To My Only Child As You Head off to College

I bought snacks for your dorm room. I know there will be a time when you want something to eat and the dining hall will be closed.

They are from Costco, in as large-numbered-count boxes as I could find.

You said, “Why do I need snacks? There are dining halls!”

But I bought them anyway. When you have been feeding a little person for 18 years, it’s very hard to stop.

Granola bars in three flavors in case you miss breakfast, pretzel thins because I know you like them, 40 bags of microwave popcorn, peanut M&Ms in a jar.

Packing them up was like helping you make that fruit loop necklace when we went to Sea World. Menga made that for you—she knew it would give you something to eat, and something to do.

You always needed something constructive to do—you and your creative imagination. You would throw pillows on the floor and tell me to follow you, jumping from one to another, to avoid the sharks swimming on the rug. You’d make me put on goalie pads so you could shoot real pucks on me when you were pretending to play for the Maple Leafs (you once insisted I write “Toronto Made-Up Leaves” on the front of a white t-shirt and your name on the back—you thought that was what they were called).

When we went out to play catch, you would set up bases with whatever sticks or markers you could find. You always insisted that when one of us had a hit, we had to run the bases and try to tag each other out. Some late Sunday afternoons, I’d say, “I’m tired, I just want to pitch or hit,” and I’d be carefully measuring the minutes that I could spend playing before getting back to my work inside.

Many times, you’d just give me a bye. But you always ran the bases.

Now that you’re gone, I’d give my right arm to run those bases with you.

Just before you left, I told you about my friend who posted recently on Facebook, “Everyone, please tell Ben to call his mother. I’ve been trying to reach you since the weekend and apparently your phone is dead.”

I made a point to tell you that story, and said, “Please don’t do that to me. That will make me crazy. If you do that, I’ll try everything—Twitter, Facebook—are you on Snapchat?”

“No,” you said.

I said, “Well, I’ll use Snapchat too.”

That was when you told me very simply, laughing, that you would just shut off your phone.

Don’t you dare.

You need to understand how biologically impossible this seems to me: To take care of a little human being for 18 years and suddenly one day let him go out into the world on his own. It feels inhumane. And for me, it’s even more difficult because you and I were on our own for almost ten years. It was you and me against the world—always.

Who’s going to be my little person there with me against the world now? Who is going to remind me that it’s supposed to be fun? That life is not all about responsibility, that sometimes it’s about living in the brilliant moment?

Halfway through the summer, I asked you, “So what are you thinking about going off to college? Are you excited? Nervous? Worried?”

And you said, shrugging your shoulders, “Honestly, Mom, I’m not thinking about it yet. I generally just think about today, or tomorrow.”

That made me laugh. That is so your personality. And it was so true. You were probably just thinking about your next shift at work, or when you were going to the beach, or out with friends. You have always been present in the moment, the hour, the day. You don’t even think about the week, or the month. That’s what makes you such a happy-go-lucky person. You’re like your dad that way. That’s really all that you need.

But your living in the moment has always been a bit stressful to me. I am a planner, the organizer. I live in the next week/two/month generally. (Except in moments like this when I am thinking about where we were 14 years ago—that happens too).

But I know it’s appropriate to let you find your own way. It’s developmentally appropriate—not just for you, but for both of us.

Whenever I tried to give you advice or suggestions over the last few months, such as when you should get that physical scheduled, or when you should skip breakfast (never), or how exactly to pack your clothes for college, you’d say, “Mom, I got this.”

Mom, I got this.

I know you got this.

It’s just hard for me to let you go.

But no matter what, you need to know that even though you aren’t here with me anymore, I am with you.

I still got you. I’ve got your back. I always will.