Parents have lots of endearing nicknames for their kids: Budgie, Smoojie, Jellybean… For occasions when their children are being needy, I’ve heard parents call them Velcro, The Warden, The Cling-On… And during those especially trying times: The Barnacle or The Hemorrhoid (always said with love, of course). In our house, you would be known as Whiny Clingman or Grumpus Minutus.
As a tyke, whenever my Sonny Boy was feeling codependent, he’d stand in front of me with his arms raised, saying, “I hold you, Mommy?” This meant, “Pick me up.” I know what you’re thinking: how cute! Yes. It was cute…for the first seven thousand times. After that, as I’d try to cook the food, launder the laundry, or tend to our younger child, it would become a tad less darling.
If I couldn’t pick him up right away, he would swiftly transform from Whiny Clingman to Grumpus Minutus – turning me into Grumpus Minimus or Grumpus Maximus, depending on my hormone levels.
Sonny Boy would often wait for the most inopportune time to require cuddling – usually when I’d have his little sister, Peaches, on the changing table. I would have to bend down, raise my ointment-covered hands like a surgeon, press my head against Peaches to keep her from rolling off the table and hug Sonny Boy with my knees and elbows. Try it sometime. It’s a herniated disk waiting to happen. He would come from out of nowhere, like a toddler ninja, and insist on human contact. So stealth. One time, I didn’t even know he was standing right behind me until he squeaked, “I hold you, Mommy!” Nearly jumping out of my skin, I jerked, flinging diaper rash goop onto the ceiling and alarming the daylights out of poor Peaches. The result? Two disgruntled customers.
Now before you judge my Sonny Boy as demanding, let me tell you, he was the ideal child. A delight! Cheerful and sweet 99% of the time! He loved to sit quietly and look through his books or play with his toys for hours on end. That’s why I’d feel especially guilty if I couldn’t hold him at the precise instant he needed some extra attention.
Whenever I could, I’d scoop him into my arms, and squeeze him with just the right amount of squish. I’d nuzzle his sweet ample cheeks, and whisper, “Sometimes you love too much, my little man.” And then we would laugh and he’d kiss me. It was our little joke.
This all happened nearly two decades ago which, in parent years, was yesterday. It’s an age-old cliché, but truer than true: time passes faster than you ever thought possible. These days, Sonny Boy is nearly a foot taller than I, so I’m grateful he hasn’t asked me to pick him up recently. But he hasn’t asked for hugs either. If only.
Very soon, we will drop Sonny Boy off at college for the first time. We live in New York. His college is deep in Pennsylvania, so it’s practically Kentucky (or Pennsyltucky, as the locals call it). Being a six-hour car ride away, it may as well be in another galaxy.
I have already warned him that I might be embarrassing on move-in day. I’m pretty sure there will be tears. I already wept at orientation, and I wasn’t alone. It happened when the bursar spoke to all of us parents about college loans and financing. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
But move-in day is sure to be worse. I will hide behind my huge Jackie O sunglasses. I’ll probably tear up on the ride there, but as soon as our wheels hit the campus, I will begin the “ugly cry.” I will try to be brave while meeting his RA and put on a jolly façade as I’m being introduced to his roommate. By then, however, my nose will be red, my eyes will be puffy and I will be fooling no one.
When it’s time to say good-bye, he will walk us to our car. He will hug me and, if I’m lucky, he’ll kiss my cheek. Hubby and I will drive away, leaving him behind. In that twinkling of an eye, I will have to let him go, for real. And this will cause me considerable pain because, my name is Whiny Clingman, and sometimes I love too much.