenagers. So I downloaded the song on Spotify. But was I surprised to learn—the second time I listened to it—that the lyrics are actually “This summer’s gonna hurt like a mother#*%.”

By accident I had downloaded the explicit version.

I didn’t even know there was an explicit version! Other than one Eminem song, I don’t have any explicit songs in my collection. I have this argument with D. all the time, when I am unfortunate enough to catch a phrase or two from some of the music he listens to. In these moments, I say something like, “A good musician…or any good writer….does not need to use swear words to make a point. Swear words are a lazy way to communicate emotion. It’s much harder to communicate a feeling using other language.”

He disagrees, and happily returns to his playlists and I return to mine. (When D. turned 17, he asked if he could start listening to explicit music, and in a moment of utter weakness and exhaustion from 17 years of raising a kid with his own strong opinions, I agreed.)

So here I am—I have made it through his high school graduation, and now I’m preparing for the summer to hurt like a mother#*%.  One of my friends whose only child daughter went off to college last fall told me, “You know, at first, it was like someone died.” He talked about how walking by her empty room was downright depressing, eerie almost.

Maybe the explicit version of that song is more apropos after all.

Or at least it will be on August 14, the day D. will be checking into his dorm.

August 14 is the day before my birthday (“I know,” D. said, when my eyes got really wide when I learned he had to move in at school that day. What? Miss the opportunity for me to have to remind him to shower his mother with love and gifts on her birthday? “Sorry about that,” was all he said.)  

This preparing D. and me for college is no small feat. But as I was talking to a friend about it recently, it suddenly occurred to me that I don’t have to be completely traumatized by his departure. It will be sad, and the house will never feel the same again, and I’ll try not to text him a million times of day and God forbid, not to call him much at all. But it occurred to me that I could pick up the other end of the stick about this whole thing.

I have read the Tao of Pooh, for heaven’s sake. And Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, and The Relaxation Response and The Alchemist and Awakening the Buddhist Heart.I’ve spent too many hours listening to Abraham-Hicks on audio to focus too much on suffering. I know better.

I can choose a different path. I can spend these couple of months preparing to be excited for him. Sure, I will be sad, and I will miss him a lot. But he is in a great place and is heading off to a new life. He won’t be too far away—I can still see him frequently. I can go to his football games and strain to find his numbered jersey among the 100 guys on the edge of the football field. I can focus instead on how I have raised him well, that I was there just enough but did not feather his nest too perfectly. I can remember that he has always been clear about knowing what he needs and he is good at taking care of himself.

He has skills. He is a good soul. He is resilient.

And above all, I know what a long, strange, wonderful trip he has ahead of him.