This was a column I wrote when my oldest left for college. It was published in the Highlands County News Sun on August 28th, 2005 in my column, "Laura's Look." Please don't copy without permission... :-)
The fact I would cry at some point was a given.
Don knew it, John knew it, all my friends knew it, and I knew it. My hope was I wouldn’t burst into tears in front of the whole college.
We had spent two days driving from our home in Florida to this small university in western Tennessee. The van was packed with the things John would take with him for his new home – a dorm room. These included a computer, a two drawer filing cabinet, and several suitcases filled with clothes and linens.
John did some of the driving on that long journey. I looked at him over these past few days as I have in the past few months, with wonder. I can still remember when he was so small I could hold him comfortably in one arm. Now he towers over me, well over six feet tall.
When did his voice get so deep? Will he always look like a child to me? I searched his face, wondering when I would see not the boy I raised, but a man on his own. Other parents assure me I will see that one day. Now, I still see the boy.
I knew this day was coming – this time of severing more of the apron strings that bound him to me. Don and I knew that this was a process, that one doesn’t let go all of a sudden, but step by step. This was the biggest step of all.
As the days of John stepping into the college world approached, I know I asked myself all kinds of questions. I have said in the past that John was the first teenager I ever raised. That much is true. Because he was the first, he got two parents who were inexperienced and not yet broken in. Obviously, mistakes were made. (This is not to say we’re doing a perfect job with his brother James – we’re just making different mistakes).
I think most parents at one point in time or another ask themselves if they are doing a good job. As the child enters the late teens, I think the question acquires a new urgency, as the parent realizes the window of influence they have is closing. The young man or woman is no longer under their wing – they are on their own.
Back to the trip. Don, John and I set up his stuff in his room once we got there. College dorms haven’t changed that much since I lived in one more than 20 years ago – the walls are still cinderblock, the furniture still utilitarian. We discovered we had forgotten minor things, such as a trash can and a phone. These things were obtained.
Finally, Sunday afternoon came. It was time. John had an orientation event to attend. Don and I had a fifteen hour drive to start. The bird was ready to fly.
Yes, I cried. I didn’t make quite the fool of myself I thought I might, but there were tears shed. To his credit, John put up with them with a minimum of eye rolling.
I am more fortunate than my parents were in this day of the Internet. We no longer are restricted to expensive long distance calls or snail mail for contact. Email and various chat programs give us more opportunities for communication than there were in the past, though they still haven’t figured out how to drag long detailed answers out of your college student when you ask how things are going.
The bird has flown. Mommy can’t help but watch him go with mingled tears of sorrow, pride, and joy.