Tag Archives: Rites of Passage

Hello, my name is…

He stepped into my kitchen and extended his hand. I smiled and greeted him. While shaking his hand I glanced around the room.

My son was surrounded by his friends. Some he hadn’t seen since they all scattered for college nearly a year ago. They resembled the boys he hung out with in the past, only taller, with deeper voices, and facial hair. But this one I had never met. So he introduced himself.

“I’m John,” he said.

“I’m Miss Lisha,” I replied. But the sound of that name felt strange.

I realize that naming traditions and salutations vary in different places, so let me explain how we do it here. In the South, most adults are referred to as “Mister” or “Miss” followed by their first name. “Miss Lisha” has been the name my sons’ friends have called me for their entire lives. It always seemed right.

ImageDuring our years in the military, my husband and I were referred to by our surname, his salutation preceded by his rank, mine my “Mrs.” In those circles, it seemed right.

But this felt strange. What do I call myself to my grown sons’ friends?

This is new territory for me, and I’m not really sure how to handle it.

If I were meeting this young man in the workplace I would have introduced myself as “Lisha” without hesitation. But he was part of my son’s posse, and that made it feel different. In this setting, it almost felt a bit creepy, a bit too familiar for a personal introduction.

Now, I’ve never had any hang-ups about titles or formalities. To be honest, the whole “Mrs. Fink” thing makes me feel either antiquated or pretentious. I accepted it as part of our military lifestyle, but I much prefer “Miss Lisha.” It’s my “mom title.” Which is, after all, how I’ve defined myself for over two decades.

But now, with grown kids, who am I?

Miss Lisha? Lisha? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s time for a cool nickname so I can avoid the whole thing.

I want my boys to continue to use these “courtesy titles” with the adults they have known since childhood. Neighbors, mothers and fathers of their friends, even teachers with whom they still keep in touch. It’s a sign of respect – for them and for our traditions. But what about new introductions?

I guess I’m going to have to give this some time. I should probably take the lead from the kids young adults themselves. It’s new territory for them, too.

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Good riddance.

The morning started like every other school day. Except this one was different. This was the day he was leaving.

As I went through the motions of getting my youngest son ready for his school day, I was preparing myself for my middle son to leave for college.

Amid the hustle of making breakfast and double-checking backpacks, I was trying to think of the little things he still needed to pack, and all the things I wanted to tell him. Time did not permit, however, and we hustled out the door.

But there was still so much I wanted to say.

I wanted to remind him to keep breakfast food in his room, because he likes to sleep til the absolute last minute. But there was no time.

We drove little brother to school in C’s car, with dad following in my packed SUV. Mr. Wonderful let me ride with my boy, allowing me to squeeze in the last few precious hours. After dropping his brother off, we rendezvoused for breakfast.

Once we settled in at a table my husband asked, “What Shakespeare play had that dad who gave the good advice to his son? ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be…’”

“Hamlet,” C replied.

Then he looked across the table with a smirk and said, “Dad, don’t be a Polonius.”

The moment looked a little like this, only at a Subway in New Orleans. (Source: theoldglobe.org)

The moment looked a little like this, only at a Subway in New Orleans.
(Source: theoldglobe.org)

His father smiled back in silent agreement.

But there was still so much more I wanted to say.

I wanted to remind him that I’d packed all the medicine he’d need if he got sick, and that his insurance card was in his wallet. And that if he needed anything, he had my credit card.

Instead we chatted about the campus, and its proximity to the beach. Then we got back in the cars and headed east.

For the next few hours, Slick and I chatted about many things. Some profound, some mundane. Some practical, some superfluous.

But there was still much more I wanted to say.

And before I knew it, we arrived at campus. We unloaded the car and unpacked his things. We discussed the importance of organization when mom wasn’t there to find things. We talked about the dynamics of living with a roommate. Not ready to separate, we went shopping for snacks and drinks and breakfast foods, and notebooks and pens and extension cords. We had lunch and laughed when he spilled ketchup on his shorts – and I wished I’d bought that stain remover thing I’d seen in Target. Then I remembered doing laundry with Mr. Wonderful in college, and smiled. He’d figure it out. And he’ll have the time of his life doing so.

We returned to the dorm and I felt a quiet satisfaction, knowing he was ready.

It was time for me to go.

Quickly, before he had a chance to see me cry.

I told him again how much I loved him, and how proud I was of the man he had become. And even though there was so much more I wanted to say, I simply said goodbye.

Good riddance, son. I hope you have the time of your life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyLOkbW9yCI
(Click the link, it all makes sense when you do.)

 

The Years are Short

Originally posted October 7, 2010

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My fifth-grader came home this week with instructions for his first research project.  A research project.  My baby.  The youngest of my three kids.  The one who’s never supposed to grow up.  I remember like it was yesterday sitting at the kiddie table in my den with a bucket of crayons, and the lesson of the day was “staying in the lines.”  It really can’t be that long ago…  Now we have to do a research project.

He chose Marco Polo as his subject.  In the coming days we’ll be learning about Marco’s life and adventures, and I’ll be trying to get a 10-yr old boy in modern America to relate to the concept of an “undiscovered” world.  I’m not looking forward to that.  But what I am looking forward to is sitting at the table with him, having his undivided attention, and holding on to him for a moment.

As any mom will tell you (especially one with at least as many kids as I have) is that days are long.  We rise early, ready ourselves, wake the family, make sure everyone’s fed, wearing the right uniforms, delivered to the right schools at the right time, then start our day.  As soon as we get a little momentum, it’s almost time for the school bell to ring — and then the real chaos begins.  Carpool, after-school activities, homework, dinner, showers and bedtime.  Just getting it all done takes drill-sergeant-like qualities, which don’t necessarily bring out the best in a mom.  I know from my frequent chats with other moms that I’m not the only one who collapses as soon as the last kid hits his pillow.  We’re wiped out long before then.

Each day seems like a long journey.  But then they run together, and the time compresses, and before you know it one is in college, one is in high school, and one has to do a research project.

The days are long.  But the years are short.

Rites of Passage Sure Have Changed

I keep a short leash on my boys when it comes to certain things.  The big kids weren’t allowed to have a Facebook page until they were in high school, and then only under my watch.  Slick and The Trailblazer didn’t have internet on their phones until recently.  The poor Caboose is the ONLY sixth-grader on the planet that doesn’t have a cell phone at all.

So last night was a bit of a big night.  The Caboose sent his first email.  To his dad.  Then one to The Trailblazer up at LSU.  (Then we had to call his big brother to tell him to check his email.)

His new school is very “21st Century,” and most of their curriculum is based from the laptops every student is issued.  They have school email addresses, and they use email as their primary means of communication.

He showed me how to open up Outlook to check his email like Bill Gates must’ve done once to show the world.  I oooh-ed and aaah-ed, and gave a proud smile.  He had two messages in his Inbox from teachers.  And now he has two in his Sent Items as well.

I saw no need for an email address until now.  (The fewer paths pedophiles have to contact my kid the better.)  But his school has an extremely aggressive filter on their services (and it’s required), so whether I was ready or not, it was time.

He’s now entered the world of electronic communication.  And I’m sure he’ll be toting a cell phone before too much longer.  But it won’t have internet.