With only weeks until my firstborn child leaves for college, I struggled late into the night, taking notes on all the ground I wanted to cover before he left. Before I knew it, my list of advice grew into a list of confessions. We, as parents, had been on automatic repeat for the past 18 years, spouting clichés and tired reprimands. It was time to come clean about what was true and what was really at the base of all our caveats.
So, here it is, my list of Ten Truths, undeniable necessary confessions from a mother to her child, on what he needs to know before he leaves for college:
•When we ask you "Were you born in a barn?", we really don't care what you answer. We only care that you close the doors when inside because the cold air gets in and the hot air gets out, and we pay for heat. That's all. I'm not even really sure about the paying for heat part, but your dad says he says it because his dad said it. One day, you'll say it, too.
•No one has a money tree. I know we ask you to "look outside, do you see a money tree out there?" like some people have them and some people don't. We are sorry if we ever made you hope that maybe someday we'd be a family that had one.
•I know that we, as parents, have told you, "The trouble with trouble is that it starts out as fun." This isn't true. When you get to college you'll realize that much too soon, trouble usually starts out as trouble right from the start.
•You really won't fry your eyes out and need new eyeballs put in if you sit too close to the TV. We'd say that, I know, but truthfully, it may affect your vision, it may not. Spending megahours doing nothing is what really bugged us. You're super young, you should use your body and be active. But really, you don't need to go out and buy eyeball surgery insurance.
•Wet socks will give you Vietnam rot. Lord help me, I don't know why we'd say that to you when you'd walk in soaking wet after a soccer game. Seriously. All we had to do was say "Take off your wet socks." And also, as if you wouldn't?? We never even gave you the chance.
•Getting a cavity hurts worse than I can ever tell you. Well, we said that a lot, and truthfully, it does hurt. We just wanted you to brush your teeth. Sure, if you let it go long enough it will be a pain that kills you, but you just keep brushing and flossing twice a day like you do and seeing the dentist every six months and you'll be fine.
•Monkey see. Monkey do. Have you ever seen this at a zoo? No. Not too much imitating going on there -- mostly just a lot of ignoring things and random screeching every once in awhile. We would say that when we didn't want you to be a sheep following the pack. Just be yourself, never mind what the monkeys are doing.
•Don't read on your back with your book held up in front of you. I don't know why the hell not. Ignore this even though you heard it for the past 18 years.
•If you ever decide to smoke a cigarette, be sure to have a cellphone in one hand ready to dial 911 when you have a cigarette in the other because you'll hear your lungs crackle as they burn up. YES. I KNOW WE SAID THIS. Please try to forget the visual we've scarred you with for life and just know this: cigarettes are bad for your health, not overnight, but cumulatively over time, they will be. And you can spend your money on organic broccoli and pesto instead. Better choices, see?
•And forgive us, one final time, but no need to convince you otherwise of this one, You are the most wonderful beautiful incredible child a parent could wish for. Maybe not to other parents, but to us, YOU ARE.