August 23, 1014: Mama's Boy

Garrett, Ben and I assembling the dorm room
Yesterday was moving day to UNL for Big Bad Ben. It was a good day. No tears. No angst. Just time for change and a rite of passage. Good for Ben and good for Mom.

Earlier in the week, I worried of the pending fire drill that seemed imminent. As is typical for my middle child, little planning or packing had occurred in advance. Although Ben assured me he had it handled, I projected chaos on our scheduled 4:00 p.m. Friday move into Harper Hall. My organized self decided to follow Ben's blind lead and kick in Plan B, if necessary; make sure he took clean underwear and his backpack and then make a second trip to Lincoln later with all the things he forgot. I'm officially thankful for the short 40 mile commute.

But Ben surprised me. With his dad's lead on Thursday night, he cleaned out his room and packed Home #1 for school. Based on Ben's hoarding ways, this was an unbelievable achievement to complete in just a night. Picking him up at noon on Friday, we moved on to tackle Home #2. I decided to employ my persuasion tactics in trying to convince him not to take 15 pairs of shoes to college. My goal was a reduction of his overall wardrobe, as this was an impractical accommodation for his small dorm room.

As Step 1 in the 10 Step Reductionist Program for hoarders, I played for Ben a video displaying his small dorm room as posted by the fine housing people at the University. I then delicately started helping him organize his bags, boxes and stacks into smaller, movable quantities. And surprisingly, he let me.

Together we tag-teamed in developing a three-stack organizational method; don't want, store for later, or take to Lincoln. We worked through every stack and every pile accumulated throughout my house. And then we tackled his stash brought over from his dad's until the Acura was packed. I decided that the "don't want" and "please store" stacks would be my solo project over the weekend.

We accomplished the seemingly impossible in a mere three hours. In response to our shared joy on a monumental accomplishment, Ben playfully sang a little ditty he memorized from a childhood TV commercial.

"Me and my mom. My mom and me. Playing at Playdaze from 10 until 3." hmm...hmmmmm...hmmm...

Listening to my 18 year old display childhood bliss and a bit of teenage humor, made me smile. We had become quite the pair over the last year. A connection I thought didn't exist in the days before his senior year.

I was reminded of a conversation from a month ago that didn't include Ben. I was spending time with the bookend brothers, Zach and Grant, that lacked their middle counterpart. I listened to them complain of my perceived affinity to their missing brother.

"Ben is such a mama's boy," Zach shared with a roll of the eyes.

I objected. But Grant didn't accept my pleadings.

"He is SUCH a mama's boy. Ben, Ben, Ben...it's all about Ben."

Not conceding defeat, I continued to debate my equal love for all three offspring. But my pleadings only went to the deaf ears of my oldest and youngest.

Zach then reassured me that this purported character flaw wasn't as bad as it sounded.

"Ben is the one who needs the attention. Being a mama's boy is what he needs."

A backhanded compliment? Perhaps.

After completion of Ben and my afternoon of packing and organizing his disorganization, I shared with him his brothers' accusations.

"Zach and Grant say you're a mama's boy," I blurted out as we walked in load #2 into Harper Hall.

After a slight pause, Ben responded.

"Yea, that's probably right."

I reflected later on the statements made; now by all three. Did I really favor one child over the others? And was it so blatant that they all accepted it? After a bit of time to let it sink in and for me to successfully over-analyze, I came to a conclusion. Yes, Ben is a mama's boy. Right now. But Zach had his stint before Ben, and Grant before Zach. They have all had their turn, depending on their individual needs at a particular time in their lives.

When Grant was a baby, the older boys were attached to the hip of their dad while he coached them through in their sports and during their childhood. Daddy's boys. In turn, I carried my constant companion, Grant, on my hip until he was a way-too-old 4 year-old. He was my forever shadow. Then at age 8, Grant dropped me like chopped liver for his dad.

At age 15, Zach had become man of my house when his dad and I divorced. He and I were quite close. Until Zach dumped me his senior year.  His friends brought with them bigger and better things than his mama. Ben took over title of mama's boy in the summer before his senior year. It's been a good run. They were all good runs.

Zach and Grant actually just suffer from short-term memories. I must now remind them.

In the meantime, I smiled this morning as I read son #2's text  on his first night in Lincoln.

"It's so great here."

I will miss hearing Ben shoot hoops on the front drive. I will miss his laughter playing games with his little brother on the trampoline. I might even miss their bickering which was as frequent as the laughter. One thing I do know is that Ben will inevitably move on from me in the days ahead. But he will always be a kid at heart. Always. And that will always make me smile. Mama's boy or no mama's boy.

And I will soon be a free agent.

I have thought this through and know it is highly likely that Grant won't pick me up. At least not right away. In the meantime, I will fall back on our dog, Cookie. She will be easily enticed to be a mama's dog. Dog treats, walks, and allowing her to hang her head out an open window. My puppy pampering will result in her loving me back unconditionally and with little effort on my part. I now understand why empty-nesters become dog-lovers.

Oh, and by the way, all 15 pairs of shoes did make it to Lincoln........


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