Year Two is underway. I wonder when I’ll stop choking up when I least expect it. You would think someone had died or something. But no one died. He just grew up.
Last year dropping The Boy off at college was a completely different experience than this year. Not different better or different worse. Just different.
Last year, since it was his first year, we all had a day of orientation. I remember being excited and highly interested in being oriented, but the only part of it I clearly remember now is The Reading of the Letters.
Oh? There was reading involved? Why yes there was! We, the parents, were read to, actually. By our student's Advisor. Individually, yet in a group: The Reading of the Letters. Parents, I must say you should consider yourselves extraordinarily fortunate if, when you attend your child's college orientation, you, too, are regaled with The Reading of the Letters.
A portion of the orientation activity was conducted with the parents separated from their student. The students went one way as the parents were led in a different direction for different activities. As mentioned previously, I don't recall any of those activities in great detail with the exception of the one I'm writing about. (And I was paying attention. Really.) The last activity before we were reunited with our children had us gathered in a classroom, sitting at desks all facing front. In walked The Advisor. Who began a very thoughtful lecture on the process of Letting Your Children Go.
We parents nervously punctuated his lecture with laughs in appropriate places. We guiltily looked down at our hands when he hit on something we knew we had done even though we knew when we were doing it we shouldn't be doing it at all. I wasn't the only one sweating over the enormity of what we were about to do and what could happen if we hadn't done it right when we started doing whatever we had been doing that brought us to this place to begin with. The business of raising a child is fraught with peril. Overall, it was an emotion-invoking lecture. I really wanted to reach over and hold Wendy's hand, but couldn't bring myself to do it.
It was what I considered a typical group of parents, varied ages although not particularly racially diverse. Outside of Wendy and me, the parents who were paired were paired heterosexually. And as a lesbian couple in a primarily heterosexual world, sometimes it is just better not to draw attention to ourselves by holding hands or such in public. Some days I'm brave enough to grab my own bit of freedom and embrace it fully. But on that particular day at that particular time, I just wasn't. The day was hard enough already.
The Advisor, as he lectured, held a bunch of papers in his hand. He announced that what he was holding were letters from our students. Advice from our children. Advice on how to let them go.
And the twist: The Advisor was just going to read them aloud without saying who wrote them. We parents were supposed to figure out which letter was written by our student. He started reading. And what I thought had been an emotional day so far became even more so. The touching tribute written by a daughter to the father who had raised her alone. The humorous list of all the things one fellow was sure his family was going to miss about having him around. Another with specific, very specific, instructions on how to care for the family pet. The obvious amount of love this group of parents had given to their children spoke clearly through these letters.
Sometimes parents would be thinking a particular letter came from their student when in fact it was from another. There were exclamations of "That one is mine! Definitely mine!" when a positive identification was made. The one that began "Dear Old Folks" garnered mild gasps of dismay. Wendy and I didn't gasp and weren't dismayed. Because we knew that was the one from The Boy. And that's when I did grab Wendy's hand. It was involuntary and just had to be. So it was.
By the time all the letters were read and claimed, there was not a dry eye in the house. We all got to keep them. Those letters. That advice. What a prize indeed.
During his last year of high school we were so busy I could easily postpone considering what life would be like without The Boy around every day. I knew I'd have plenty of time to experience it after he left. Sure, I'd seen other parents go through it. Most seemed fine, professing to miss their little darlings while luxuriating in their Glow of Newfound Freedom.
It wasn’t long before I was wondering, “Where is MY glow?” My overall sense of purpose had been crumpled up like a piece of scrap paper and launched toward the trash can in a perfect three-point arc. I was a balloon with no air. A train off the track. A ship with no destination. A puppy left behind at the pound. For 18 years, every decision I made had been influenced by my parental responsibilities. Now I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to do it. Well, within reason, of course. If only I knew what it was I wanted to do.
For months, I floundered as I anxiously awaited delivery of My Glow of Newfound Freedom. I was certain with My Glow would come My New Purpose. Then it dawned on me perhaps I should be seeking it out. Or kindling it from scratch. Instead of sitting back waiting for it to find me. Doh.
Since that realization, I’ve dug deep and found a spark. And fanned it gently into a Glow of My Own. I’ve savored my first joyful bites of Life After the Child Has Grown. Of late, it tastes pretty good. I’ve not got it all figured out yet, but progress has been made.
Yes, I still miss The Boy. And I still fight the lump that forms in my throat at times (like now). Yet as I rediscover myself and explore who I am and who I want to be beyond being a mother, I can exalt in the fine young man The Boy has become. It sure doesn’t hurt when a quick cell phone conversation wraps up with him saying “Love you, Mom!”
I love you too, sweetheart. Talk soon.