So your kid is going to school and you want to cry because how could this little human being, who grew under your heart and inside your home, already be responsible for his own stuff, figuring out how to get to and from classes, and buying his own food and toilet paper. Dear God, how will he wake up on time without you berating him to get a move on it?!
Who will pick up the hoodies he’ll undoubtedly forget on the backs of couches at friend’s and on the picnic table while grabbing a bite to eat in mid-afternoon?
Let’s face it. By the time it’s really sweatshirt weather out there, this child will not long possess a single jacket.
But he’s off to college, and like it or not, you have to get him packed up and out the door. You hope. No, you do more than you hope. You pray. You pray hard. Please, God, let this child be okay.
That’s really all we want, isn’t it? Just let him be okay.
Okay can be a multitude of things. Physically, let him be okay. Alive, eating well, not drinking himself into a coma. Safe, traveling to and from his apartment in small groups, avoiding scary areas, hanging out with the good kids.
Okay also means emotionally. Let this child be ready to handle all the pressures of this new environment. Sure, there will be struggles, but let him have the wherewithal to figure it out and again be okay. When he’s in over his head, please let him realize it and be brave enough to ask for help, whether that be from a teacher, his parent or a friend.
Then there’s the okay that we don’t want to acknowledge. We think it, but we don’t say it out loud. Often. A still small whisper says please let him miss me. Not too much, of course. We want him to be self-sufficient, to be successful, to be okay. But we also selfishly want him to still need his momma. Just a tiny bit. I don’t want him to cry and beg me to rip him from the throws of college life. I don’t want him to come home, say college isn’t for him, and live out the remaider of his life in our basement. Trust me. As much as the kid adores video games, the only real inhibiter of this is the fact that our current home has no basement.
And, I hope, he has some motivation.
Did I teach him that? Does he know that gut-feeling that says you can do this. You have to do this! Get up and do this! Whether this be the mountain of dishes desperately in need of attention or a massive exam in biochem, did this intrinsic motivation stick?
Because that’s what it boils down to, right? What stuck? Over the eighteen brief and lengthy years, what stuck?
Will he brush his teeth everyday? Dare I say twice?
Will he scrub the toilet occasionally, or will they live in squalor, just one news camera from an episode of Hoarders?
Will he find a happy medium between discovering his newfound independence and maintaining his academic scholarships? In other words, will he spend too many nights with his head in the toilet, praying to the porcelain gods, rather than reading yet another chapter for his sociology class?
What stuck? I realize now that the little voice in my head that pushes me onward, forward, even when it is hard, is a mix of the strong women in my life. My mom, my great Aunt Betty, my great-grandmother, my other mom Grace –they are my voice, the proof that something somewhere along the way stuck and there is more for me to do.
Everyday. Even when it’s impossibly hard. Their small voices combine to push me.
Get up. Take your medicine. Curl your daughter’s hair. Tell your son your proud of him. Cry. It’s okay to cry.
I’d imagine this is a hard day for anyone “losing” a child to college, but for me, today, is agonizing. I’ve been in the hospital for a little over a week, trying to fight my way back to the land of living. My pulse dropped to 38 at one point, and I swear for just a few beautiful minutes, I had one foot squarely set in Life and the other, maybe just a toe or two, dipped in the Next. It was less pain, less fear, less work.
It was enticing. So very thick and freeing.
I fear that I could’ve quit. I’m sure my doctor would’ve done whatever it took to bring me back. But I know in my deepest recesses, there was a peace, just a breath away, and I wanted it. I could taste it in my soul, and, Lord, I craved more.
But there were voices. Love had stuck, and I had to come back to it.
Will this bring my son back too, I wonder? Did I do enough? Was I adequate? Did I do it right? Did I make it stick?
The car is loaded and he’s on his way. When I first started writing this, I was angry. I wanted to smack the wonderful mommies boo-hooing on Facebook, crying because their babies are starting Pre-K or college.
I wanted to scream suck it up, buttercup! You get to see this. You get to soak all of this up, the sadness, the pride, the happiness, the fear. You are okay, mommy. You are HERE. My friend Misty Lei, who died in a car wreck a year ago, didn’t get a single first school experience with her then four-year-old. She has and will continue to miss every open house, every home visit, report card, birthday party, prom, football game. To honor her memory, I can’t feel sad at missing just one first.
Or even four.
I missed Gracie’s first day of 5th grade. As I slept at Ruby Memorial Hospital, my family rallied to ensure that her hair was curled and the required photos were taken. She had a book bag with her binder and everything expected….except a kiss from her momma. But it was a kiss should could get later.
I missed Izzi’s open house and her home visit. Her teacher came into our house, which I hadn’t been home to clean in over a week, and talked with my sweet little girl about starting school. I missed it. I came home to find her assignment completed and her name tag laid out. But I hugged her later and told her how proud I was of her bravery in my absence.
An open house or two. First days of school. First days of Pre-K. Riley’s first day of his senior year in high school and his last first scrimmage of the season. Today, I’m missing unloading my oldest kids at college because I can’t yet leave my bed.
But you know what? It’s okay. I’m missing a few big things, but at least I am HERE. To cry about one crappy week is selfish and absurd when in reality just being allowed to feel these grievous and poignant feelings is a gift. I listened to the voices that stuck with me, and I made a choice to LIVE here in this crazy, sad, hard world. Unlike Misty Lei, I have a lifetime of firsts ahead of me, and unlike my dear friend who lost her son in a drowning accident years ago, I will get to see my kid grow and grow up.
How lucky am I? How lucky are you?? It’s tough, this whole parenting thing, but thank God we get to do it. It’s messy and sticky and just plain tough.
But I think we’re okay.
We have to believe that our oozy, drippy love stuck, mommies, mommas, and moms.
And tissues in hand, we’re okay.