Monday, August 7, 2017—the day that I drove away and left my kid at college.
Let me clarify. I am not a wuss. I do not baby my kids. None of them. Never have. I have loved each fiercely, but I don’t sugar coat. I’m not the overprotective type. I love my kids and I love spending time with them (unless they are being jerks)—summers and weekends and evenings, but I am one of those moms who does cartwheels when school is back in session.
I never dreamed my kid going to college would shake me to the core. Yes, I’ve heard the Kenny Chesney song. And the Brad Paisley song. And all the other songs that talk about your kid driving away or the last time you do this or that, and they do make me a little teary-eyed, but honestly, I did not think my kid moving out would do that to me.
I have been a mess this week. A MESS! My husband finally told me today that I had to get it together. And I hope that he got through to me, because I DO have to get it together. I hate feeling like this. So much of me wants to be so proud and happy for my kid and I AM those things, but he’s gone y’all! And yes, he is only a couple of hours away and he is still my son and blah blah…all that crap that people say to make you feel better, but I know what happened when I went away to school. I never came back. I left in 1995 and I didn’t come back until 2003. Sure, I visited, but life as we knew it was never the same.
I carried this baby for nine months and I gave birth to that 9 lb. 4.5 oz half-grown kid and I still have the stretch marks and extra 30 lbs. to prove it. I held him and fed him and got peed and pooped and puked on by him on the daily. I pushed him out of my unmentionables and then I pushed him for hours upon hours in the swing. For years.
I finger-painted with him. I pulled him in a wagon. I rode him on the back of my bicycle. I took him to Kindermusik. I took him to church. Soccer. Basketball. Cross Country. Track. I watched him get baptized. I watched him receive countless awards and accolades. I watched him become a big brother. Twice. I watched him grow into the handsome young man that he is. I watched him be a good son, a good brother, and a good friend. I watched him walk across that graduation stage as an honor grad. I even had to watch him watch his mom go through a cancer battle right before his senior year of high school when all he should’ve been worrying about was girls and who is going to win the football game and how many cheeseburgers can he get for $10. I have laughed with him until I have cried and I have cried with him until I laughed.
I remember my fear when he was still nonverbal at almost 3 years old. I went through 18 months of speech therapy with him, twice a week until finally he was speaking. I got a call when he was in Kindergarten for a meeting because his fine motor skills were not up to par. They tested his cutting with scissors and he actually held the scissors backwards and cut with the blades facing him. He got the job done, but they were at a loss because he hadn’t held the scissors the proper way. I left crying because I just wanted him to be like all of the rest of the kids. What I realize 14 years later is that I was underestimating him and not being brave enough to look outside the box. Sometimes the way one of us gets from point A to point B might not be the same as the way someone else does. And that doesn’t mean either way is wrong—in spite of what the PALS testing regulations say. After that battle, it turned out by 5th grade, they felt he should go into the gifted program and so he did. He enjoyed those challenges and the students and teachers during those years.
I was struggling one time with him and I remember calling my dad and crying, “But I don’t want to break his spirit!” That has always been a fear of mine as a mother. I want my children to be kind, loving, civic-minded, productive members of society, but I never want them to lose an ounce of their individuality or quirkiness or uniqueness. That is their special gift to the world! My dad’s advice at that time was, “Don’t break…mold.” And those three words have stuck with me. Molding takes patience and time and practice. You can’t just wave a wand and mold something. You have to work with it until it’s pliable and then you have to keep working with it until it can be shaped and you have to continue to shape until it takes form.
So many things I have to look back on in the last 18 years…so many fun times and laughs and memories. I treasure each of them. I think back to that scared 21-year-old in the hospital who didn’t have a clue what to do with a baby. Riley and I grew up together. We screwed up some and we rocked it out some. Kevin always loves to tell the story of when Riley was an infant and I knocked his head into the door jam. Twice. It wasn’t as horrible as he likes to describe it and you turned out smart, so clearly, I didn’t mess your brain up too much.
So I think everyone is beginning to understand my heart-hurt. Those who have let go understand this. This was my first time. You know when they do the water release up at Gathright Dam? That’s kind of how it is right now. I’ve done a release and the levels are rising now—it’s a flood of memories. It’s everything over the last 18 years that made Riley’s time under our roof so special and wonderful. No longer will Natalie and Wyatt have their brother living at home. Everything is different now. That doesn’t mean that great times aren’t ahead! I do know they are! And oh my gosh I’m so proud. I’m SO PROUD! And I’m so happy that he is going out and doing what we’ve been preparing for over the last 18 years!
But a super selfish mommy part is really sad that things can’t remain all the same forever because I’ve really enjoyed the ways things have been.
But what if my parents would’ve clipped my wings? I wouldn’t have been able to experience all of this awesome life! So, I know in my heart of hearts that I have to do the same for him. And then Natalie. And then Papi. And it’s going to hurt so much with each of them that I might wonder if my heart will be able to take it. But I will do it because I love them. And because it’s what is required.
But mostly because it is frowned upon to keep your children in the basement against their will for the rest of their life.
If you are in this chapter, I wish you the best. And if you ever need to talk or cry or drink a fifth of liquor, just call me.