Steve’s Going to College

Teno Luigi

It’s Friday night and I’m in bed with two dudes again. Tony is snoring already, and Teno seems content to stay awake a while longer, sticking his fingers up my nose and giggling. Every few minutes he insists that there’s a monster and we hide under the blankets until we’re safe again. It’s only 8pm but I’m getting tired. The fact that I’ve had both pillows hijacked and someone’s kicking me in the back motivates me to get out of bed.

Once they’re both knocked out it’s tempting to go sleep in Teno’s Thomas the Train bed. I know we’ll be up at 6am watching Tom and Jerry and eating Cocoa Pebbles in bed even though it sends Tony into a dust-busting frenzy. But Tony’s out of bed now, saying he wants to make out before the little Führer realizes we’re not in the room with him. I remind him of my rule – no talking about Teno for at least 30 minutes afterwards. It makes me feel gross. And the kind of thing your parents did, but that you always told yourself they never did goes down in a kind of disturbingly close vicinity to a plastic, train-shaped bed.

Steve’s going to collage. I know, because he’s wearing the Spitfire hat he always puts on when he goes to college. He’s looking mighty preppy in his khaki pants and long-sleeved, green-striped polo. I’m not sure his hat or his black Old Skool Vans really complete the look, but I had a hard enough time getting him to let me comb his hair today so I’m not asking any questions.

“College” is a cat-clawed green couch that my landlords left behind when they moved to Florida. And Steve is my three-year-old son, Teno. Most of the time, thankfully, he’s just Teno – a poorly behaved little kid who will only eat food off of toothpicks and who will only sleep in jeans, never pajamas. Once in a while he’s Spider-Man, wearing his skateboard helmet and jumping off our Ikea furniture. But today he’s Steve, the doofusy guy from Blue’s Clues, and he’s off to college just like real Steve was on his finale episode before the even more doofusy Joe took over. As much as I hate the Steve outfit, I am glad he’s never Joe. I don’t know where I would ever find him a purple sweater with purple squares on it.

Every time Steve goes to college it reminds me that Steve will probably really go to college. He’ll be a grown up and do what I’m doing right now, only instead of messing around with his iPhone he’ll be messing around with a way better iPhone. Or maybe our cell phone towers will have succeeded in killing off most of the bee population by then, leaving plants unfertilized and sending us into a global famine. Cell phones will have been banned and Steve will be reading a digital magazine while his kid gets Play-Doh all over the carpet, if kids still play with Play-Doh then.

But the bees will make a comeback, mostly thanks to Steve’s amazing work in insect biology. Which is good news, because on top of being a world-reknown bee scientist, Steve is also an award-winning pastry chef and his nougat was suffering from lack of honey.

Tony and I have no idea what we’re doing. I think most parents feel that way, but most of the parents we hang out with wanted to be parents in the first place. It’s not really a fair comparison. It’s like, yeah, a shark and a tiger can both swim. But the shark was built for the water. The tiger only swims when she’s forced into the water by danger or hunger – or the fear that she might be too old to swim if she tries to swim after she turns 30 and gets her shit together a little bit – or something like that. We used to do our laundry in Boystown because there were no children there. We were tigers.

Mama BearWe hadn’t even been together for a year when I became pregnant with Teno. Of course Tony told me he loved me the night we first kissed, so we had a tendency to move quickly. The day I saw the little plus sign on the pregnancy test I waited to tell him until we got home from the Spin Cycle Laundromat on Halsted because I knew if I told him earlier we’d never get our laundry done and I really needed socks.

We spent about a week thinking about what to do. On the one hand, we had a lot of plans together that would basically be put on an 18-year hiatus if we decided to keep the baby. On the other hand, our kid would be the most crucial kid ever – he’d be born with X’s on his hands. We decided the world was ready for one person who possessed the combined forces of our bad tempers and juivinile senses of humor and I proceeded to grow a Teno in my belly.

Tony had diarrhea for 9 months straight and I got so fat I couldn’t get up by myself once I sat down. I was in maternity pants about 6 weeks in and by the time Teno was born I was just under 200 lbs. I was pissed. Everything hurt, I hated my clothes and I was tired all the time. I figured it had to get better. So maybe I hated being pregnant, but once Teno was born I’d see his face and I’d get mom feelings and mom instincts and Tony would get awesome dad strength and he’d know how to fix everything in the house.

But it didn’t happen. When we took him home we weren’t happy – neither of us. I don’t think Teno particularly cared for us either. We were all tired and hungry and ill-prepared for this living arrangement. None of us slept more than an hour and a half at a time for over one year. I’ve never done drugs, so I don’t know which one I felt like I was on, but I felt like I was on something gnarly. I pushed all my friends away, argued with them about stupid stuff, told Tony he was a bad husband… I even tried to fight some girl at a Sweet Cobra show who was three times the size of me. My brain went crazy.

I always try to remember when things changed. I wish I could put my finger on it because now that more of my friends are having kids I see them going through the same stuff. Trying to argue with me about stupid shit, driving their families away, being mean to their husbands. I wish I could tell them that once their baby smiles at them the whole world is going to make sense again but I remember that day and as cute as it was, I was still tired and I was still angry.

Being back in school is my first really clear memory of not feeling sorry for myself anymore. It was also the first time I was able to admit that maybe I was such a dick all the time because I had accomplished basically nothing in 26 years. I still had to wait until Teno was in bed to do my homework, and there were plenty of times when I threatened to quit because I didn’t want to be a writer, I just wanted to watch Cheaters and sleep in. Maybe we could just go on welfare and move to a shittier neighborhood.

Sad StacheBut I was too far in student loan debt to quit, and by the time I walked across the stage to collect my diploma I didn’t doubt myself anymore. Ok, so maybe I was almost 30 when I graduated from college – but I did it with a toddler, a part-time job and in the middle of the biggest personal revelation I’ve ever experienced. Looking into the audience and seeing my husband eating nachos, my dad messing around on his phone and my mom knitting socks – I knew it was all worth it.

Three years in and we’re finally figuring this family thing out.

The older he gets, the more Teno makes sense to me. I didn’t understand never sleeping or hating car rides, but I understand monsters in the closet and making blanket forts. He won’t remember the parts where Tony and I Googled things like “why babies cry” and “6 months old never stops pooping” and he doesn’t know how afraid I was that I was completely screwing him up because I didn’t know how to be a mom. I’ll probably tell him someday, probably when he tells me I did something to screw him up.

And I’m still not really sure what I’m doing. But Steve has a plan, and I’m going to go with it.

Also published in Remnants available here:


7 Responses to “Steve’s Going to College”

  1. Sarah Carlyle Says:

    Fantastic writing. I have 3 kids now 8,4 and 2. I still am not sure what I am doing. I think the oldest one scares me most because I can vividly remember that age and its a real kid, no more little kid talk, he is BIG and will only get bigger. I am SO not ready for it.

  2. Tanya Wintch Says:

    This was an awesome post, and definitely hit close to home! I got pregnant with twins a few months before my 1 year anniversary with my now husband, and we went through all of the same things. It’s definitely been hard, but like you said, it’s making more sense every day. I am starting school next semester and have been way freaked out about it, but you are really inspiring and I know I can do it, too.

  3. Everytme I read this it makes me cry..Because it’s so great. I love you..

  4. (I don’t know you, I follow you on twitter because you’re hilarious and your cupcakes are amazing, & CM Punk is amazing… so don’t mind my creeperness.)

    I got pregnant with my daughter at 17, while I was a senior, had her a month after my 18th birthday and met my now husband when she was 9 months old. We had a son later when I was 21. Both were terrifying experiences. Today, they are my 6 (it’s her birthday) and 3 1/2. I hated pregnancy and I still think moms that love it are crazy. I lost a lot of friends because everyone was out going to school or doing other stuff straight out of high school or college while I was home with infants. I still don’t think I know what I’m doing, and most of the time I feel overwhelmed. But listening to my son tell knock knock jokes about poop and see my daughter walk around the public library dressed as Snow White with skeleton face paint, I think my kids are pretty rad and it makes it well worth it. And most of all I’m excited to tell their future boyfriends and girlfriends all the crazy things they’ve said and done at this age.

  5. Great post. I am just now getting out of the crazy phase, so the timing was apropos. Is it wrong that the thing I zeroed in on was the fact that you apparently lost a shit ton of baby weight? Because right now I am carting around an extra 65 pounds, and I need any kind of inspiration I can get.

  6. […] year I posted a short, non-fiction story I wrote called Steve’s Going to College. It was my contribution to a book of non-fiction short stories – and the only one about a mom […]

  7. I loved this so much, I’m a 22 year old single mam to an amazing 1 year old little girl called Faith, she’ll be 2 at the end of this month and I still feel like I’m screwing her up so thank you for this, strange as it sounds I feel like I’ve just gotten a hug.

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