I picked my 19-year-old son up from college recently, only to discover that my sweet, clean-shaven boy had grown a big, bushy beard. “Who are you, the Unabomber?” I asked when he got into the car.
I’m exaggerating a little, I suppose, but I kid you not when I say his beard was growing halfway down his neck. “Why didn’t you trim it up?” I asked. “Girls don’t like neck hair.” (I thought that might make him rethink his non-beard-grooming policy, noting also that he hadn’t had a haircut in the two months since he’d been home.)
“I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t have a trimmer. I was waiting for (insert name of the barber from the shop back at home) to do it.” Then he added, “And for you to pay for it.” I think, personally, the wild, untamed look is a reflection of how he’s been living the past few months–sort of like John the Baptist going into the desert, wearing his haircloth and all. Living on bugs, (i.e., college food), roughing it. Enduring the hard classes, the stress, the ups and downs of dorm life.
The transition to college isn’t an easy one, is it? He’s in a difficult program. He’s made friends and gotten stellar grades. He’s managed to keep his clothes clean and get along with his roomie. He even got a job on campus. So I suppose I shouldn’t complain if he hasn’t found a place to get his hair cut yet.
Then I got to thinking, maybe he’s become too independent. Maybe he doesn’t even need home anymore. Maybe he doesn’t need me. After all, he’s nineteen now. A man. And he sure looks like one.
As soon as we got home, he unloaded his giant basket of dirty laundry. “I saved my laundry for you,” he said. He laughed, aware of the many lectures I’ve given him over the years to ensure he won’t grow up a misogynist, but rather a contributing partner in an egalitarian relationship. Believe me, I’ve given many, many soliloquies on the benefits of doing your own laundry.
“Oh, goody. How did you know I was holding my breath waiting for that?” I said sarcastically. Then he gave me a big hug. “It’s great to be home, Mom.”
That made my heart melt. It’s great to have him. Shaved or unshaved. And you know what? I probably will cave and do that laundry. Because he’s not quite all grown up yet.