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Dealing with Extra Anxiety as You Send a Student to College This FallMarybeth Bock, MPH
For the most part, I have a pretty strong and close bond with my three boys. However, I admit that I am somewhat unsatisfied with the communication aspect of our relationship and, since they are not shy about pointing out which parenting mistakes they think I have made, I feel I too can comment on ways in which they might improve their behavior.
Here is an open letter to my young men and I hope they read it in the spirit in which it was intended.
I accept and realize that you are sons and not daughters. I am truly grateful that I was blessed to have you and I have never yearned for a female child. I realize that you are not going to text or call me every hour on the hour as many of my friends’ daughters do.
[Note: At this point some reader will comment that HER son does call and text all the time and that I need to return to the 50s, which, for the record, came and went before I was born. To them I say, “bully for you,” but I can assure you it’s not the norm. My mother has always commented how I told her so much while my brother was less forthcoming with details, to which I respond, “Imagine that!”]
I don’t crave daily contact with you. Nor do I need to know every thought that pops into your head or what you are wearing at any given moment. However, could you work on providing me with just a little more information? Like the time you got into college and I had to hear about it from a friend? Not acceptable. And when your good friend (who I know fairly well) got engaged and YOU DIDN’T TELL ME? Stuff like that hurts my feelings. Especially when your girlfriend tells me that even her mother knew about that engagement. I happen to like your friends and want to know what’s up with them.
I’m not asking for a lot. Just a few scraps now and again would suffice. I know you aren’t withholding information on purpose, but perhaps when something noteworthy happens, you could ask yourself, “Would Mom be interested in knowing this?” And then err on the side of over-informing, because even when I’m not interested, I’m interested, with the following caveat.
Do you realize that when you do get in touch with me, it’s generally about money or to complain about something, such as your health? Let me remind you of the time you said you had a lump on your back and, after googling it, felt pretty sure you would need surgery. After texting everyone I knew to find you a doctor in the city, I waited anxiously by the phone for hours while you had your consultation. I called when I assumed you were done with the appointment and scheduling your surgery. When I finally reached you at work, you said, “Oh, it was nothing.” I was relieved but also wanted to kill you. You can’t get me all worried and then not let me know everything is okay. I don’t mind hearing that you don’t feel well or that there’s a problem but could you also let me know when things are alright? Or when you are feeling happy? That would actually make me very happy. And yes, I realize it’s not about me. However, every once in a while, maybe it could be a little bit about me.
Perhaps when something noteworthy happens, you could ask yourself, “Would Mom be interested in knowing this?” And then err on the side of over-informing.
Oh, and another thing you seem to love talking about but I don’t really like listening to is “how unfairly you were treated in comparison to your brothers.” Here's the holy truth about parenting: unless you are an only child there will always be some inequity amongst siblings. In the end, it all evens out and you will all have (pretty much) gotten what you needed. I don't have favorites — well, actually, that’s not completely accurate. Like most parents, I tend to favor whomever is annoying me least at the moment.
I’ll admit that as you have gotten older, things have improved. I know you love me and I am grateful that I can count on you when I need you. You seem to view me more as a person now and I really appreciate that. We went through a lot to get to this point and I don’t want to be greedy, but I think that we can still do better.
I hope you will take my suggestions under advisement. I will be checking my texts to see what is new with you.