That sweater that doesn't fit anymore, that photograph that penetrates your soul, that book that you can read again and again -- We keep the things we love. A T-shirt from college, that piece of jewelry from a dear relation, that journal from a fateful trip -- we cherish what is attached to memories.
That child you love -- the one you raised from creation that centered your universe, rocked your world and drove lava into your veins at the same time -- yeah that one -- you can't keep him. You have to let him go.
He went to college. The first night we face timed and in the two days since, the texts have dwindled quickly. The fun is kicking in and the preparation for school is getting real and we, the parents fall down and soon off (probably) the priority list.
Our job is to step away and let him build his new life.
The urge to call and ask a million questions has gotten as bad as my craving for chocolate at 4pm. I distract myself and try to get into the new routine but the dinner table is missing someone and knowing it's for more than a night or two is a tough wrestle with reality. I wake in the night and send love to him instead of getting up to check that he's home, like I usually do.
I know we'll see him sooner than most families will see their kid this fall because of course, we bought season to tickets to every football game so we can peek at him in the marching band.
However, the internal slam to my system is like a log falling into a creek and changing its course.
Though our children are not truly 'ours' because they are not a possession, this milestone still marks a separation that is not just about time, distance and space. It's about evolving our roles. Adolescence helps that as they turn away from you and turn to friends as their source of support, information and most advice but once they leave your house, your grip is loosened. Like cupping water in your hands, you can't hold on to it. Hopefully, you'll catch a few sips before you have to let it scatter.
I want to know how he feels and what he's doing. I want to know who he is meeting and if he is keeping good company. I want to be witness to how far his inner pendulum for right and wrong will swing. These are bigger thoughts I suppose but I also want to know what he's eating! Did he even look in those plastic bins under his bed with every imaginable toiletry, over the counter medicine and snacks I packed for him?
Time will quickly train me to release my grip and I will calm my need to know (I hope). However, my fear is that we'll only get calls to send money and being privy to his life will be over. I want him to need us and then I don't. But as one of my mentors used to say: "You're job as a parent is to raise adults you'd enjoy having dinner with." If that's true, I look forward to the next time we get to be all together and share a meal. I'll be interested in my young adult's input to the conversation.
Those moments will become the treasures I get to keep.
Besides being a mom to three teens, Laura has a TedX talk on Finding Your Dream Job Without Ever Looking at Your Resume