I’m having this huge battle with the green-eyed monster lately. Well, I exaggerate. It’s not a huge battle but it’s at least a small one. There may not be guns or I dunno, cannons involved, more like one person has a spoon and the other has a feather duster and they’re just kind of slapping each other with them.
What’s strange about the jealousy going on inside me is that I’ve never felt it before. Not jealousy. I’ve felt plenty of that, mostly about people with skinny thighs. But THIS jealousy I’ve never felt.
It started a few weeks ago when a friend helped move her incoming-Freshman daughter to college. Since this is a friend with whom I share pretty intimate information (and likewise), I got to hear all about the angst of having your first child fly the nest (and fly it far away) but soon after the move-in, I started hearing stories about her first weeks in college — dating, parties, new friends … and saw a snapchat photo of her ecstatic, wide-awake face at 4am. I remember being excited to be awake at 4am, and it’s far different than the way I feel when I’m awake at 4am now.
And then I felt it. The very first pang of jealousy over being 18 and starting college and being at the very beginning of your life and not having any idea of where it’s going and being excited enough about meeting new people that you happily stay up until 4am talking the night away.
I acknowledged my jealousy, thinking that would make it go away.
Hahahahahahahahaha, laughed Jealousy maniacally.
Next, I started noticing the aisles of merchandise devoted to dorm rooms in Target. I turned away with envy and forced myself to look at spatulas instead. I wanted to be saying “What’s a spatula and why do I need one?” as I juggled a comforter and one of those big study pillows and a crate of plates, a desk lamp and a giant double ply package of Charmin Big Rolls but no. I know what a spatula is and I know that my husband has melted ours again and that’s why I’m looking at spatulas. I can also name almost every other kitchen gadget hanging on this wall and I fucking hate myself for it.
Then I pulled the ultimate rookie move. I went to a college football game. With my kids.
The parking lot was ablaze with beer and hormones. Young girls with long Pinterest hair all wearing basically the same outfit (cut-offs, flowy off-shoulder shirts), falling off their wedges as they tried to navigate the pot-holed parking lot, holding hands like drunk girls do, blithely, seriously.
I was mesmerized by one young couple in the throes of a desperate fight before kick-off even. Her running through the lot in her bare feet, stumbling, glancing back over her shoulder to see if he was following, contorting her face into anger then half giggling despite herself because … so drunk. Him, carrying her sandals, shouting “Shannon Shannon Shannon” and finally giving in to the drama and chasing her.
What is this feeling in the pit of my stomach as I navigate the kids inside the stadium? Jealousy. I am envious of a drunk, barefoot girl having a fight with her boyfriend in a red dirt-covered parking lot. She will throw up soon. She is destined to vomit before half-time. That should be me.
And Sunday, walking the streets of downtown Mobile, trailing my boys while they play Pokemon Go on my and my husband’s phones. Nothing to do but herd them, like little sheep who don’t look up when they cross the street because what could be more interesting than a Pidgeotto appearing right on the sidewalk opposite you?
As I follow them and sometimes lead them, chanting, “Come on, come on, let’s move it. I bet there are some … uh … things over here,” three college-aged kids sit in the coffee-shop window, look down at the boys and mouth “Pokemon Go” to me. And “We play too.”
I smile at them but I want to kidnap them and suck their souls out of them and be them, sitting in a coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon with friends and nothing special to do. No responsibility. A few more steps and 2 girls loll past me on their bikes. They just loll. Whatever that means. Barely pedaling, just kind of cruising. They have nowhere to go and everywhere to go. Anywhere to go.
When Meyer first got out of the NICU 4 years ago after a 2 1/2 month stay, he had a tube threaded up his nose and down into his stomach so we could feed him. He had an apnea monitor strapped to him. But we decided we were not going to be a stay at home family just because it was infinitely easier. When we had the chance, we were going out. So we packed up all the things (and there were A LOT of things: syringes of various sizes, pumped milk, alcohol wipes … I can’t even go into all the medical stuff you have to pack for a baby with the special needs he had at the time — plus all the regular stuff you pack for a newborn) and we took him and Asher to Inman Park fest. We were driving through the neighborhood looking for a parking place when I saw a guy – all by himself – crossing the road carrying a six-pack of beer – and I started to cry. Not little silent tears rolling down my face … ugly crying. There was heaving involved. And all of this ugliness and heaving was more or less silent because the kids were in the backseat and I didn’t want to explain to my 5yo why I was losing my mind.
Gabe looked at me then followed my gaze, eyebrows furrowed. “Are you crying about the guy with the beer?” he said. “We can get beer.”
But we both knew why I was crying. At that moment in time, after all we’d been through, it felt to me like I would never have as few responsibilities as that guy again. And of course, that is true. I’m a parent. I can’t go back. I can have the six-pack and I can pretend to be carefree sometimes for a whole day but I can’t BE that guy. Even if I had a penis.
There’s a little of that creeping in here now, I guess. My first “Starting College” envy. I don’t know how I’ve never had it before. I did it, I moved on, I had probably more fun and less responsibility than most of you for longer than you did and when I settled down and had kids, I said “I have no regrets. I did it all.”
More than a decade later, I still mean that. I don’t regret my kids for one second. Well, maybe one second – when they’re really fighting and my husband’s out of town and I’ve just had it with everything. But we all know I don’t really regret them one bit. I don’t regret my husband. It took me a long time to find him and if he were gone, I wouldn’t even try to replace him. I wouldn’t even want to.
I just kind of want a second go-round of what none of us get. The second go-round where we are the ones packing up for college and watching the whole world opening up in front of us like a blooming flower. Where the responsibilities are low and the opportunities endless.
I’ll do it from the other side in about 9 years and it will be the exact opposite of that. I will be terrified as I let my heart loose from my body and let it flutter around in the world by itself when my oldest boy goes off to college. Responsibility is not going anywhere ever again. It is in me, on me, I am comprised of it.
And I think that’s what this jealousy that’s sticking to me like a gummy worm on my car seat in the August heat is about. I don’t really want to go back to college. I just want to be carefree. I want to have nowhere to go, nothing to do. I want to spontaneously meet friends for drinks in the middle of the day and somehow end up not coming home for the next 8 hours. I want to lay out in the sun in my bikini on the lawn by my dorm. I want to go to a toga party. I want to get in trouble with my RA for breaking into my friends’ room and turning all their furniture upside down. I want to know that even now, everything is possible. And I want to skip class and sleep until noon. I want, I want, I want …
Yep, I guess I do want to go back to college.
If you like this, you should read Don’t Vajazzle Your Vajiggle Jaggle and 20 Other Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 20 and 20 Totally Ridiculous Things That Seem Completely Normal In College.
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