Monday, February 17, 2014

Conceding defeat

Today we all enjoyed the extra day tacked onto our weekend. While some schools are celebrating the beginning of a week-long winter break, all of our kiddos will be returning to class tomorrow. So today was a welcome respite knowing tomorrow it will be back to business.

Just before lunchtime, Tim headed off with a friend to roam around downtown. As I began to wonder how the rest of us might spend the middle part of our day off, I heard a key turn in the front door and in walked that increasingly occasional visitor known as our eldest child.

Hey! What are you doing here?

He strolled in, iced Starbucks drink in hand, and proceeded to chatter on about how work was that weekend, how empty the dorm is on this long weekend, the highlights of a business school mixer he recently attended, the upcoming meeting about studying abroad that he's going to attend, the reason he needed to grab his shorts for some dorm floor competition, the great car he got to drive at work, how bad the food is this weekend because they know everyone is gone....and on and on and on...

And Annie and I both just stood there hanging on his every word.

Annie kept sidling up to him, wrapping her arms around his waist and squeezing him. Normally Jack has a pretty rock solid personal space bubble but he was being tolerant of her irrepressible affection. At one point I caught his eye and mouthed to him, "She misses you." At that he smiled amiably and magnanimously offered her a few friendly pats on the back and a small squeeze of her shoulders. She beamed.

After a bit he sat down at the computer so he could give us a visual of the best cars he had recently gotten to drive at work (he's a valet). Annie stood at his elbow and was either truly fascinated by all of his car talk or she was doing a darn good job acting like she was, because she didn't budge as he detailed all of the technical aspects of each car and had her listen to the sound of the different exhausts. I mean, really? But she didn't move a muscle and Jack just kept engaging her.

Jack: Annie, which one of these cars would you like to have someday?

Annie: (timidly) I think I like that one but I would want it to be blue.

Jack: Blue it is! Let's find you a blue one.

And she smiled with wonder as her big brother searched the Internet to find her the perfect car in the perfect shade of blue.

I was the one who thought maybe he should go farther away to school. I was the one who worried he wouldn't have a "college experience" if he didn't leave the city he grew up in. I was the one who thought there was something inherently problematic about being able to come home and do laundry and get a good meal every now and then.

I was wrong.

I was wrong on all counts. He is happy. He is having terrific experiences independent of us and home. It took some time but he has settled into his new life and is thriving. He made a good choice, a smart choice.

And today I realized something else. For the first time I really saw that by staying close to home, his much younger sister gets to continue to have her big brother as a physical presence in her life. That is no small blessing.

This is me, waving the white flag of surrender admitting now and for all time that I WAS WRONG. For Jack's sake, for Annie's, for his longterm career goals, for the sake of his beloved car that he would have had to leave behind...I will admit that Jack's intuition was right and mine was wrong.

And maybe, just maybe...I get something out of this, too.

Because I'll admit it, when he suddenly shows up at our front door with his bag of laundry and his colorful tales to tell, I always hope he might have at least two loads of washing and drying to do.... just so he will have to stay a little bit longer.

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