Monday, August 25, 2014

to my college freshman

"I am getting these shoes. What do you think?"

We are on a shopping trip with your grandmother, who wants to buy you and your brothers each a new pair of shoes for the school year. I know she wants to do this with you, a special time to share, so I have deliberately stayed out of the way. I stepped into the store for just a moment to see how it is going.

"Nice," I answer.

"You don't like them," you snap, and start to return the box to the shelf.

"No, I do," I protest. "They're good. Get them if they are what you want." I excuse myself again, and return to my post outside the store.

We have been engaged in this uncomfortable dance for some time, you and I. I want to protect you from the harder edges of the world; you want me to stop obscuring the view, plus pay for a better seat. My attempts at conversation prompt you to beat a hasty retreat to the solitude of your bedroom, though you emerge from time to time to demand answers to unknowable questions: How many good shirts should you take? Where are all your black socks? Will you need more compression shorts for football practice?

If I have an opinion, I don't know what I am talking about. If I admit I don't know (because honestly, I barely know how to play football, let alone what equipment may be required), you get upset at my perceived lack of responsiveness.

You woke up very early this morning, your last morning at home before you left for college today, unable to sleep from excitement or nerves or a combination of both. I was finishing a baby hat for your boss's new daughter, reflecting on how it had been both a lifetime and a blink of an eye since your head was that tiny. I tried, and failed, once again to communicate my love and fear and happiness and worry for you. It came out as a lecture, my default mode these days. You rolled your eyes, told me I had no idea what I was talking about, stomped out of the room, then took my advice anyway.

I reminded myself again how nervous and irritable and scared I was when I left for college. I realized I am feeling just about the same with you about to go.

Calm descended as the hour approached for you to leave. The process became more of a collaboration and less of a battle. You worked away on various last-minute tasks while I poured my heart into a letter to you, full of everything that I have tried, and mostly failed, to say in the last hours and days and months and years. The letter is waiting for you to find in one of your boxes, whenever you unpack once you move to your permanent dorm.

We spent a few last hours together as a family, then we left you all alone, because you moved onto the campus early for football camp and your assigned roommate hadn't arrived yet. The excitement and the nerves were both still evident, but mostly just excitement.

I am excited for you. I am happy for you. Of course, I am a little worried about you, because that has always been and will always be my job. And I will be missing the heck out of you until we see you next weekend.

Preschool project, complete with fingerprints, that hangs on my office wall.
The sentiment has never been truer than today.


  1. OH....this brought tears to my eyes. I have 2 down and 2 will go at ONCE in less than 2 years. While I am looking forward to the next season, this season went so fast and I will mourn it's loss as most mothers do. You have done a great job parenting your boy. It's not that you were a perfect parent {I've never met one of those yet :0) }, but you always had your kids best interest at heart...always wanting what was best for them. It's always a matter of the heart.
    It will be awesome to see him in the future :0).
    Have an extra cup of something warm and comforting today. And above all.....

  2. captures everything perfectly--great post.

  3. Such a heartfelt post. Growing up is hard to do. He'll find his way back, because of your love. But hang on for an interesting ride!

  4. Your words certainly brought tears to my eyes. I remember the day my older boy left for college, standing at the gate at Newark airport sobbing! You have great kids, are a great parents, and he will do fine. The worst time is the first semester...