All grown up and good to go

By Mir
January 10, 2018

Monkey turned 18 last week. EIGHTEEN! That’s just plain nutso, because I can barely remember my own name these days, but I have such clear memories of the day he was born, so it cannot possibly have happened so long ago. I remember the doctor insisting it would “be a while” because my labor with Chickadee was so long, and he checked on me and left the hospital, saying he’d be back around lunchtime. Less than an hour later I told the nurse I was pretty sure I needed to push, and she checked me and laid a gentle hand on my knee. “DO NOT PUSH,” she ordered me. She picked up the phone. “We’re gonna see how quickly the doc can get back here in his little red sports car, okay?” Turns out his car was pretty quick, and a good thing, too, because one push and everyone was screaming “STOP!” because Monkey—tiny in comparison to his sister, but a champion in-utero acrobat—was born with his umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck. The doctor worked the cord free, caught the rest of him, and HOWWWWW was that 18 years ago? We beamed at our new baby while his chin dimple quavered and his lower lip protruded and he wailed about his eviction. I had gushed about how huge and beautiful his sister was, when she was born, but after an appropriate period of oohing and ahhing and getting him settled, I confided to his father that Baby Monkey was so tiny, I was afraid I might break him. And then I added that he reminded me of a very angry naked chicken.

(Don’t worry, he doesn’t resemble a chicken anymore. He’s much larger and far too hairy.)

Anyway, it was all a long time ago, is my point. Now he’s 18, and in addition to the usual suspects (homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast! cake after dinner! cards and presents!), THIS birthday he also got to register to vote, upgrade his driver’s license, finally use the online access to his bank account instead of asking me to check it (that’s a bank rule and it’s dumb, right?), and apply for a student credit card. We’re saving the existential angst and crushing debt for his 21st, though.

Now, I’ve been through this rodeo before, so nothing should be new or surprise me, right? And yet! It turns out that having your son turn 18 is a little different than when your daughter turns 18. For one thing, I snagged this snazzy suit on a deal for him, rushing to explain, as he opened it up, that it was a joke and he absolutely did not need to wear it if he didn’t want to, and also that it is NOT a good substitute for his ACTUAL fancy suit for something like a job interview. We all laughed but then Chickie leaned across the table toward him. “Wear it to Formal,” she said. We all looked at her. “What? I mean, he’s not gonna have a date, and it’s hilarious. He should totally wear it to Formal.”

“I doubt I’m going to Formal,” he said, grinning at the blazer and trying it on. “This is quite ridiculous.”

He doesn’t realize that Formal isn’t until the end of March, and in college-time that’s an eternity from now. I mean, probably he’s right and he won’t go. But he might. He might wear his ridiculous suit, or he might wear his real suit. Who knows?

A couple of days later, a small box showed up in the mailbox, decorated with a larger-than-life picture of a four-blade razor and HAPPY 18TH BIRTHDAY in very manly letters. Apparently the brand in question is sending these razors to newly-minted 18-year-old men in the hopes that they’ll love them and sign on for a lifetime of overpriced blade refills. Joke’s on them, of course, because I can’t think of a single 18-year-old with facial hair who doesn’t already either have a blade preference or a beard, and my PARTICULAR 18-year-old butchered himself with an electric razor for several years before his father purchased him a very nice refillable razor… which has since sat in his bathroom drawer, pristine and untouched, ever since. Pretty sure that was the beginning of the Permanent Scruff, in fact.

A couple of days after THAT, an Army recruiter called to speak to Monkey. I want to tell you I was a mature grown-up about it, but that would be lying. In truth I couldn’t stop giggling as I tried to explain that Monkey is off to college, and also, uh, not exactly Army material.

“Ma’am, that’s great,” the recruiter insisted. “Because we have some incredible programs for those still in school. What’s he studying?”

“Computer science,” I responded, automatically, totally missing my chance to insist that he was majoring in underwater basket weaving or ballet. Still, that would shut this down, right?

“How wonderful,” responded the recruiter. “Ma’am, you might be surprised at how many positions we need to fill with programmers and engineers. We need young men like him. If I could just speak to him…?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, actually feeling bad now about all my giggling. “I have nothing but respect and gratitude for the work the armed forces do, and I know you need kids like mine, too, but let’s not waste your time. He’s a pacifist, and I promise he’s never going to join the army. Thank you for calling, though.” We hung up and I realized that “taking care of that” for Monkey was perhaps not appropriate, now that he’s 18. Maybe I should’ve given him the chance to to handle that call.

I made my way upstairs and found him in his usual spot, curled up with his laptop. “Hey dude,” I poked him and he looked up with his what-do-you-want face. “An Army recruiter called for you and I told her you’re not interested in the Army. Was that okay or did you want to talk to her?”

He rolled his eyes and chuckled. “Yeah, no. Thanks.” He went back to his screen, and I went back downstairs.

Half his stuff is packed up and ready to go. Today he’s doing laundry and sorting through a few piles of stuff and we’ll get most of the rest packed up by tonight. Tomorrow we deal with odds and ends and last-minute whatever, and Friday he moves into the dorm. Chickadee follows on Sunday.

It’s weird, right? One day you’re holding six pounds of squawking, indignant baby and the next they’re moving away like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Because it is, I suppose. Weird and natural and too soon and a long time coming and all kinds of wrong and exactly right. I’ve developed the same about-to-leave speech disorder I had before Chickie left for the first time, too—phrases like “I put extra things of shampoo and body wash in there” or “Did you find your sleep headphones?” leap from my mouth, unbidden, when I could swear I’d been just about to say, “I’m so proud of you,” or “You are going to have the best time. I know it.” Huh.

I hope he wears the suit to Formal.

P.S. Unrelated, but I am back to answering reader questions at Alpha Mom, and my latest post is up. Feel free to mail in your burning questions, too.


  1. Beth R

    I’m not crying… you’re crying!

  2. Chris

    I have missed your posts but understand that you posted more in those days raising your kids when there was more chaos and at times like that you reach out more. Now it’s your time to examine yourself and your life…I have a 25 year old that moved 800 miles away when he turned 22 and a 23 year old that just moved out in the same city. I am introspective and figuring out me when for so long I was helping or listening and trying to be available to my children and going through more feelings than I would like to. This part of life is very interesting where my kids are interested in me taking care of me and doing what I want with the time I have left…that phrase itself is interesting….I’m 58.5 but it is so true especially with a financial advisor as your son. They are wanting the best for me and I am getting unstuck from looking out and taking care of them ….from buying the extra soap or shampoo or hot sauce my younger son likes…we’ve graduated to sharing a meal once a week and trying new wines. I had more fun shopping for a sofa and microwave etc for his apartment because before he never wanted to shop and now he has to. He lives right by a store and I say when I am visiting that I am stopping there on my way home and he says I’ll go with you then drive you back a half a mile or so to get your car. We get what we need linger in the wine aisle and peruse labels and he drops me off and we go our separate ways. Each kid leaving was something different for me. When I visit the oldest he takes me everywhere to shop, eat, go to the market etc. He also saves errands that he said needs my input like going to an outlet place to buy a suit for a trip he goes to corporate every year ( he body builds and grows out of the one he buys the year before). Suddenly he trusts my judgement on colors and what goes together…who knew I was so good at this…I used to buy my kids clothes because they hated to shop so if they didn’t like one of my bargains from TJMaxx I took it back. Life is interesting but as I wrote you before and you commented on it …I said I love your voice…and I would read anything you write….love that your back into theater….I am changing jobs to work day shift instead of 12 hour weekend nights ( I am a nurse)…I’m 58.5 and I am figuring out what will make me happy with the time I have left….as suggested by my two sons…its working because I am doing some soul searching….

  3. Lara

    Time flies! Happy 18th birthday to Monkey! It’s been a pleasure watching him grow up from across the internet 😉 Good luck Mir adapting to this transition, not easy for the mamas when they leave the nest ❤️

  4. Karen Reznek

    Happy birthday to Monkey! And why doesn’t that suit come in a Hanukkah print! DH could wear it to DD’s wedding rehearsal. I suspect the tuxedo T-shirt he wore for our wedding rehearsal is too worn out…

  5. AlisonC

    Happy, happy Birthday, Monkey!

  6. Tonya

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

    I thought my kid was the only one who wore headphones to sleep with! Does Monkey have a preferred brand, since you referred to them as sleeping headphones?

    • Mir

      He uses these when he’s sharing a room. His hair is pretty impressive in the morning after a night of wearing ’em but at least they’re comfy.

      • Chuck

        I just realized how fortunate it is I already had a buzz cut when I started wearing a CPAP mask at night. My bed head would be quite something if I had a longer hairstyle I am sure. Also, congrats to Monkey! It’s a big step but as you said, I think he’s ready for it. And time really does fly by.

  7. Jeaniej

    Happy birthday, Monkey! We’d like a picture of you in your new suit.

  8. Ruchi

    I’ve been reading your blog for more than ten years, from the time I was a single twenty-something in LA to now, as a late thirty-something with two girls of my own.

    You have taught me SO SO much about parenting. About the truly hard stuff, the big kid stuff, the really knotty emotional stuff. So thank you, so much, for making me a better parent.

    This blog you’ve written? Is a love letter to parenthood in all its effed up glory. You never shied away from the bad, you never papered over how difficult it was. And yet, throughout it all, even at the truly hardest points, you showed your readers how incredibly amazing your kids are.

    It’s so amazing to wings they have developed in the past year. I’m so happy for you and for your family.

    And now, I’m going to go peel a metaphorical grapefruit for my big eyed four year old, and cry.

  9. Beth in Chicago (IA, fmr)

    Well, things just got really dusty in here. Happy birthday and go Monkey go! So, so excited for all of you to be where you are.

    PS – Empty nesting in The.Bomb.Com. If you need my recipe for “popcorn for dinner” let me know.

  10. Sheila Finnegan

    My recently-turned eighteen year old, MARGARET, got the Happy Birthday Razor too. She has no facial hair that I know of, but free is free, amirite?

    I hope the first weeks away are good ones, at school and back at home. I get misty when I think about how long I’ve been reading you online and how generous you have been with your troubles as well as your triumphs. You have truly been an influence on my parenting, a laugh when I needed one, and a welcome voice from my computer.

    All the best to Monkey and to you, Mir, as you and Otto navigate Empty Nesting. I look forward to learning (and laughing) from those dispatches also, as I have three more years to go before that milestone hits.

  11. Heidi

    Thank you for sharing your valedictory thoughts on Monkey as he leaves for college, as well as your thoughts for so many years. I’m not the only one with a big old lump in my throat. Mir, I can’t begin to tell you how much it’s meant to me to watch you be a parent as I fumble my own way through it. My 12yo son has much in common with Monkey, and you’ve been a lifesaver, not to mention a beacon that shows me my way. You are the best; your family is the best; and I adore beyond words your honesty, humor, and insight.

    • Mir

      Oh, goodness. You are so nice. Thank you (and everyone else) for coming along on this weird and wonderful journey with me.

  12. Pippa

    Happy 18th birthday, Monkey!! I remember just a few years ago (seems like) you were really into Batman and I sent you a birthday message to Batman from Robin (my real name, although NOT my real superpower😉). I wish you all the best in life. I know you’ll do well, you always do in the end, right? Mir, I hope you continue you blogging, because after all this time it will be interesting to hear the story of Mir and Otto: two empty nesters. Be sure to throw in some Licorice and Duncan for seasoning and of course, some tidbits of Chickie. That girl, like her brother, has a piece of my heart.

  13. Daisy

    Oh, those memories! Some day I’ll tell the story about the plumber who offered to sing a commercial jingle for us and then (after fixing the sink) told my 17yo daughter she should join the army for a scholarship to college. Later that night, a recruiter called. He insisted it was routine and they called all kids from the local high school, but we’ll always wonder.
    Oh, wait, I just told you.
    Here’s hoping Monkey finds the perfect place and time to wear the classic (in its own way) suit!

  14. Pip

    Happy 18th birthday, Monkey. I hope you have the BEST time at college, you deserve it :)

  15. Christine in Los Angeles

    It’s so many years since I read the adventures of Chickie, and Monkey, and Mir and Otto; there’s been a lot of growing-up, but there is no way Monkey can be college-bound, not yet, he’s not old enough!
    God Bless

  16. Dana

    18! Already! That can’t be. Time sure flies.

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