Today’s news:

Teen Spirit heads to college — and Smartmom ain’t sleeping

for The Brooklyn Paper

With just four days to go before Smartmom and family pack up the Subaru and take Teen Spirit to college in Chicago, Smartmom isn’t sleeping.

Barely a wink.

She just lies in bed and stares at the ceiling, while anxiety buzzes in her ear like an annoying mosquito. It’s not like there’s anything specific she’s stressed out about.

It’s just, well, everything.

For starters, the economics of sending a kid to college are daunting. And even Smartmom’s new improved salary for her soon-to-be-announced mega-column at The Brooklyn Paper just won’t cut the mustard when it comes to annual tuition fees of $38,000 (including room and board).

But that’s not the problem. With grants, loans and savings the family will, somehow, manage to cobble together the payments.

Certainly helping Teen Spirit pack for the big day is weighing on Smartmom’s mind. They need to borrow suitcases from Diaper Diva, buy extra long sheets for those extra long college mattresses, towels, a lamp, alarm clock, wastebasket, a printer …

There’s a long list of items needed for Teen Spirit’s life in the dorm.

But that’s not the problem. Smartmom loves to make lists and shop. And Teen Spirit seems to be slowly pulling things together from his end.

So why isn’t she sleeping?

Like any parent, she is nervous about Teen Spirit going so far from home. Sure, he’s a very independent kid and he knows the subway system like the back of his hand, but he’s never really been on his own except for short road trips to Texas, Maine and Montreal. He says he knows how to operate a washing machine, but will he ever consider using one? Will he change his sheets and launder his clothing?

But that’s not the problem. Smartmom knows that Teen Spirit will, when he’s on his own, figure out all that stuff. Sure, his dorm room will probably be a mess, but that’s why he asked for a roommate who doesn’t mind mess and mayhem.

So why isn’t Smartmom sleeping?

Maybe she’s worried that Teen Spirit will have such blast that he’ll forget about schoolwork. Doesn’t that happen to a lot of kids during freshman year? All those parties, all that freedom. It can be a little intoxicating. Smartmom certainly hopes Teen Spirit can balance the responsibilities, the workload and the fun of college.

On the other hand, what if he’s lonely? What if he gets homesick and depressed? Doesn’t that happen to college freshman, too?

Well, he probably won’t get too lonely. His best friend is heading off to the same college and another good friend has already been there for two years.

Smartmom thinks back to her first weeks at college. There were so many new experiences to reckon with, like registering for classes, opening a bank account, meeting her suite mates, eating in the cafeteria, buying textbooks, keeping up with class work …

Sure, there were moments of homesickness, of missing her high school friends and pining for the boyfriend she’d just broken up with. But the whirl and swirl of those first weeks in college were distracting and exciting. She barely had time to look back.

Smartmom loved the freedom of it. She met some great people within the first week and was having a blast even before classes started.

So why is Smartmom not sleeping?

It’s change, stupid. And that’s hard. Clearly, she’s having a tough time letting go. But so is Teen Spirit and she can tell. She can see it in his eyes and in his reluctance to get packed. She can see it in the way that he’s hanging out with the Oh So Feisty One and watching horror movies with her on the new couch. He can see it in the way he’s saying goodbye to his friends: one by one his friends are leaving for college. By the weekend, it’ll be a ghost town around here.

Annoyingly, Smartmom keeps asking Teen Spirit if he’s looking forward to going away. He rolls his eyes. He gives vague answers. For Smartmom, it’s a hopeful question, an antidote to the confusion and sleeplessness that she’s feeling.

“I can’t really tell you,” he told her yesterday.

And he’s right. It’s a strange question. He doesn’t exactly know what to feel about leaving nor does he know how to feel about what’s ahead. Sure, he knows what he’s leaving behind — his longtime friends; the streets of Park Slope; the music clubs of Williamsburg and Bushwick; Prospect Park; Donuts, his favorite coffee shop on Seventh Avenue; his parents and his sister.

But he doesn’t know what’s going to take their place. It’s a blank sheet of paper and he hasn’t started doodling yet …

Last night, Smartmom and Teen Spirit took a walk to the video store to pick out some horror movies to watch with OSFO.

“Are you OK about leaving Brooklyn?” Smartmom asked him.

“I think I’ll be all right,” he said.

Smartmom felt a mix of things. Happy that her boy was moving on, sad that her boy was moving on.

Happy/sad: that’s the word for it.

And that’s why Smartmom isn’t sleeping.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”

As Teen Spirit moves on, so will our own Louise Crawford, though she will always remain part of The Brooklyn Paper family. Stay tuned for her official farewell column.

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Reader Feedback

Not Goish from Prospect Heights says:
Did we really have to hear about the tuition? Typical.
Aug. 24, 2010, 9:09 am
Rob from Greenpoint says:
Please! End it already.
Aug. 24, 2010, 10:25 am
WilliamRTaylorMD from "Out of district" says:
Wise advice! This post highlights the vital role of supportive parents or other adults in helping kids grow up.
Families and school staff concerned about a student with such problems can turn to this link from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry listing free helpful pamphlets for most common emotional conditions affecting youth and families: http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/facts_for_families
These pamphlets are available in English, Español, Malaysian, Polish, Icelandic, Arabic, Urdu and Hebrew. (Links are on the aacap site listed above.)
Another source of insight is the Stressed Family, Strong Family website,
at this link: http://americanconfusion.com
where you will find many ideas from the e-book,
Stressed Family, Strong Family.
You can learn to find and support what's right with a youth or family.
Aug. 24, 2010, 2:41 pm
collge parent from way too near Louise says:
You are not sleeping cause you doubt your worth as a parent or maybe because your conscious is finally catching up to you for writing this column.
Aug. 24, 2010, 3:36 pm
Regular Guy from South Brooklyn says:
Just think ... the kid is finally getting away from his [s]-mother and her silly writings! But the trust fund will pay the bills, and the tuition ... and for the Macbook ... and the bong hits ... no worries, here!
Aug. 24, 2010, 3:39 pm
KT from PHts says:
I feel your pain, Smartmom, my boy (also my oldest) fled the nest for his dorm room last week. Don't let the snide comments above ruffle your feathers! It's perfectly natural to worry and wonder how your kid will do on his own. Both our boys are very independent and this will be a great oppty for him to become an adult. But that doesn't mean it won't cause some sleepless nights!
Aug. 24, 2010, 7:28 pm
Stacey from Downtown says:
You guys are very green with envy. Should talk about others financials. Worry about your own. And it's healthy to worry about your child. You love them don't you?
Aug. 24, 2010, 8:21 pm
James from Cobble Hill says:
Another self-absorbed wankfest of an article which seems to have nothing to do with the activity of actual parenting, and all about the writer's own emotional needs while superimposing her own life on to that of her children. It's very disappointing to know that there is a "mega column" on the way if this is indicative of the type output that readers can expect.
Aug. 25, 2010, 1:05 am
Janet from Brownstone Brooklyn says:
Jeez smartmom, you gotta love your haters. With all the separation anxiety they are having about you leaving, they are coming out in droves. Who are they going to be able to feel superior to when you're gone?
Aug. 26, 2010, 2:38 am
Brooklyn's Best from Bensonhurst says:
What a waste of time, newsprint, ink and the internets.
Maybe Gersh can host a creative writing contest, as some recidivist at John Jay HS could probably write a better column on parenting, as that teen probably has a kid or two!
Aug. 26, 2010, 12:42 pm
A mom from Bay Ridge says:
I really don't understand all of the snarky comments…I love Smartmom! If you people hate it so much, why do you read it?
Sept. 14, 2010, 2:21 pm

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