Fourteen Years Late for the Big Yellow Bus

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I might have engaged in a slight crying jag  prior to the taking this picture. Or not.

I might have engaged in a slight crying jag prior to the taking this picture. Or not

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. 

Possibly years.

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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  1. Pamela19sixty says

    Susan – that was such a nicely written piece! Just lovely…I really enjoyed it. Your son will do just fine. And I imagine, thrive! If typical, however, he'll also have some bumpy parts. But those are the moments when they really grow up.

  2. Well, now ya done went and made me cry on my breakfast. It hurts, the letting go.

    I’m proud of you, proud with you. Do great things, sweet boy!

  3. As you process this, think about Mary, the mother of our Lord. Your bond reflects hers with Christ. Having my son depart for the wilds of adulthood has made me terribly more appreciative of Mary, who had some inklings of what was in front of her, and who had to watch her son as he went, not just to the fearsome, unknown world of college and work, but to the cross. If you keep her in mind these next years, I think you too will find that your own spiritual growth expands greatly.

    Let tears come, but then set them aside, and move on. Again and again… but with generally less frequency and difficulty, IME. Praying for you and yours!

  4. Well said Susan. I still remember John looking over at me in the car as we drove away from taking Katie to UT. I was sobbing and he asked "How long do you think you will be crying". I told him it would be on and off for the rest of my life and he had better get used to it.

  5. What a beautiful post that shares oh so poignantly how so many of us with man-cubs feel right now as we watch them face the world. I can't wait to see what Boy experiences!
    My recent post August 2013 Challenge

  6. This is just so beautifully written. My boys are in preschool and first grade, but I still often think about how it will be when they leave for college. It sounds gut-wrenching, but also wonderful. xoxoxo
    My recent post Shut your mouth and watch the fireworks – seeing Chicago at BlogHer13

  7. janieemaus says

    What a lovely post. Good luck to both you and your son.

  8. It is such a difficult transition! But you will be surprised how fast you adjust. Just don’t go in his room for at least a couple of weeks!

  9. Love this. And hate this. *sniff*

  10. This is do beautiful. You done good.

  11. Elizabeth Lee says

    How dare these kids grow up?!?
    My recent post I Think I Graduated

  12. Beautiful – my daughter heads off in a few short weeks and I know the feelings will definitely be swirling. Thanks for sharing yours.

  13. That was beautifully written. I know that I experienced a jumbled mixture of grief and expectation and longing and pride when launching my firstborn.

  14. Ahhh, I know, absolutely KNOW how you feel because I did the same thing today. Times 2. My twins; oldest children, full time homeschooled for the last 6 years, left a room filled with the flotsam and jetsam of stuff that did not make the cut into their 'college lives'- some of which hurts to see discarded, yet I know they could not reasonably take it all. And they also know, it will still be here later, if they claim it. Such a difficult but proud day. Recovery will take a while….

  15. This was great! I'll admit to not having read many "dropping the kid off at college" posts this year — because next year it will be me and, well, I just want to enjoy the "now" without worry!

  16. Ray Denzel says

    well done and very true!

  17. Simply beautiful, Susan!

  18. You wrote exactly how I am feeling except my crying will not come until this weekend. I am excited and sad all at the same time. Time to let them go and see what God has in store for them. I am sure we will not be disappointed.

  19. Beautiful post. Our youngest left for college last year and we are empty nesters. Such a bittersweet time.
    My recent post Dropping Your Child Off At College (Without Losing Your Mind)

  20. Dawn Weber says

    Oh, Susan – I am in tears over here! My oldest is a junior this year, and every time i think of her going, I choke up. Bereft. You described it perfectly.

    Thank you, Susan, and good luck, young man.

  21. This is wonderful.
    My recent post Traveling with Family Can Be a Blessing

  22. This just touched my heart so deeply. I have felt these feelings and walked this walk.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and love for this young man with us.
    My recent post 8 Ways To Raise Kids Who Care About Others

  23. Susan,
    Your son is a well-prepared and blessed young man. What a wonderful mom you are. <3
    My recent post Ericisms: Wit and Wishes

  24. What a beautifully written and heartfelt post, Susan! I still have a ways to go but I imagine it's so bittersweet.
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  25. Oh, this touched my heart. Thank you.
    My recent post Meaning in Lunch Boxes

  26. Robin Dillard says

    Made me cry—for Beau and his new adventure and my own son Jonathan's new "home." Such great insight for all us home school moms!


  27. Michael Ann says

    Sharing the very same feelings for my boy who left a couple of weeks ago! Thanks for another beautifully-written piece.

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