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.