the young cat gives up

From W’s email update last night:

“Yesterday was really nice! Karaoke was a TON of fun. Lots of singing and dancing. I got up thrice [Yes. My son used the word thrice. I can’t explain it.]   with a large group: Twist and Shout, Rolling in the Deep, and Love Story (by Taylor Swift). I had a great meeting with my Orientation Leaders today, we had a good discussion about [required summer reading book], etc. etc. The Talent Show went REALLY well tonight. I did my best reading of [3 of his poems] yet. I was also introduced as a celebrity by the OL mcees who actually read quotes from my posts in FB.”

In my total “it’s always all about us” world, I wait for someone from the college to call me and say, “We have never before met such an amazing young person! He is undoubtedly going to rule the world very soon! Thank you so much for sharing his wonderfulness with us!” Then I laugh at myself for my out-sized pride and self/child-absorption. I do know that other parents probably have the same fantasies about their own children. I laugh at them too. THEY are delusional. I wait for the phone to ring.

W’s college started trying to create a family of the incoming freshman from the moment they were admitted. The college set up a closed Facebook group and invited the newly-admitted students to join and get to know each other and ask questions of older students and staff. From the start W loved this group and participated enthusiastically, ‘meeting’ and ‘talking with’ people, establishing inside jokes and anticipating their meeting in person, in the months up to his actual college start. Apparently people noticed his enthusiasm. Now he has no time for online stuff because he is so busy interacting with his new college ‘family’!   I imagine that if/when he is homesick at all, he is homesick for an occasional bit of peace and quiet. And maybe his kitties.

I am miles and miles away in our old quieter life, but it’s just mine now. Today I have been working from home, preparing to go back to campus to teach (tomorrow).  Yesterday – Labor Day – I had a lovely late lunch out with a friend. We talked a lot about families. Neither of us is from this area and so both see the importance of fashioning family from friends. She has done so in the decades she has lived in this area. I hope she will be part of the family I am making for this new stage of my life.

Later, at home, I checked Facebook where I have an extended set of friends I love like family. In response to a post I had made on some social issue, one of my nephews had written “How can you and [one of my sisters] even be related?”  I imagined him shaking his head and laughing as he typed, recognizing that my sister and I were on opposite sides on that particular social issue. LIfe, friendship and family used to be so much less complicated – so much easier – before I began to get interested in political and social issues.

In the past few years issues have gotten in the way of relationships and I’m not sure what to do about that. I’m not sure what I want to do about it. I don’t take a position on all issues, and I have no desire to be partisan; I just want to stand up for what seems right. I also want to speak out against what seems wrong. I don’t want or need all my family and friends to agree with me on everything, and I don’t want them all to be alike or all to be like me, but I want to be able to trust and respect them, and this is much harder for me when they stand up for something I think is terribly wrong.

All this is causing me to spend a lot of time evaluating the nature of family and friendship and the roles I want both to play in my life. As those ideas shift, so will my relationships with a lot of people. Some relationships have fallen already. I want to do this family-building thing right and have a life full of people who enrich it. People who feel that my presence enriches their lives too. I don’t want to hurt anyone and I don’t want to lie or hide parts of my self. At the same time, I want to be fair and open-hearted. I am not there yet. I was told years ago that as a child reaches each new stage in her/his life, her/his parents will be forced to revisit their own issues from that stage. Children and parents go through parallel growth processes separately yet together. Sure enough, W is at college gathering a new family around him, facing new challenges and unfamiliar issues and unexpected decisions, and I am at home doing the same.

Here’s something I’m told is an old Irish blessing to help us on our way:

May those who love us  love us,

and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts,

and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles

so we’ll know them by their limping.

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