We have been in L.A. less than 24 hours and Boy, Esq. has already suggested ways in which my packing, driving, navigation and parenting skills are in need of improvement.
His assessment of my parenting skills begins with a definition of “breakfast” - the takeaway being that this is a meal "other mothers" regularly prepare for their teenage sons.
But it’s not all teenage recrimination. We are here at the University of All Our Money for a two-day orientation in which various university officials also get their turn to suggest ways in which I am expected to fuck things up.
Though it is more subtle, and couched in the careful language of "Of Course, We Don’t Mean You," there is no mistaking the underlying theme: Time to Let Go, You Crazy, Hovering Helicopter Parents. But don't be late with your tuition payment.
It is pretty much the same speech I got from the Montessori people when I tried to carry his backpack for him on the first day of preschool, circa 1998.
Only this time it is costing me about $30,000 a year, not including hotel breakfast and airfare.
“Do you want to know which one you are?” the boy asks me during one session.
"Which one what?” I say. I have lost the thread of conversation from the front of the auditorium, where various university officials are once again hinting to us that parents are both absolutely critical and completely superfluous to their mission of transforming 18-year-olds into productive members of society in just four years.
Something has been said about parenting "styles," so it’s safe to assume that even if there is not a specific category for the Non-Breakfast-Making kind, whichever classification Boy Esq has assigned me to, it falls into the general category of Disappointing.
I'm okay with that. My own parents were disappointing. But by the time we get to the session in which parents are expected to share their sadness about separating from their child, I have no use for the box of Kleenex being passed around.
Our soon-to-be-college students, we are told, might be a little hard to live with this summer. It's part of the process of "detachment" by which they need to push away in preparation for life without us. It manifests itself in abrasive behavior, rudeness or possibly snapping at objects in a hotel room with a rolled-up wet towel until they are scattered everywhere and one of us has to go around on her hands and knees looking under the furniture to make sure something important is not left behind. Is that my good pen? OMG, will this trip ever be over?
And of course, it is over way too soon.
Photos: SK, "Tommy Trojan" and Little Ernie, a childhood favorite of Boy, Esq., on campus at the University of Southern California, where parents can be divided into "those who carry childhood attachment objects in their luggage for college orientation, and those who don't."