It is late August, 2013. My husband and I are moving our youngest son, Jake, into his dorm room at Guelph University, in a gorgeously opulent stone building. Jake's new room inside the building is dark, with just one tiny window. It houses three bunk beds with desks and drawers underneath. From the outside the building seems like something out of Hogwarts School of Wizardry, but inside it is a mass of typical dormitory dwellings. It is exciting for us to launch our second and youngest son into the post-secondary education experience. Student volunteers meet and direct us, as they did with our firstborn son, Nick, when he embarked on his adventure. We quickly unpack Jake's belongings and help to set up his new space. The move is easy and Jake seems pretty happy to start settling into this fresh venture. He is about to begin a program in Computer Science Software Engineering, which includes a co-op program. He will spend his first and second year completing courses in classrooms and lecture halls. He will then be required to take co-op positions with technology companies, as well acquire more courses throughout the following three years, including summers. Software engineering has been an interest of his from a very early age and it feels like he has been preparing for this day all his life.
Prior to leaving the house to set off for Guelph, Jake had taken me aside and assertively proclaimed:
"Mom, I just want you to know that I will no longer be living at home. I will now live in Guelph and your home will just be a place I visit."
That sure hurt. I felt I had just been warned to back off in my parenting role, and took it that Jake was heading out the door and wanted to be treated as his own, individual grown up self who could manage without us. It seemed abrupt and almost mean to my ear. We had a close relationship. I certainly didn't want to be pushed away so precipitously, but I also took comfort in hearing that Jake believed he had a good handle on this next phase of his evolution. I brush it off, not wanting him to see any evidence of motherly anxiety. Just as I did with Nick, four years prior to this, I approached the university launch as a time to celebrate and be happy for my son rather than making it all about me. And I truly am happy; I knew Nick had looked forward, with great anticipation to attending university away from home. And from his tone I could only assume that Jake was also ready for this new adventure.
For the next few weeks I stay busy entertaining my mother who is visiting from Victoria, BC, so I have lots to distract me. I am determined that I will give Jake the space he needs. I try not to send text messages, hovering and inquiring as to how he is doing each day. I let Jake take the lead and show me how he wishes the communications to be streamed. His father is not a big communicator via phone, email, or text, preferring to do his visiting in person, so I recognize that the majority of conversations will be between Jake and I.
I hear very little from my son the first two weeks of classes, and I do miss his presence at home.
Well into the third week of school Jake calls to say he is suffering with nosebleeds. He doesn't want to see a strange new doctor, on his own, and asks if I can come and take care of it with him. I'm not overly concerned about a few nosebleeds but I am happy to have the opportunity to see Jake. I drive to Guelph and take him to a walk-in clinic. The bleeding is diagnosed as irritation and a little inflammation, nothing serious, perhaps the result of the dry air in his dorm room. I purchase a medicinal gel from the pharmacy for the interior of his nose. We have coffee afterwards and I prompt a discussion about whether or not I have been giving Jake too much space. I express concern that perhaps he was feeling ignored and that this little medical issue is a cry for some attention. Jake assures me that I am giving him the "perfect" amount of space. I am relieved. I return him to the campus and we hug good-bye.
I leave for home with a sense of satisfaction about being a good mom and not burdening him with my mistrust and worry these past few weeks. Things are cool, and I tell myself that I am being progressive with my parenting, allowing just the right amount of distance between Jake and I. "Good for me," I think.
The following week, I take my mom to Guelph for a visit with Jake and to see his university campus. We also go to lunch together at a local restaurant. He seems very happy and says that classes are going great. He looks tired, though, and his hair is a tad greasy. My guess is he now has less time for regular grooming and perhaps is not getting enough good sleep with his busy school schedule. After all, weren't we all a little careless when we first left home? Nick didn't wash his bedding for the first few months when he moved out. But the more I think about Jake's appearance, as I return home, the more unsettled I feel.
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Seeing Through the CracksNon-Fiction
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