After months of denial and head-in-the-sand behavior, it happened. My son received his official move-in date for college.
And, just like that, I know the exact day my son will end his full-time role as a live-at-home child and transition to “away at school”.
Who Is In Charge?
It all seems so arbitrary. Who has the authority or the expertise to choose such a significant date? Don’t they know how many lives are impacted? Don’t they realize the thousands of family structures they are dismantling? What’s going to happen to all those lost family dinners? One would think this “leave your baby elsewhere” date would be delivered with more fanfare or analysis. Something to justify this rite of passage we all seem to accept without question.
“I can remember how arbitrary his birth date was as well.”
If I harken back, I can remember how arbitrary his birth date was as well. Yes we had a doctor-inspired ETA for him, but Aidan paid no attention. Not only was he a full two weeks late, he refused to make his way down the birth canal, making the doctor go in and retrieve him. This inaugural “do things my way” act of Aidan’s pretty much defined the next 18+ years of living with him.
The latest in autocratic dispensing of significant dates? August 12, 2021. That’s the day I will deposit my son and his meager dorm room belongings in a town with a completely different zip code. That is the day I will drive away, leaving him to fend for himself.
How To Feel?
“He’s ready. I know he is. But am I? “
I find myself churning through a wide-range of seemingly capricious emotions. The reality is that I don’t know how to feel. And I know rationally that this is normal, to be expected. How am I supposed to know how to feel when I have never experienced anything remotely similar?
I recall being incredulous when they let me drive away from the hospital WITH the baby. Seriously, they left me in charge? I remember then also not knowing how to feel. The pendulum swung erratically from moments of peaceful can’t-stop-watching-him-sleep bliss to acute panic and self-recrimination upon learning I had accidentally clipped his fingernail too short.
Despite the utter lack of control over my emotions and the severe sleep deprivation, I succeeded. I managed not only to keep him alive, but to help him thrive, learn, assert independence, and prepare himself for what I now know will happen on August 12th.
“No one dies from empty nest syndrome, do they?”
He’s ready. I know he is. But am I? This whole paradigm is so unfair. He gets to leave. He gets to be surrounded by novelty, opportunity, and adventure. I get his bedroom. What? His room and its glorious mess that has been the bane of my existence for years stays here. A monolithic constant reminder of days gone by. It’s crazy, but I already feel the pull of that space on my heart. I wonder if I will miss the scattered is-this-clean-or-dirty articles of clothing? I wonder how I will feel seeing his perfectly made, undisturbed bed?
Yes I know I’m a tad dramatic. This is “normal” right? So many of us live through this life’s season. No one is truly traumatized by merely a move-in date for college? No one dies from empty nest syndrome, do they?
With our last pre-college mother/son summer trip in the books and a celebratory bonding tattoo encounter in Venice Beach, California complete, we are left with the trivial pursuits of preparing Aidan for his impending change of address.
Nineteen Days And Counting:
And as I think back on how almost 19 years ago I witnessed the date of his anticipated arrival come and go, I have to admit that there’s a tiny little piece of me, in the recesses of my soul, that can’t help but wonder and hope (with a little motherly guilt) that just maybe, maybe, his upcoming departure date will be a little late, too.