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July 20, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Barbara Wood's Dispatches from the Home Front: Two down; one to go Barbara Wood's Dispatches from the Home Front: Two down; one to go (July 20, 2005)

It's almost 13 years since I wrote a column about my son, Riley, starting kindergarten, and how I cried after leaving him at school the first day when I thought about how a girl would probably take him from me some day.

Apparently I'm not as worried about that as I used to be, because I sat through Riley's June graduation from Woodside High School with dry eyes. Actually, I whooped with joy.

It's not that I don't love him with a fierce motherly love that would send me hurtling between him and a speeding car if I thought it might hurt him. But I'm ready for him to leave the nest. He'll be in the dorms (nowadays called residence halls) studying computer science at San Francisco State. Close enough to bring dirty laundry home on weekends but far enough away not to show up for dinner most nights.

Two of his very best friends will be in the residence hall with him, and his sisters won't be there to push him around any more, so he should be very happy, even if the refrigerator won't be quite as well-stocked as he's used to.

Since my older daughter is also in college now, come fall I'll have only three people to cook, clean, shop and wash for. My youngest daughter has already asked if she can trade rooms with Riley after he leaves because his room has the desirable characteristic of being as far away from our bedroom as you can get and remain inside the house.

I've done my best to prepare Riley for the "real world" by pointing out things such as the fact that many people are grossed out if you wear the same clothes every day without washing them, and gently reminding him that he will not have a mother there to wake him up in time to get to class, even if he doesn't have any classes before 10 am.

Some things still need work. He doesn't yet have a checking account, credit card or ATM card, probably because money still doesn't mean much to him. He will need some way to buy his books.

I'll also have to be sure he remembers about sorting laundry into lights and darks, just in case he runs out of clean T-shirts between trips home.

It may be easier for me to let Riley go because I've already been through it once. Caitlin finished her first year at San Diego State in May, and I'm quite ready for her to go back again and give me back the half of the refrigerator she's taken over.

One thing I did learn, after rising at 5 a.m. and driving eight hours to San Diego with my husband and younger daughter to surprise Caitlin on her birthday: announce all visits in advance. Caitlin's response to our appearance in the lobby of her residence hall was tears. "If I had wanted to see you I would have gone home," she sobbed.

She did get over it after dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and a really nice present.

Oh, and if a girl ever shows up who shows interest in taking Riley off my hands, I imagine I'll be quite encouraging.
Barbara Wood lives in Woodside in an old house filled with redheads and animals. Her column runs the third week of the month.


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