It’s Smartmom minus one as Teen Spirit leaves the nest

It’s a time of reflection for Smartmom. Teen Spirit was accepted at a college for next fall and the days are ticking by — each day one day closer to the day in late August when he leave for school in Chicago.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

Needless to say, Smartmom has mixed feelings. Of course she is ecstatic that Teen Spirit, after his year at Gap Year University, has decided that he wants to go to college.

And she’s SO excited that he’s going to college in the city of Obama, the blues, architecture, cold winters, the Art Institute …

Yikes. He’s going to college in Chicago!

That’s far away, and he won’t be visiting on weekends or dropping in for dinner every now and again like those kids going to Sarah Lawrence, Hunter or those colleges that are just a short train ride away.

Smartmom wonders how the apartment will feel with one less child. Sure, it’ll be quiet without the constant strumming of Teen Spirit’s acoustic guitar, the inspired songwriting at 10 pm and the parade of friends stopping by.

But she’s going to miss all of the above as much as she is going to miss her spontaneous conversations with Teen Spirit about what he’s reading, listening to and thinking about.

What will life be like without Teen Spirit’s daily broadcasts of his take on the world?

Ah, yes it is a reflective time in the Smartmom household. And everyone is feeling it.

The Oh So Feisty One has already claimed Teen Spirit’s bedroom. Last week, when Teen Spirit went on a brief trip to Maine, she slept in his room, testing it out. The room isn’t any bigger than her own room, in fact, it’s a tad smaller. But she wants it. Bad.

Maybe she loves his fire escape, the tree right outside his window, the view of brownstone back yards.

More likely, it’s her way of holding on to her brother. Recently, she texted him: “I can’t believe you’re leaving me all alone here.”

Smartmom knows because Teen Spirit told her. She thinks he’s proud that his sister has made it clear that she is going to miss him.

Smartmom got downright emotional about the situation the other day. It didn’t seem right that the 18 years of his childhood were over and done with. In a quick time lapse of images, she saw all the diapers changed, the baby tears cried, the tantrums soothed, the fevers, the stomachaches, the injuries, the night fears, Band-Aids and boo boos.

She saw all the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made for lunch, the “Your friend the fish” cartoons Hepcat used to enclose in his lunches; the slices of pizza from Pinos, the mac and cheese and brown bottles of his beloved Boylan’s root beer.

In a flash, she saw a parade of the teachers he had at school, including Ian, the adorable second-grade teacher from Alaska; Mr. Smith, his fabulous 10th-grade biology teacher; Roy Nathanson, his inspiring music teacher at ICE.

She revisited the years of homework, quizzes and tests. The vicious “do your homework” fights, the struggle to wake him in the morning (“I’m getting the ice,” Hepcat would say). The daily pleas for “five more minutes.”

Smartmom saw a montage of Teen Spirit’s great friends, the birthday parties and cakes from the Cupcake Café, the sleepovers, Park Explorers Day Camp, the Third Street Playground, where the playground equipment once seemed so BIG.

She remembered “The Ocean Alphabet Book” that Teen Spirit knew by heart at 2 (A is for angelfish, B is for bluefish, C is for cuttlefish, D is for dogfish), “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,” Harry Potter and more Harry Potter, Lemony Snickett and “The Phantom Tollbooth.”

And the music, the bands, the tween and teen shows at Liberty Heights Tap Room, Perch, Cake Shop, Silent Barn, Shea Stadium, Vox Pop.


Smartmom knew she was getting carried away. This wasn’t the end of her life with Teen Spirit. It was the beginning of a new stage. There relationship would continue, but in a new way.

At the moment, she doesn’t know what the future holds. So that’s why she was hanging on so tenaciously to the past.

But in due time, it will be revealed. The next chapter in the life they’ve shared.

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