Mum’s the word for the typical college-aged son.

To a writer, words are everything. To a mother, children are everything. Words communicated from college-aged sons to their mothers are closer to nothing. 

Sons are different from daughters. I know, that whole “Venus and Mars” thing … I get it. Daughters talk about everything; sons say only what’s needed. Understood. 

Still, a mother needs to be in touch—it’s programmed into our DNA. I’ll send my oldest son a text. “Hi, how are you? R u eating, sleeping, attending classes? Meet any nice girls?”

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No response. Why doesn’t he answer? Is he alive? It doesn’t take much effort to text me back. 

After all, wasn’t it me who endured nauseous mornings, weight gain, stretched skin and squished organs to make a home for his growing body? Will it render me a return call or a text? 

Doubt it. 

Granted, most of the time, both of my sons will answer back within 24 hours to prevent me from calling the police. Sometimes, I’ll get a call if there’s an issue. That’s the worst. I see his name appear, and I don’t know if I should be elated or petrified. 

My first words: “WHAT’S WRONG?” 

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His reply: “Where are you?” 

I know something isn’t quite right. I am, however, somewhat relieved because he’s talking. With a heavy sigh, he explains that his tire was slashed and he needs money. No real emergency. I can breathe again.

Then there’s this bizarre request from my second son. 

“I need a kilt!” 

“lol … u mean quilt?” 

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“NO Mom, I mean kilt.” 

“What the heck do you need a kilt for? … Did you join a Scottish bagpipe club?” 

It was a fraternity requirement, and it cost me some cash. See the pattern? 

I belong to a makeshift sorority we call the Band of Mothers. We gather for lunch, dinner or cocktails, with our phones always prominently displayed. The table vibrates, and a mother reads a son’s request with a contorted look all of us know too well. He needs money for a shirt to attend a party where guys wear a dress shirt, socks, underwear and no pants. Laughter bellows from a mother with daughters. We glare at her in disgust. 

Then, out of nowhere, one of those kids of mine will offer a loving look or a smile just for me. And I realize that words aren’t everything. But my sons are.


JoAnne Cannon has a son at Saint Joseph’s University and another at the University of Delaware. Chances are, she’s still waiting on texts from both.

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