The time is here. Tomorrow I’ll load my oldest in my car and drive him away. I’m leaving him in good hands, with good people, to embark on an amazing opportunity. He’s ready. I don’t think I am.
I can’t help but think back to when I started college. I was two years older, sure, and had finished high school. But I wasn’t unlike him; in fact, we are very much alike. I couldn’t wait to get out on my own, do my own thing, live my own life. I was ready–beyond ready–to fly the coop, prove that my big-girl panties fit just fine and figure out who I was apart from my family.
He’s no different, unless we focus on the big-girl panty part. He’s just younger. No less wise, no less ready. And though that knowledge soothes my rational side, my mommy side is still not ready. My mommy side thinks of what we haven’t yet experienced together. He hasn’t driven a car, he hasn’t been on a date, he hasn’t yet shaved. It’s likely I’ll now miss those milestones.
What I’m thinking of mostly is the irony, and how even though we’re so alike, the direction we each chose is geographically opposite the other. I fled to a city that, in my mind, was the opposite of the little town I grew up in. Chicago was exciting, electric, alive; it was the place I imagined held everything that my hometown didn’t, and the place I thought I’d stay forever.
Now, 24 years later, my son is moving to the very place I couldn’t wait to leave. It’s true that the town has changed. The University has changed. The opportunities that lie before him are endless, where I saw none. But it’s still odd, that he’ll now call that town home the place I chose to leave behind.
Life’s funny, and I’m beginning to think that as much as it changes it stays the same. When I was ready, my Dad and Karen loaded me into the blue van and drove me to my dorm room. I’ll load Adam into my car and do the same. I’ll carry boxes into his room, meet his new roommate and pray all the way home that he’s surrounded by equally good kids.
I might have time to wonder how time flew so quickly, and how I’m now in the role of feeling the empty pit in my stomach and the sting of tears as I walk away. I might understand a little bit more clearly why my dad couldn’t stay for the entire weekend after we got to my dorm, and how hard it must have been for him to make that drive back home from Chicago.
And, after I accept just how very much I’ll miss him, I’ll be thankful. Thankful that he’s earned this opportunity. Thankful that he’s excited and set on doing well. Thankful that my dad was strong enough to leave me in a big, unfamiliar city, with strange people all those years ago because it was what I wanted. Thankful because he set an example that a parent’s job is only partly done if we don’t allow our children to spread their wings and try to fly on their own, and because had he not been that parent to me, I might not be that parent for Adam.