Friday, September 16, 2011

It’s Not Stalking. It’s Relationship Reconnaissance.

Remember when you were young (I’ll give you a minute…. Got  it? Ok.) So, anyway, remember when you were young and you first discovered you were becoming attracted to someone?  Not actually dating them yet, just discovering that you were getting the makings of a wicked good crush. Remember that stealthy way you started getting to know them better, without actually making contact? Watching them from afar, until they glanced in your direction, then quickly looking away; pretending you were actually deep in thought studying that tree/ bathroom door/ flyer for the math club/ bare wall etc. Remember changing the way you walked to class so your paths’ would “accidently” cross, even though you didn’t have class in that building? (That school.) The casual way you would “wander” by them at nutrition, lunch, the bus stop (…their house at 1am in a headlight free car with your best friend? No? Just me then?) If you were really brave, and had the right kind of friends, you could find yourself bumping into your new obsession in the mall, the movies or the local hang out afterschool or on the weekends.
However you chose to do it, you probably spent some time in your youth aim-fully wandering around somewhere, hoping for a chance encounter where you would do absolutely nothing, except pretend that the encounter was chance, if you even acknowledged it in the first place. Casually appearing on the radar. Notice ME! Remember me! Think about me just before you fall asleep at night! PLEASE!
                Until recently I was unaware how much having adult children is like being back in the pubescent world of stealthy pursuit. My two oldest moved out a month or so ago. My excitement for their adventure has not waned. I'm not pining for them. I'm not wandering my empty halls at night, holding discarded pillowcases or items of clothing, in order to reconnect with their particular smell. I know that description sounds a little too on target for someone not actually performing these actions,  but I swear I haven't gotten there yet. (Yet.)           
              Mostly I don’t do this because I have two other wonderful children still at home, so the emptiness echoes less. Also, because in their desperate escape they left no stone unturned. (At least no stone I’d like to wander around sniffing.) Still, I've been able to avoid intruding on their new found freedom, mostly. I've managed to limit the Skype sessions, (one apiece in a month) and the phone calls, to “necessities.” I sent a few cute post cards, to keep in touch but not annoy. I’ve been doing great. I don’t know what everyone was so worried about. This is not that hard. I hardly even notice they're gone. On the other hand I feel I have a great advantage over my predecessor generation. The internet.
Thanks to this wonderful modern invention I find myself on Facebook a little more frequently (if you can imagine that possibility.) Each time I go online, I nonchalantly glance at the list which indicates “who’s online now” just to see if they’re there, you know, in case of a chance encounter. I wouldn’t say I check it frequently, so much as more frequently than before.  I casually look over the status updates to see if they posted anything about their day, their classes, their job hunts--scanning for new photos, added friends, their high score in Bejeweled; pretty much any crumb which creates a connection to them.  
I've had to be stealthy though. I don’t want to smother them or be accused of cyber stalking my child (the new ultimate sin of invasion visited upon youth.)  So there I was last week, in the middle of a response to one of my son’s Facebook statuses, when I suddenly realized it was the fourth or fifth I had made that day… ok, that hour. I was about to blow my cover and get caught. (Quick…look at a wall, duck into the first open doorway, RUN!) I went back over his page deleting my comments; carefully editing myself back out of his day, leaving a couple of noncommittal comments and smiley faces. Just enough to remind him I’m here. Still here. Just, you know, hangin' out and stuff. (Psst. Notice me.) God! I so thought this part of life was long over!
            For now I’ll have to settle for reminding myself, that it’s enough just to see them from afar. Love them secretly from here-- hiding out in the Facebook bushes, where I am carefully planning my next coincidental collision in the cyber corridor. It’s not stalking. It’s relationship reconnaissance. Totally different!


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