***The following is an imaginary conversation between my daughter and I.***
In the car, driving Kiley from her college to our home for the Fourth-of-July holiday, which she’ll spend two days at home for.
Kiley: “Mom…so, Beck invited me up to Erie for the weekend.”
Me: Holding back a long sigh. “What about college? What about studying?”
Kiley: “Oh! We’re going to do it up there! Beck totally gets that I have to study and he’s going to study, too.”
Me: Working hard at holding back the sigh. “Really? Truly? You are going out of town with your boyfriend for an ENTIRE weekend and the plan is to….study? Really?”
My Husband: “Beck?! What kind of name is Beck?”
Kiley: “Dad! Ugh. We’ve been through this. His name is Beck! He didn’t have a choice in the matter in his naming, you know.”
My husband: Shrugs. “It’s a stupid name.”
Kiley: “Stop saying that!”
My husband: “I’ll stop saying that he has a stupid name just as soon as he stops having a stupid name. Also, no. No going to Erie. You can stay in town at your dorm.”
Kiley: Grunts, sucks at her teeth and smacks the tops of her thighs with her hands. “Mooom!!! I want to go!!!!”
Me: “Dear, God. You sounded like you did when you were twelve.”
Kiley: Takes deep breaths and squeezes her hands. “You know, I could go and not tell you about it.”
Husband: “Fine. I’ll disconnect your cell phone!”
Me: My heart rate increases and my left eyelid is starting to do a dance. “Kiley? Can you understand why we might be doubtful as to the…studying that will happen in Erie?”
Kiley: “Mom! We are going to study!”
Husband: “Your coursework, or other things?”
Me: “Stop it!” I say to my husband. “Kiley: Why do you want to go to Erie?”
She was quiet for a moment. Ha.
“Because…it will be fun. College is supposed to be fun.”
Husband: Scoffing. “Yeah, right. College sucks.”
Kiley: “Dad! You’ve got four college degrees.”
Husband: “And every single one sucked.”
Me: “I don’t know why you think it’s supposed to be fun. With the exception of Anthropology and Business Law, I hated all of my college courses. Also, when I was your age, I got in trouble during my non-working hours. With guys.”
Husband, as he turns the blinker on to turn at a light. “Oh, good. This’ll be fun,” he says on a groan.
Kiley: “I’ll be responsible,” she says.
Me: “What does that mean? Tell me; what does responsibility look like, for a nineteen-year-old college student?”
I watch as my gorgeous daughter tugs at her bottom lip as she looks out the window. “You were happy to have me as a single mom,” she whispered.
Me: “I was. I am,” I said, my voice full of conviction. “I also had a job, an apartment, and a car. You are at year two of college. You aren’t on your own yet.” I let out a sigh, not wanting to attack her. She isn’t looking at me, and I know that I am about to lose her interest. “Tell me more about Beck.”
Kiley: “What about him?”
Me: “What will a…successful weekend with Beck look like? What does Monday morning look like – for you?”
She looks at me with a furrowed brow. Her pitch-black eyes look super dark. “Ummm…we’re closer? He tells me he loves me? I meet his family.”
I look at my husband, who lets out a sad sigh. He says nothing, though.
Me: “Is that a plan this weekend? Going to Butler to meet his family before going to Erie?” I gently ask.
Kiley: Lets out a sad sigh. “No.”
Husband: “I get it, Kiley. Traditional is boring. It’s easier to go with the flow. It’s easier to keep things uncomplicated.”
Kiley: “I know,” she says on a sigh.
I don’t know if I am supposed to let her f*ck up or not. I don’t know if I am supposed to give this Beck guy the benefit of the doubt, or not. I mean, what is she supposed to do in downtown Pittsburgh over a weekend? Could she get into worse trouble by staying behind? For sure.
Me: “Okay. Go on up and go.”
Kiley: Says nothing, but beams from the back seat of the truck.
Me: “But keep in mind that…little choices add up to big choices. A little compromise here and there can lead to bigger compromises down the road.”
Husband: “Just…keep in mind what the results might be for every decision you make.”
Son: Our son pulls off his earbuds from his ears. “Hey. Are you coming to watch my Parkour tournament this weekend?”
Kiley’s smile drops as she regards her little brother. “That’s this weekend?”
Son: “Yeah. I texted you about it,” he angrily says. “Twice.”
Kiley: Forces a smile and nods. “Yeah. I”ll be there.”
But all of this is fictional, of course. My daughter doesn’t go to college. She didn’t go to high school, junior high, or elementary school, either. But it is nice to say her name out loud – a lot. It’s nice to fantasize about what could of been.