Long Distance Parenting

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It was great to see Andrew last weekend.  I picked him from the train station on Friday afternoon, and we headed straight to the grocery store.  I wanted to make sure that he had everything he wanted to eat during the time he was back home.

As we drove home through the countryside, he said how much he enjoyed riding in a car again.  His commute in the city entails blocks of walking to the train station and then more walking once he gets downtown.  He loved riding in the car and couldn’t wait to get home and drive his own car.  As we rode along, he kept saying, “Oh, it’s so beautiful here.  I love this place.”  Interesting.  All we had heard from him for the past year was how much he “hates it here” and what a dead-end place this is to live.  Very interesting what a month in the city and away from family can to do change a person’s perspective.

He grabbed his laptop out of his bag as we drove.  He wanted me to read a story for a screenplay that he was working on for a class project.  Read it?  I reminded him that I was driving the car.  He read it to me.  It was really wonderful, and I was impressed with his writing style, but that wasn’t what touched me the most.  He talked about what inspired him and his thoughts behind the story he had written.  It was absolutely wonderful to see him excited and engaged in this project.

Andrew didn’t spend a great deal of time at home during his brief visit, but that was OK.  T and I had plans of our own, and we were happy to see him catching up with this friends.  He called me on Saturday afternoon.  He was walking home from a friend’s house to hang out with us for a while before we all went our separate ways for the evening.  Once again as we talked, he kept saying how beautiful it was here, how good it smelled, how much he loved the fresh air.  I knew where he was walking.  He was along one of my favorite roads next to a field of tiny, but dramatic little hills.  This time of year, the little hills are sparkly and golden in the sunlight.

On Sunday morning, Andrew was quiet.  He had to be at the train station by noon, and I could tell that he wasn’t looking forward to leaving so soon.  None of us mentioned it, though.  He needed to go back to Chicago, and we needed to make it as easy as possible for him to leave once again.  As much as I wanted to throw my arms around him and tell him that everything would be OK, I reminded myself that he wasn’t my little boy anymore.  He was a grown man, and as his mother, I needed to be strong enough for him to leave with his self-respect intact.  I knew he was struggling to keep it together as he faced going back to a life that was full of stress, fear of the unknown, frustration, and a little scary.  I made it through the goodbye at the train station without shedding a tear, and sent him on his way with a smile on my face.

Honestly, it was a relief to have him back in the city.  I’m proud that he is taking this leap to pursue his dream.  I know it isn’t easy.  The work is difficult, the hours are long.  Being back home is probably appealing to him on some level, but it isn’t where he should be at this point in his life.  It’s time for him to grow up, and with this child I feel like I am literally having to push him out of the nest.  All the while, I miss him.  I want him home!  I miss my buddy.

I didn’t hear from him on Monday.  On Tuesday night he called me and said that coming back home, and then having to go back to Chicago, had not been easy for him.  He said it was a struggle just getting out of bed on Monday.  I knew that.  I had felt uneasy all day on Monday.  Andrew was on my mind.  Thankfully, his excitement for school had pulled him out of the doldrums.  It will just take some time for him to adjust.  He wants it to happen NOW.  I can’t imagine where he gets his impatience!  😉

Last night I got a call from Andrew.  “Mom, do you have a copy of my lease?”  Yes, I did, and I wondered why he wanted to know.  Well…it turned out that he had locked himself out of his apartment when he went down to do laundry.  I searched the lease for a phone number, called it, and of course, I got an answering machine.  He said that he had a number for the building superintendent, but it was inside of his locked apartment.  Ugh!  I felt so helpless.

T called him and told him to try to pick the lock.  Andrew found a piece of plastic and attempted that to no avail.  T was ready to leave the house and drive to Chicago.  Andrew’s phone was dying.  I was getting scared.  Just this week a homeless man stabbed two people on the Red Line at the station near his apartment.  The day before, a robbery had taken place at the Starbucks near his school while he was there!  I imagined my son standing outside in the dark, a target to all the crazies of the city.  It was such a helpless feeling.  He didn’t know one person living in Chicago that he could call, and neither did I.

Thank God for the Internet!  My moment of panic only lasted for about a minute until the Rational Mom kicked in.  I found a locksmith in his neighborhood, called him, paid his exorbitant after-hours fee over the phone, and Andrew was back in his apartment in less than an hour.

Later he called me.  He had made dinner, finished his laundry, and calmed down.  He called and said that he felt like such a screw-up.  He felt stupid.  Ha!  I told him that this was just a dumb mistake and nothing to feel stupid about.  It’s how we learn.  It’s how we grow up.  It was just a glitch.  Probably, the first of many to come.  That’s life.  Pick yourself up, brush off the dust, and move on.