They are out there. I know you have seen them. Blog posts, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Tweets and articles all about those upcoming college kids. My Facebook newsfeed is a stream of post after post after post of moms and dads dealing with the whirlwind of emotions as they prepare to send their kids off to college.
I told myself I wouldn’t add to that long list of posts.
What I didn’t realize was how much preparing to send my son off to college would consume my every thought and just…well, everything.
In a few short weeks, I will be watching my son as he walks away from me and into the door of his next adventure. I will hold back the tears until he is out of sight and I know he won’t look back at me…and I don’t expect him to because he is ready.
Over the years, I have watched as my friends have sent their kids off to college and I’ve listened to them talk about how much they were going to miss their sons and daughters. I watched them hold back tears while they describe how emotionally hard this season in their life was, but I also saw the pride and happiness they had for this new chapter in their kids life.
In all those years, I couldn’t relate at all. I didn’t understand. I just didn’t get it. Three years ago it was my oldest son, Taylor, that was graduating from high school. While other mom’s were discussing college visits, tuition and picking out dorm decor, I had other things on my mind. My emotions were high and all over the place as well but for very different reasons.
Taylor has High Functioning Autism and his graduation day meant something else to me and our family completely. For Taylor, my thoughts on his future went to “What happens to Taylor, now?”, “What will he do, now?”, “Where will he get a job?”, “Who will hire him?” and so forth.
The one question that never crossed my mind was “What will I do when he moves away?” I didn’t have to worry about that because Taylor was staying right here with us. Maybe one day he will move out and be on his own but during that season of our life, Taylor moving out was the last thing on my mind. After Taylor graduated that summer, he attended a local internship which helped him find the perfect job for him. Other than Taylor getting a new job at the hospital, nothing else in our life really changed. Our routines stayed pretty much the same.
So, imagine my surprise when, this past school year I was blindsided by the overwhelming emotions of my middle son going into his senior year in high school. My youngest son was a freshman and both of them were in the band together. For this reason, every single band event this past year was a milestone. Always a first for Jordan and a last for Brendan. Jordan’s first band camp, Brendan’s last band camp. Jordan’s first marching show, Brendan’s last, you get the idea.
As we drew closer to the end of the school year, Brendan made his college choice. He would be going to Auburn. (WAR EAGLE!!) I was so excited for him! His last few months of high school were filled with final concerts, scholarship applications, band auditions and AP exams. It went by incredibly fast!
Then his high school had the Walk of Graduates the last week of school. This is where the seniors put on their cap and gowns and visit the local elementary schools. They walk parade-like, down the halls while the elementary kids joyfully wave and cheer for them. (I think the elementary kids love this as much or even more than the seniors!)
That morning, I went to Brendan’s elementary school where he attended school from three-year old preschool through the third grade. I waited for his arrival anxiously with my camera in hand and suddenly realized…I wasn’t ready for this! I had not seen Brendan in his cap and gown yet and as his kindergarten teacher ran down the hall to hug me before they arrived, I started to break. Moments later we both see him over the sea of caps and gowns, walking proudly towards us and high-fiving the children as he passed them. The look of happiness on his faceas he saw us was just the best thing!
Wow! He looked so tall and grown up walking down that hallway towards us and I found myself remembering how I would walk him down that same hallway to his class, his little hand holding onto mine. He would give me the biggest hug and kiss and off he would go. Always happy and so excited to learn something new that day. Wasn’t that just yesterday?
I was not ready.
Graduation day arrived and I was very proud of myself for not crying…in front of him. How was it possible to be so incredibly happy and proud and yet a little sad at the same time? I think I physically felt time speed up.
Next thing I know, we are attending Camp War Eagle, (Freshman Orientation) and I am hit in the face with another dose of reality. A chapter of my son’s life is about to close… a chapter of my life, too.
I mentioned to a friend of mine that I only had this summer left with him and how I wanted it to be perfect. She laughed and said, “He’s not dying, Dawn. He’s going to college and he will only be two hours away. You will even get to see him at the football games.”
I know it sounds extreme to a lot of people that I have become this hot mess of a mom as I make my Amazon wish list for him. That it’s a little extreme that I get teary-eyed and super emotional every time I think of “moving day.” That it’s a little extreme I started making him care packages and collecting things for his apartment back in May.
It sounded extreme to me all those years ago when my other friends were going through the same thing. I mean, we as parents expect our children to move away, be successful and have a family one day. We wish for them to go out in this world and make a difference, whether it is big or small and to fulfill their dreams. We WANT this for them.
Why then is it so hard to let them go? How can my heart feel like it is going to break into little pieces while also feeling like it’s going to explode with joy for him? How do I feel just as much excitement as he does looking for things for his new apartment while simultaneously wanting to scream “STAY HERE! NEVER GROW UP!”? How will I hold back the tears that insist oncoming? Tears of sadness but that are mixed heavily with tears of happiness for him. I tell you, this parent thing is not for the weak.
Moving Day is almost here.
I am still not ready.
No, I wasn’t expecting this. I wasn’t prepared for this at all.
Brendan is ready though and I know he will be just fine.
Dawn South is a mom of 3 boys, ages 21, 18 and 15 and a 14 year old needy Beagle. If her boys and husband aren’t keeping her busy, she spends her spare time working as a Graphic Designer, Painter, Writer and CrossFit Coach, all of which are her favorite things to do. She’s a genuine southerner from the Deep South of Alabama where it’s summer 11 months a year and the BBQ is delicious. Her oldest son has Autism and she has a blog that journals her family’s journey with Autism.