My daughter just finished her first year in college. A terrific year for her and, I’m happy to say, not a fiscally draining one for me. I sure hope the next “three” years go this way (the quotes are there because few graduates get through the Bachelor’s degree in 4 years). She is supported, as a Tennessee resident attending a public college, by the “Hope Scholarship” (funds generated by lottery revenue) and by her own performing arts scholarship, so she covers most of her costs on her own, though said costs are certainly supplemented by me. This is a support I give not always unwincingly but never begrudgingly, remembering as I do the paucity of my own college finances, which spanned a ridiculous number of years. I am happy for the financial relief overall, but mostly I am happy that she is learning the benefit of being self-sufficient which, for her and many other women—many of whom are mothers and others who are not—includes the support of the state or, in a more abstract sense, “the state.” Of course even if the years leading to her degree continue in this same vein, this is no indication in today’s economy (I hate using the “e” word, sounds so foul anymore) of future self-sufficiency for her and her college grad peers.
And this brings me back to my topic, a most time-honored and respectable one: Me. I ought be celebrating my supplements to her finances a bit more eagerly than I do, I fear. At least for now she is living on-campus, between bouts of roommate, dating, or sleep deprivation trauma anyway. And one less person in the house no matter who it is—her, me, my partner, my son—is easier. Subtract any one of us and the number of relationships and complexities that must be managed decreases exponentially; everyone in my house will attest to this certainty, perhaps especially when I’m the subtracted element. And at least she is child-free, so far anyway, and that means that she is able to put much energy into herself and stretch her finances and passions and waking hours within, rather than beyond, their breaking point. And at least we are both immanently hopeful about her future, save for times when my partner reads aloud the latest dismal predictions by the New York Times anyway. And that means we can project long, hope big, and think broad (please forgive those adjectives where there should be adverbs; poetic license and all that).
But this may be a temporary thing. I am reminded of this truth rather frequently, at least weekly in fact, in my partner’s endearing read-alouds: “for recent generations, long road to adulthood,” and “more people in their 20s are also living with their parents” were last Sunday’s happy announcements. He shares these delectables with a smirk but I can see the terror in his eyes as he thinks about his own sons, 27 and 28 and college graduates both, moving into our basement room. And that of course may be the best case scenario for us financially—they may have partners and children of their own, and when they flip for who gets the bed and who gets the couches down there, they’ll have to figure out how to make a coin have three sides, since my daughter might well call dibs on sleeping space herself; by then her younger brother may have claimed her room, relinquishing his own to my mother, but that’s the subject of another blog. I have enjoyed my own financial self-sufficiency for only a precious few years so far (remember my ridiculous number of years in college) and man-o-man does it ever not suck and wow am I ever loathe for that to shift. But this may well be the reality I am facing so I think the next time I write a check for my daughter, I’ll take a picture of myself holding it up and smiling, rejoicing. So that when I look back on these as the good old days, I’ll know I enjoyed them while they lasted.