Q: What's the only thing worse than one sobbing type A mother dropping her daughter off at college?
A: Two sobbing type A mothers dropping their daughter off at college.
Our daughter Scout leaves for college in 10 days. I don't want you to get the wrong idea - I'm not really counting the days. Well, I am (join me at www.whosthegrownup.com for our countdown posts) but not in a bad way. I'm counting them in an organized way. And counting days is not very emotional - it's just math.
I've made lists by categories. We have been to Target where they sell every imaginable item designed to cram many things into tight spaces. They also sell hangers. Many different kinds. We bought pretty much all the different kinds. Only to return home to determine that the wire hangers from the dry cleaners would probably take up less room (with apologies to Joan Crawford, we're going with the wire hangers).
Yesterday, there was the trip to Staples. She has her desk lamp and enough Post-Its to last four years. This morning I plan to make calls to rent the semi-tractor trailer truck that will be necessary to get her clothes to Boston. We're nearly ready.
I suppose that letting your kid go as they embark on a college career is never easy. But I think it may be a bit harder for gay and lesbian parents. Maybe letting your daughter go feels harder when you've worked so hard to create your family to begin with. We were among the early 'pioneers' who created families in the 1980s. Many gay men and lesbians who had kids in those days had been in straight marriages. Eileen and I were different -- we'd been together for eight years before Sarah was born. Creating our family wasn't ever something we did (or could) take for granted.
When Eileen gave birth to Scout in 1989, Scout and I were legal strangers. And I was a stay at home mom. I remember trying to dodge jury duty that first year -- moms with no child-care can easily reschedule. But I wasn't a mom. Not in the legal sense. And so in 1992 we became Lambda Legal plaintiffs and secured the first second parent adoption in the state of New Jersey. I like to say that Scout became the first kid in the state of New Jersey to legally have two moms -- whether she liked it or not. And with that decision, we drew Scout closer. Literally.
I became a full time mom again when I left my role at GLAAD two years ago. It became yet another opportunity to draw all three of our kids close, but especially Scout. High school had not been her friend and the ride was bumpy.
So I think we have the drawing close thing down pat.
And so rather than deal with the whole letting go thing, I do what any type A human being does. I make lists. I organize, I surf the internet for the world's best laptop backpack, I research endless articles about great tips on dorm room storage (the pop up laundry bag is my new favorite, followed closely by the closet doubler -- making plenty of room for all those wire hangers.)
Recently, I was impressively creative about my inability to let go. You know, I said, you six girls are going to need to get stuff for the common room -- maybe I could stick around for an extra day after move-in day with the SUV and take you girls to Target to pick stuff up. Clever, huh?
Some pictures of move-in day are clearer in my mind than others. Scout yelling at Eileen to stop re-arranging the furniture, setting up Scout's desk just the way I like it, and some last scene that involves a group hug (think finale episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show). But the picture of driving away while Scout waves pathetically from the sidewalk -- that's the one I can't really wrap my arms around yet.
Holding on tight and letting go. Somehow, just like 'jumbo shrimp', we've got to make that phrase feel natural and less of an oxymoron... Because I think I'm learning that the true measure of an exemplary parent is not how tightly we hold on but how artfully we begin to let go.