They say that ignorance is bliss and I am beginning to finally understand what they mean. For a while now, I have been an ignorant parent and I thought it was working out just fine for me.
Which leads me to my oldest getting ready to leave home for college.
The entire process of preparing for him to leave has been hellish And yes, I will confess right here and now that my personal hell is FAR less traumatic than most, but it is a hell nonetheless and from that standpoint we shall carry on.
In the past week, it has smacked, bruised, mangled and suffocated me that my first child is leaving home and heading off to college.
He is smart, capable, witty, resourceful, and resilient.
He is ready for the world.
Here is why I can’t accept that he’s leaving.
This child was calculated and planned. I waited for him for years. He was THE ONE. The one I wanted, the one I longed for, the one I wrote poetry to and about before he arrived. The one I journaled to daily even though we spent every single moment of our first years together. Always.
He was my “buddy” and I never even used that quaint term of endearment. I didn’t need a buddy. I had a partner, an appendage, a second self that breathed in and out just as me. He was my yang to yang and my yin to my yin. If you aren’t catching on, we were often one and the same.
When this child was a mere babe, like less than half a year old, I contracted shingles. And it HURT. This baby would reach around me to grab on and nurse (because how could he know about the ice pick stabbing pain of shingles??) and I would cry and nurse him until he was satisfied. And that’s how things went, because I don’t really remember the pain or how it ended. I just know that I nursed him into toddlerhood and we kept on living our happy lives.
But this child, the one I longed for for YEARS, was well prepared for and researched. I read book after book about how to be a mom and how to parent him to the best of my ability. I continued to read books while he grew up. I also made visits to therapists and consulted many wise sages (including my incredibly missed mom) about this kid. I wanted him to be amazing. And he was. I also wanted to be amazing for him.
But no matter how much I read or how well prepared I thought I was, this kid challenged me. He made me feel, on a regular basis, that my skills were far below his level of experience. And by experience I mean life understanding, maturity, responsibility and all those good things. He pushed me to be a better mother and in doing so, a better person.
Fast forward many years and the time has come for me to cut my apron strings and let him fly. And I know he’s ready. I know he’s smart and capable and responsible and assured.
But I can’t accept that. The thing is, and this is the absolute truth.
I. AM.NOT.READY. It has nothing to do with him.
Oh, I’ll wave goodbye and smile and jump up and down a bit. But the entire time, my throat will be on fire, burning with a sadness that is bitter and sweet and choking. I will make my
baby young man feel empowered and strong and ready to face the world.
Because he is. Absolutely.
But on the inside, I will be dying. I will be proud and boastful, but also raw and jagged and confused and bewildered about how this time in our lives arrived so quickly. Where did it come from? Where is my little, spunky, sweet and smart boy who made my every waking day a day of joy and challenge? WHERE IS THAT BOY?
He’s grabbing duffel bags and plastic bins and walking out my door.
And I can’t.
I can’t. I can’t watch and help and smile excitedly. I can’t accept that this time has come.
Except it has and I will. And I will breathe and smile and keep busy by shopping for the other four boys’ back to school things, and wrinkle reducing creams, and clothes I am too fat to wear and everything will work out okay. I will also help him pack and make ridiculous, random small talk about bad movie directors and kale as a snack food. It won’t make sense, but it will fill the horrible, painful, ridiculous gaping hole that is screaming to be filled by all those moments from his childhood that we can’t grab back.
And then all of a sudden, he will be packed and ready to cart himself off to college. Just. Like. That.
Because as hard as things always seem to get, they always work out just as they’re supposed to. The boy will leave. And WE will be alright.
And for that I will be grateful.
But just not quite yet. Give me a day or three.