Grendel’s Mother

Here’s another old blog from 2012 about my daughter.

An illustration by Stephen Gammell from one of my favorite kids’ books, Monster Mama, by Liz Rozenberg

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter was all set to go to university in the Big City. She’d made the decision, we’d met with the appropriate Official People, toured a dorm/cafeteria/classroom, discussed Everything Under the Sun, filled out all the paperwork, and made her Officially Official. She even bought herself a Big City sweatshirt.

Then she received a piece of mail that had been misdirected, lost in the We Moved shuffle. This piece of mail said “We are a much BETTER university! You’ve been accepted here! We want YOU”. What girl can resist such an invitation?

Shy, a little ashamed, my daughter approached my husband, who is known as the more gentle of the parents (hack! cough! choke!) and said “Um, Dad? Yeah, um, I think I should maybe go take a look at the Much Better University. Would you please tell Mom for me?”

And my husband, the brave, strong man that he is, tiptoed into our bedroom, where I was supping on the bones of my enemies and washing it down with the blood of anyone who had ever looked at me cross-eyed. Being careful not to look me directly in the eye, he whispered the magic words “Honey….don’t get angry…”

As anyone who’s ever been married knows, this is the exact phrase you should utter if you want to avoid antagonizing the easily enraged.

Gently, gingerly, my husband outlined the situation. He pointed out the wisdom of my daughter’s request. He indicated the calendar, on which even I could plainly see that our window of opportunity was diminishing. In my haze of fury, I don’t quite remember my immediate response, but eventually, after cleaning up all the broken furniture, we decided to visit Much Better University right away.

When she had applied to Much Better, I was unconvinced of the safety of a school precariously positioned on the ridge over a river. I was sure another flood would come and wash away my girl in her not-at-all-buoyant power chair, and that would be that. I actually had a nightmare about it, and took the remembered fear to our visit.

What we discovered upon arrival was a very reasonable, open environment that my daughter can easily navigate completely on her own. There are some aspects to the physical environment of Much Better that were really and truly MUCH BETTER than Big City. I found that there was a knot in my stomach comprised of Big City problems. That knot slowly loosened as we learned more about Much Better. We met with the appropriate Much Better Official People, toured a dorm/cafeteria/classroom, discussed Everything Under the Sun, filled out some of the paperwork, and made her Officially Almost Official.

On the drive home, the decision was made. My daughter would withdraw her intent to attend Big City and forward her intent to attend Much Better. That night I slept like a baby for the first time in weeks. I even cleared away some of the carcasses of my enemies so my husband could sleep next to me.

Sometimes, letting your child change her mind at the last minute is absolutely the wrong thing to do, like when  my daughter wanted to use some of her school money to buy herself a new laptop to “check it out”. She already has a 6 month old tablet that works perfectly fine. In that instance, I prevented her from changing her mind. In this instance, however, looking at Much Better University resulted in the best possible decision. She’ll have the chance for a *good* education–not just *okay*–and she’ll be in an environment that she can manage on her own. Unless she’s got a broken bone, I don’t think she’ll need an aide to get through her day.

But most importantly, my daughter is finally excited about going to university. I hadn’t noticed before, and had attributed her hesitancy to overall fear of leaving home, but she wasn’t thrilled at the idea of going to Big City. She was resigned, I see in retrospect, accepting her fate. But now, with Much Better in her sights, she has changed; she’s jabbering about class schedules and buying books, coordinating her bedspread with her roommate’s, deciding on which coffee to buy for her Keurig (it really IS adapted equipment for her, believe it or not) and generally bouncing through the rest of her summer days.

I don’t know that she’ll be perfectly safe at Much Better. I don’t know that Big City would have been a bad place for her. There’s no way to know that. But from where we sit right now, it looks like she has selected the best of the options available.

And I’m perfectly okay with that.

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