I exhale a low “fuuuuuuuck” under my breath.

“You’re being so Momish right now,” my 15 year old proclaims while I hug him with some next level maternal ferocity, trying to impart any street smarts I ever possessed into his teenage system through osmosis.

I dash my tears away like a softball player who blew the game winning run and move into quizzing him about what he’s packed. He answers me, speaking slowly highlighting his impatience with my last minute mom-ing. He throws pleading looks over my shoulder at his dad. I ignore them.

See, he’s flying out this afternoon for a week. It’s the longest, farthest solo excursion of his life. And by “solo”, I mean it’s a school related event so there are chaperones and other kids and plenty of company but not a single blood relative. I feel like my heart exited my chest and is now lined up waiting to board a Southwest flight to Louisville wearing denim and a hoodie that are far too hot for the weather he’s about to encounter.

My current beef with this situation is that these feelings I’m having aren’t openly discussed when society is insisting that you procreate. Which started way back in the dark ages of high school when I took a class called Family Life Education or FLE. It was to prepare you for adulting. Most of my friends took it. You learned how to cook basic stuff and budget and eventually we got to the unit where you “married” one of your classmates and had a “baby”. I think there might have been sewing involved but I’m not certain and it’s not relevant to this discussion. I just throw that out because sewing is such a cool thing.

Anyway, my issue concerns the “baby” curriculum. It’s a pretty common lesson now, I mean, my daughter’s middle school did it a few weeks ago in their health class for extra credit, but at the time it was fresh. In case you don’t remember, it goes something like: the teacher assigns you a sack of flour or an egg or something similar and you carry it around for a week and make sure it doesn’t bust open or break or otherwise damage your “baby”. My friends and I chose to carry around Cabbage Patch Kids (side note: mine was actually a Cabbage Patch Preemie and later in life my niece arrived very early for her birth date and was a true preemie and after that I was like “WTF Cabbage Patch? That’s a seriously messed up toy”. But, I digress) for the duration. What? It was the 80s.

So, we’ve all agreed with this idea that having the kids carry around a fragile item and be responsible for it will somehow make them say “you know, I shouldn’t have unprotected sex because this is a lot of work and I don’t think it’s how I want to spend my time”. And maybe that happens for some people but I can assure you that none of my high school friends decided to forgo any kind of sex based on that lesson. In fact, the increased attention paid to those of us dragging our “kids” around and incessantly taking pictures (with FILM) of them might have made it seem a little glamorous. See, the young uns didn’t invent taking too many pictures; we just had to get them developed. In short, I don’t think the flour bag is a particularly effective lesson.

Here’s what I think is missing – a class that educates you about the tremendous personal investment you will be making in another human being and how, after all the years of intense physical, emotional and mental commitment to your human’s health and wellbeing, they will leave you. If you do your job right, they will leave you. Just sit with that for a moment. If your kids are small, or you’re in the middle of some shitty teen years you’re saying, “fuck yeah, they leave, that’s what I’m counting on”. I’m betting you won’t feel quite so cocky when your time comes.

Right now, as my son starts his launch with driving and this trip and having bigger parts of his life not include me in a front row seat, I’m thinking this is the biggest fucking cosmic joke ever. Because, for real, he’s this guy who was created by me and the only guy on earth I’ve found that I could stand to share a bathroom with long term, and he looks like us and he has our sense of humor and he’s smart and funny and articulate. Most of the time I find him delightful. I’d be a big fat liar if I said I always did. I mean, who do you like all the time? Nobody, that’s who.

So, I’m thinking that you raise this person up, to share your values and be someone you consider a good person and to want to eat at the same restaurants you like. And then they will move on to create their own life and, quite possibly, have their own kids that you will get deeply emotionally invested in and who will eventually leave all of you to continue to cycle.

And you can give me all the circle of life shit you want – I get it. But where is the class that let’s you in on the secret that, at some point, your heart will leave your chest and will be hanging out at the Louisville Waffle House while you’re home wondering if you adequately prepared him for how to change planes at O’Hare. Because that’s happening to me. Today.

People made parenthood sound like the Army – “the toughest job you’ll ever love” – and that sounded doable. I’m a bootstrap kind of gal. The slogan “They’ll Fill You With Joy and Terror” probably isn’t quite as catchy but pretty accurate.

So, yeah, that’s where I’m at today. Proud. So, so proud of the man my son is already and where he’s headed. And terrified.

And ready to hit up the school board because this parenting gig does not equate to lugging a sack of flour on the bleachers during basketball practice.