My son’s bedroom at home has been gutted.
His stuff has nearly all been moved out of our house, and has been re-settled in its new home, his college dorm room. Upon our arrival on campus, several student volunteers whisked it from our car, and up the steps of his dorm and into its new home. His new home. It happened so fast, it was done almost before we even knew what had happened.
His Dad and I are now the owners of a new set of freshly laundered (and therefore out-of-the-package and non-returnable) white twin sheets that didn’t fit his new bed. His new bed is a twin bed, but its size is extra long. And somehow, it seems to me that this, too, is as symbolic as his “stuff” being gone from our home. A young man entering college life will need an extra-long bed: a bigger bed, for a bigger life.
So while his dad sets about helping our son acquire larger sheets, I sit alone in the little campus coffee shop, trying to process my emotions in regard to this day. I find thoughts swirling around in my head like the steamy foaming milk on the top of my latté. They are thoughts that I have ignored, or at least postponed, for months.
When my son was an infant, I didn’t do what some people call “attachment parenting”. But you’d be hard pressed to find a more attached parent, even so. Some might accuse me of having sheltered my kids, but I’ve always tried to run my decisions through the filter of what seemed to be best for each of my kids, at that moment in their lives.
So I made the decision to homeschool, not out of fear of the big bad world, but because with a degree in teaching, and a master’s degree in counseling, I felt confident in my ability to continue teaching the processes we were already doing: teaching my kids to read and write and do math. I savored the blessing of sharing my love for history and great literature with them. And every year, we re-evaluated, and each year, we again chose to continue on with what we were doing. As the kids got older, we consulted with them as well, as to their preference. But each year, their preferences were to keep on doing what we’d been doing. Thus, the years of my career as a homeschool teacher have gently accumulated like sedimentary rock, one year layering on top of the next.
And so it was that I never had that traumatic experience that is common to so many parents: that of putting my boy on the big yellow bus at age five. I never released him into our public school system. In high school, he joined a tutorial with 100 other students who’d been homeschooled, so that he could receive instruction from tutors in the ways of higher maths and sciences and writing. He swam like an otter in that environment, loving the social interaction, absolutely in his element. And in his senior year, he took several classes through dual enrollment at a local community college. Once again, he paddled happily in that bigger pond, doing exceedingly well academically, making both his parents proud.
But today? Dropping him off at college?
Today, I feel like I finally put him on the biggest yellow school bus ever.
I feel exhilarated for him.
I feel bereft without him.
And I have nowhere to go, but through this.
There is no more delaying, postponing, this growing up. For him, or for me. And I have no choice, but to open my hands, and release this young man into his destiny.
I know it’s time. I’m amazed at the potential opportunities that lie ahead of my young man. I think of the professors who will stretch his mind, challenge his opinions, and who hopefully will help him hone his communication skills.
Today, there have been beautiful young coeds who have smiled into my eyes, and told me how much they think of my son, and assure me of how perfectly he’s going to fit in on this campus, and I have found myself thinking fleetingly, “Are you the one? Are you the one who’s going to win my boy’s affections? Will you maybe break his heart? Are you the one I’m going to enjoy celebrating holidays and birthdays with for years to come? Maybe even for the rest of my life?”
I’m grateful for these quiet moments alone in this coffee shop, where I can compose myself, and my thoughts, a bit.
It’s funny. The memory that keeps coming to my mind is one of my son, as a three month old baby. He was the happiest little guy on the planet, sitting in his car seat that was turned to face me, beside me on the pew at church. We gazed intently into each other’s faces, with eyes only for each other. He favored me with smiles, coos, and joyful, responsive wiggles, reacting to my smiles for him. I remember thinking at that moment that my heart might just blow up from the effort of trying to contain all the love I felt for this baby. Could any mother ever have loved her baby as much as I loved this little boy? It seemed impossible. My heart had expanded to a dimension it had never before experienced, and this sweet infant, clearly, returned my love with equal fervor.
A man came up to me after church that day, and said, “I was sitting a couple of rows behind you during the church service, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the two of you. You clearly love that child so much, and he seems just as smitten as you are.”
And I remember thinking at that moment, “So, it’s not all in my head. I really do love this kid almost beyond what’s humanly possible. Other people see it, too.”
Which brings me to today: saying goodbye to that baby that I cherished with every ounce of maternal bonding hormone that God ever gave a mother. Bidding adieu to the obnoxious adolescent who sometimes drove me nearly to the brink of despair. Waving farewell as he climbs on the big yellow bus with “University” painted on its side, to this young man who sparkles, and exasperates, and delights.
What a gift this child has been to me. And now, what a gift I pray this young man will be to the new community where he’s been placed for this season of his life. How I pray that God will guide his steps, and make his path clear.
I feel like today, he’s walked out to the end of the diving board for the first time, and he’s paused, gently bouncing there momentarily. It’s as if he’s glancing over his shoulder, checking to see if I’m really there, and watching, before he makes his first big plunge.
“Go ahead and jump, son. You were born to do this.”
Tis the season when a lot of us are having to learn to let go, in our own way.
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