Click click. The gate closes behind me and my eyes do a quick scan ahead of me. The floor is sticky. The decorative pillows are all over the floor. I think I smell urine. What happened in here? A house party? Moments of the day flash before me as I’m piecing together the sequences of events like a scene from The Hangover. No, that’s right, it’s just my home of 4 children, 2 dogs & 2 busy parents.
I am a college graduate (woohoo!). My parents assured me that attending college and earning a degree would better prepare me for life. They weren’t kidding. I’ve witnessed mayhem like this before. Numerous times.
When my son was two, I made the comment that hanging out with a toddler was like hanging out with a very drunk person. The mood swings, the clumsiness, the random nakedness and the loud public scenes…
It came on the heels of another eventful mealtime. My toddler looked up from his dinner, suddenly enraged, and threw a handful of noodles across the room. He immediately started crying hysterically, threw himself on the floor, attacked anyone who came near, sobbing all the while… moments later, sauce all over his hands, he appeared meekly at my feet, “I love you, I need you, Hold me Mommy.” I knew just what to do. I’ve seen this scene before. Granted it was coming from a 21-year-old friend in a backless tank and eyeliner smudged across her cheeks. Regardless, I’ve been here. I knew better than to talk about the crazy while still aboard the crazy train. We just needed to give it a moment. Now, in college I would’ve driven the assailant through a Taco Bell and then put her to bed, but this one might just need a blanket and a sippy of milk.
One of the rites of passage in college is the loss of personal space. Suddenly you have to get on board with living intimately with people – sometimes strange people – and they don’t usually do things the way you think they should be done. I learned that it did not make me feel better knowing WHO slept in my bed while I was away on break. So now, when I come home after having had a babysitter (or worse, my husband in charge), I’ve learned to not even ask “Why is the dog’s hair all matted together?”, “Who ate an entire tub of sour cream?”, “Why is the fireplace mantle the new home to dirty diapers?” Trust me, clean up the mess and wipe it from your memory. Life will just be better if you don’t hold on.
So we’ve covered drunken behavior and home obliteration as college preparation perks. I’ve found that some dues I paid a long time ago are actually paying me back: We all had that friend, the one with the same problem, year after year; we talked about the same crummy boyfriend. We rehashed the same problem. The conversation had an impossibly predictable script. To be a good friend I learned I didn’t actually have to be engaged in this conversation. She just needed a sounding board. Nothing I said would’ve altered the outcome or even registered with her, so I just agreed and listened. Endlessly.
I pulled this listening skill right back out of the hat when my daughter was four. You want to talk about an endless conversation? Take a car ride with a four-year-old girl. As a toddler it began with merciless questioning, wanting to know the who’s, why’s and what’s of all things, everywhere. Which obviously required my best shot at answers and explanations. Now, at almost nine years old, I don’t really even have to reply. She has enough material for both sides of the conversation! Within 30 minutes of my daughter returning from school, I know what her day entailed, what all her classmates ate for lunch, and any news that has developed on the “who likes who” front. All that over an after-school snack and I never even warmed up a vocal chord! Don’t get me wrong: I love that she wants to talk to me. I’m just amazed that it no longer requires anything from me beyond my well-polished, intent listening skills.
Yes, college has prepared me for life. I agree with that statement, although likely not in the way my parents had imagined. My resume would cover not just my level-headedness in the face of chaos and my listening skills, but would also include my strengths in multi-tasking, business, and scheduling:
I can cook a full breakfast while navigating a destroyed kitchen and avoid tripping over the little bodies passed out on the kitchen floor. Half asleep. While listening to a 30-minute story about 3rd grade crushes and adding the last bit of glue to a science project. Making sure the eggs never come in contact with the waffles on a two-year-old’s plate.
I can successfully negotiate the terms of a grocery store trip far better than the world’s most successful businessperson. Donald Trump would hire me in a heartbeat if he heard the deal I just put together while strapping my kids in the grocery cart.
I am a scheduling genius. A time management whiz. I can successfully schedule sporting events, birthday parties, grocery trips and anything else under the sun all around nap times, bewitching hours, traffic, play dates, and full moons.
I’d like to thank my mom and dad for insisting I go to college and have the “college experience”. I’d like to thank Arizona State for providing the classes and textbook education. Mostly, I’d like to thank my over-emotional, drunken, irrational, unpredictable, exceptionally hungry, sometimes naked, can’t-ever-find-their-other-shoe roommates, friends and classmates. Each of you prepared me for the most important job I’ll ever hold.
-Kelly Coleman, Class of MOM
Photo Credit: mayhem opportunities displayed here were all provided by Kelly’s and Amy’s children