It seemed like just yesterday we dropped Tanner off for his freshman year at SDSU (read about that here.) The year flew. Before we knew it, he was baaaaaack!
Or at least I thought it was Tanner. On second thought, I was convinced someone took my sweet thespian son, and sent a frat boy with an insatiable appetite home in his place. In hindsight, there were some definite red flags, for instance, when Tanner asked for Sperry’s for Christmas…
….or started posting pics like this to his Instagram.
Still, during those first few days after he arrived home Jimmy and I were constantly looking at each other wondering, “Who is this kid?”
From the get go, Tanner monopolized my kitchen. He broiled chicken breasts slicked in coconut oil and sprinkled with Mrs. Dash’s from morning ’til night. His rice cooker was constantly burbling too, its rattling lid announcing a new batch every hour on the hour like some bizarre Japanese cuckoo clock. I watched in horror as Tanner gorged himself on a pound of chicken and a huge KT-22 mountain-sized bowl of steamed rice four times a day. Pretty soon we started calling him Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies.
I was constantly nagging him to wipe the rice clumps off my counter and eat more slowly.
Tanner had also become a gym rat, pumping iron religiously, sometimes twice a day. At home he constantly flexed in the mirror, and said things like, ” ‘Miring’ these swole gains, mom? All natty, baby.”
For the life of me I had no clue as to what he was saying. Could the Berlitz language school help me speak Meathead, I wondered? Luckily, he translated: “Are you admiring my big, swollen muscles, mother? I do not shoot ‘roids into my ass to achieve these results. They are all natural.”
Another thing: Tanner didn’t want to surf anymore. He hammered us to let him throw “dagers“—day ragers—and actually thought his summer “job” was to achieve Hulk-like veins. “What?” I asked. “Do you actually think those grotesque bodybuilders look good?”
But one day the Creatine powder hit the fan. We were perusing our absentee ballots when Tanner announced he was voting for Trump. I was mortified. Anyone who knows me knows I was raised by Weezie in the most liberal, Jimmy-Carter -lovin’ Tait Avenue cottage this side of the Mississippi.
I thought about all the times we’d volunteered at the family shelter when the boys were little so they could learn compassion. All those Project Cornerstone anti-bullying lessons I presented in their classrooms. And how, on the morning of the ’04 election, Tanner, Sax and I taped homemade “Circle-Slash W” signs on our bike helmets and rode to the polls. Hadn’t my liberal views seeped in via osmosis?
“You are NOT seriously voting for Trump, are you?” I asked.
“Yep,” he said. Then, he started gleefully chanting, “Build the wall! Build the wall! Build the wall!”
That was the last straw. For months I had pined for Tanner to come home. Now, I couldn’t wait for him to leave.
I was sick of him checking himself in the mirror. I was sick of my house smelling like freakin’ Chick-Fil-A. I was sick of steamed rice sticking to the bottoms of my bare feet.
But when I dug deep, I realized I was mostly sad. I missed my son. My surf buddy, that sensitive, guitar strumming, John Mayer singing kid who performed in musicals and was voted “Most Likely to be in a Boy Band.” I missed that guy. I had nothing in common with this gainzy frat bro.
I felt better when I talked to other moms who were experiencing the same let down. My friend, Amy, who is the sweetest, crunchiest pacifist mama on the planet, survived her son joining the army. Instead of being crushed, she embraced his decision whole heartedly. She was astute enough to realize he felt his life lacked structure and that’s what attracted him to the military. She also reminded me that she and I used to be taneroxics when we were at SDSU, tanning by the pool, bodies slathered in Blue Bonnet margarine. “That was our thing. This is Tanner’s thing,” Amy said. And she was right.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized when our children are in the new universe of college, they are trying on different personas that may be different from the way they were before. If I was going to have a good relationship with Tanner, I needed to accept him for who he was.
It wasn’t easy at first. But I’ve made a concerted effort to stop nagging him when he shovels in the food. Instead, I inject humor. “I read that we should savor our food by chewing each bite for 20 seconds. Let’s try it.” And we both crack up. Or I’ll send him a funny text from the grocery store…
I also try to find common ground. “Hey, I just read in Us that Carrie Underwood curls 20 pounds. I’m wimping out at 12 lbs. Maybe my end of summer goal could be to curl 20. Can you help me get some gainz?”
“I’m down,” Tanner said.
Summer is still young, but these days our household is reunited and it feels so good.
When it comes to politics though, Jethro and I have agreed to disagree.
**Thanks, Tan, for always being a good sport & my muse.**