A couple of nights ago my college son called my cell phone at about 11:00 pm. I’m not usually up at that time, but that night I just happened to be catching up on some TV shows I had TiVo’d, so I jumped up and ran to the phone to find out what in the world could possibly be wrong. Surely something was wrong if my son was calling me at such a late hour, right?
No, nothing wrong, just calling. At 11:00 at night. That’s what happens when the son who already doesn’t ever know what time it is goes off to college and lives in a bubble.
I asked Daniel why he was calling at such a late hour if nothing was wrong. He said his dad had just left a message on his phone and he was returning the call. (Why he was calling me when his dad left the message still escapes me.) I informed him that his dad was asleep and couldn’t possibly have just left him a message.
Daniel paused a second or two and then said, “Well, he left a message just a little while ago and I just heard it.” His dad had left the message at 6:00 when we were watching the evening news and heard that U of A may impose up to a 30% tuition hike this next year. Now that is an emergency. But the call had been at six, not shortly before 11:00. But I decided to let it go. My son living in the college bubble obviously was also in a time warp.
That’s all just staging to let you know I was on the phone with my college son at 11:00 on a Monday night when I heard the music. What music? You know, the music in your ears when your child says something that makes you realize you did something right after all.
Now don’t get too excited. Daniel didn’t tell me what a wonderful, godly mother I’d been or sing my praises in the gates. But I’ll take it.
We chatted for just a few minutes more about whatever I could think of to say at two hours past my normal bedtime. Then just as we were about to hang up, he said it.
“Oh…Mom? There’s something I wanted to tell you. I, um, wanted to tell you thank you.”
Sleepy eyes pop open a little wider and I sit up on the sofa whereas I had been slumping, almost lying down. I mute the TV show I’d been watching.
“Yeah? For what?” I prod.
“I um… well I um wanted to thank you….. for… um…” Note: He’s not hesitant or stumbling over his words here; he’s just distracted. He’s probably on the Internet or trying to open a juice box or setting up a game board for a late night round of Dominion. Something in the college bubble. I remember how hard it is to carry on a conversation with someone in the real world when you’re breathing University air and they’re not. Actually Daniel sounds very awake and alert for 11:00 at night, like he’s getting ready to go somewhere, like the night’s just getting started. Mmm, I better not go down that path.
“Well, I just want to um thank you um for… well remember how you used to take us to Chuck E Cheeze’s and Discovery Zone?”
Wait a minute. I’m suddenly lost. The conversation has taken an unexpected turn. He’s not thanking me for the dinner I made last weekend or the Valentine card I sent him with a gift card to Subway? Actually, I couldn’t think of much recent activity on my part that he needed to thank me for, but I certainly wasn’t expecting him to go way back to the 1990s to thank me for something.
“Well, yes, I remember.”
“I just wanted to thank you for taking me there.”
“I was just thinking about those times today. That was a lot of fun, Mom. Thanks for taking me.”
At this point I’m still trying to string a few words together. Finally, “Yeah, I liked those places too. That was fun.”
“Your welcome, Daniel.”
“Ok, well I better go. I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too, Daniel. Goodnight.”
As I flipped my phone shut and put it on its charger, I had this compelling sense that I was supposed to report this amazing event to some sort of parenting forum. That I needed to log this moment, if you will, in some sort of official parenting ledger where strange and unusual interaction between parents and their kids is supposed to be recorded for future investigation.
I don’t mean to be overly dramatic here, but how many of us parents just long for not even a “thank you” but just some sort of acknowledgment that something we’re doing is right, that we’re on the right track, that we’re not just doling out money and time and effort into a hungry vacuum, but that we’re actually making an investment that may pay some sort of dividends in the future?
And no, Daniel didn’t rise up and call me blessed, he just thanked me for taking him to an indoor playground and pizza parlor. But he did it on his own. He pulled up a memory, liked what he saw and attributed the warmth of that memory to me. I kind of like that.
The moral of the story? Young parents, hang in there. Keep doing what you’re doing. It matters. Your child is not a greedy vacuum for your time and energy and money. He or she is a worthy, God-sent investment. No matter what trial you’re going through today, press on and keep perspective. This too will pass. He will learn to go potty on his own without your pleading. She will learn to do her own hair. He will eventually get up to his own alarm clock. She will someday clean her room without being asked. He will learn to chew with his mouth closed. And she will remember to write a thank you note without you reminding her one day. And if there’s something you’re trying to teach them that they honestly don’t ever learn, well, so be it. Maybe they’ll at least acknowledge that you tried and thank you for your efforts.
Well, maybe that comes later. At first, they’ll probably just thank you for the sandwiches you cut into smiley faces for their lunches or the times you took them to feed the ducks. Or the trips to Chuck E Cheeze’s. Hey, I’ll take it.