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What Will I Do When He Goes to College?

Every December my husband and I throw a Christmas party. As soon as the last bit of turkey evacuates the fridge, I turn into a crazed party planner wielding rubber cement and taper candles and scaring the baby half to death with the KitchenAid mixer.

Oh yes, the baby.

I happened to mention to my mother one day that maybe Jack could stay at her house the night of the party. I said something like, "So Mom, I'm kind of sort of maybe thinking about leaving Jack with you that night? Maybe? Because even if I could get everything ready and take care of him at the same time, there's no way he'd be able to sleep upstairs and maybe he can stay with you? I'd really want him to be sleeping through the night first, so we'll see if that happens. But it might be a good thing. I don't know. I'm thinking about it and just wanted to see what you thought. Maybe it will work? We'll talk about it again later?"

And what my mother heard was, "BABY ALL TO MYSELF. TWENTY-FOUR HOURS. MINE MINE MINE."

By the time I brought it up again, my mom had moved the crib into her bedroom, stocked up on diapers and taken a crash course in installing car seats manufactured after 1985.

So, you know. There was no going back NOW. Not if I wanted to be invited to the family Christmas, at any rate.

I didn't think it would be that big a deal. We've left him with friends and family during the day and at night. We've allowed the grandmothers to perform the sacred bedtime routine. My mom is an expert baby wrangler and I have a fairly mellow kid. We would all survive.

Except. EXCEPT.

My dad would ask, "Have you thought about when you want us to pick up the baby?” A reasonable question, yes? And I'd say, "I AM NOT READY TO DEAL WITH THIS RIGHT NOW." Which is, you know. Not exactly reasonable.

I'd tell people I wanted to drive him down myself. I didn't want to hand my baby off to be driven away in a strange car where he might encounter fiery multi-vehicle pileups.

So there was the driving thing.

But then there was the whole being away from me for an entire NIGHT thing.

I sucked it up and asked my parents to drive up Saturday afternoon. They waltzed into the house all, "Hee hee we get to steal the baby!" I was somewhat of a wreck, having realized that I was missing half the ingredients for half of my appetizers. My mom wanted to get going and I kept coming up with ways to get her to stay. Decorate the cookies! Chop vegetables! Arrange the chairs! And oh, the toilet needs scrubbing!

After a while it was getting sort of ridiculous and, to be honest, I needed to focus on my inner Martha Stewart. Christmas parties do not throw themselves, people. My parents, a little too eagerly in my opinion, stuffed the baby into his car seat and prepared to march out the door. "Have fun!" they said and allowed me thirty seconds to say goodbye. Jack giggled, which he did only because he did not understand he was LEAVING ME.

I stayed in the kitchen and listened to the door open and close. And then I started to cry.

I KNOW! And believe me, the whole time I was thinking, "Seriously? You're CRYING? Get a hold of yourself, woman!" but I couldn't help it. I missed him already.

Up until the first guests arrived Phillip and I kept thinking the baby was napping and scolding each other for being too noisy. We missed him when everyone asked about him. We missed him when we went to bed. When we woke up a straight nine hours later we marveled at the experience — and then we missed the baby. We rushed over to my parents' house to pick him up, where he appeared to have no memory of us at all. He looked up at me like, "YOU'RE not the one who fed me ice cream. Go get THAT one.”

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