We're smack dab in the midst of college hunting.
My son has a long list of colleges he wants to look into. He's been collecting names for about 9 months. This past weekend he began researching in earnest, and managed to scale it down to seven. Of those, we have visited two in the Midwest already - complete with the admissions intro and campus tour. Another is a "maybe," with more research needed having come to the party late in the game. Another two are here in the Chicagoland area, so easy enough to schedule a visit any weekend this fall. That leaves two, and they aren't nearby.
These final colleges are farther east: one in upstate New York, and the other is in Ontario. Yeah, Canada. Wow. That's going away to college. Equidistant from home, and actually, the Canadian school is easier to fly to. But something about out of the country kind of blew my mind.
It also opens up a whole new ballgame in terms of the application process and searching out college financial aid: if he goes outside of the U.S., federal grants and scholarships don't apply. As if the FAFSA wasn't enough of a challenge.
Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled Z is looking "beyond" his comfort zone and wanting to stretch himself. It's very exciting for all of us! Somehow, though, coming down to the short list has made it very real...and very close. And I'm not ready.
Trust me when I tell you I'm not a helicopter parent. And although Z and I are close, he's certainly not a "mama's boy." Z knows how to do his laundry, knows basic cooking and finance, and how to care for an auto. He is a very good, very well-rounded student with good grades. He has a good head on his shoulders, can read music and play a tough game of tennis, knows how to be a good friend, and is interested in enough of the world that I think he's going to make the most out of his time at college and make it a positive experience all around (as long as his roommates don't kill him first). He's been away on his own every summer for 3 weeks at a time at camp, a seven hours' drive away, since he was 8. I don't doubt he'll be just fine.
From the time he was born, I knew all about his days. Who he saw, what he did, where he went, when he did it, and how he felt and fared.
Even once he entered preschool, the two and a half hours each morning had a uniformity, as well as notes and newsletters every week. Not to mention my volunteering every other week or so. And kindergarten was much the same. As elementary school progressed, every day reports became a thing of the past, but his excitement to tell me about who/what/where/when and how only grew.
Then came middle school.
Between hormones (his) and the school district weaning us parents off weekly communiques, it was harder to get the scoop on his days.
And then there's high school.
Let me tell you, I'm really good at 20 Questions now as he heads into his junior year.
Going from knowing everything about someone's day to being the last to know is very, VERY hard, and I admit I'm not very good at it. I've said it before: he's my first, last, and only. I'm experiencing it all, all at once.
I really am looking forward to a little more freedom to go about my business without needing to take the teen's schedule into account every day. I can certainly do without the annoying spats we get into at least once a week (T is looking forward to that, too). And only having one set of hormones raging in the house will be like a vacation every day (at least for me; T still has to put up with mine).
But not hearing about SOME aspect of his day, the good or the bad, is something with which I'm struggling. Knowing I'll only get a very broad picture once he leaves, for months at a time, is hard to imagine. I know my son, probably better than he knows himself at times. But all that is going to change: the person I love most in this world is going to move away. And I suddenly feel like I did when I was 9 and my parents announced we were moving. It didn't matter that it was just across town, because I still had to accept that my friends, whom I saw EVERY DAY, weren't going to be a part of my everyday life anymore. It didn't matter if we could phone each other as much as we wanted, because we all know it's not the same as being together in person whether it's at age 9, 15, 20, or 51.
It's going to be time to share my son (the good, the bad, and the ugly) with the rest of the world. And I'm having a hard time preparing myself to share my greatest treasure. You see, I genuinely like Z. Faults, foibles, hormones, and all. And I miss having the people I love, AND like, nearby.
I'm not afraid of the Empty Nest - I have enough writing to do, places to explore, and worlds to examine to fill another lifetime. But I am feeling sad that the wings I've gladly helped him grow will take him away from our knowing and sharing our everyday stuff with each other. Our talking will naturally turn to bigger life events, simply because it's the day-to-day things that get forgotten first. Texts are nice for quick contact. But even I can't put everything I want to say into a text (ask any of my friends about the 'novels' I try sending...). And again, it's different than being right next to someone.
For all of school & life's lessons - not one prepares you for saying "arrivederci" when your child leaves home. I'm proud of my son, and I know he's going to enjoy Life After Home. I'll probably enjoy it, too, eventually.
I just need to get to that point.