My fifteen year old is participating in an all-day Chinese immersion program, which is being held at the university where I work. This means we get to commute in and back home together. Everything’s gone swimmingly these first couple of days on our commute into school/work in the trusty minivan. Our conversations have been filled with warmth, laughter, and mutual understanding. But as if by magic, the moment we step out of that enchanted vehicle, I suddenly metamorphose into the most embarrassing creature that ever crawled on the surface of this planet.
I swear I’ve tried to follow the rules. OBVIOUSLY, there is no physical contact. I mean, of course I have my faults, but at least I understand the basic rules of engagement. I walk a little distance away from my son, with my eyes focused straight ahead. It might be possible for strangers to see us and assume that we were not together. Despite our similar features and coloring, it might not even be entirely obvious to the casual observer that it was I, who spent 20 hours in labor bringing this boy into the world.
On Monday, there was a parents’ meeting scheduled for 8 am. It happened to be taking place in the auditorium that’s located on the floor right below my office. My boss walked in and noticed me and the other parents and students milling around. When he asked what was going on, I explained to him that the organizers hadn’t shown up for the information meeting that was supposed to have started fifteen minutes ago. I sincerely believed that I was uttering these words in a subdued, reasonable tone of voice. It appears, however, that in fact, I was shrieking loudly, raucously, and in an utterly mortifying fashion.
The entire time I was speaking with my director, my son stared at his iPod, thumbing away with furious intensity, all while muttering under his breath:
Stop. Mom. You don’t have to do this. You’re talking so loudly. Why are you doing this?
This morning I told him that he could walk to class and make his way back to my office on his own in the future, but that I would drop him off and pick him up today, just to make sure he knew where to go.
He heaved an exasperated sigh and said, “You don’t have to walk me. I can go by myself. I know exactly where I’m going.”
“So, where are you going?” I asked.
“Your office is in Cabell,” he replied with brisk alacrity.
I had to break it to him. It’s what we repugnant monsters are programmed to do:
“You‘re going to Cabell. My office is in Minor.”
I walked the boy to class.