My son received his first college acceptance letter tonight. I was so excited! It was an email. I printed it out, ran up to his high school theater rehearsal and videotaped him reading it. It was wonderful. You don’t get those moments every day. I was so excited to share the news with him and our extended family that I forgot my heart was breaking.
I’m not sure how. It’s been breaking for 12 years. I had an amazing six years or so of teaching him his letters and numbers and songs about farm animals that I completely overlooked the inevitable. I realized sometime around kindergarten that if I kept teaching him, one day he would graduate eighth grade, then high school and then go to college.
I knew I wasn’t ready.
When he was a baby, I hugged him so much. We would play a game called “Hug and Roll” where I would roll around with him on the bed laughing and hugging until my arms couldn’t hold us up anymore. I rolled with him through my next two pregnancies, (it’s not easy to roll over a growing stomach) but I didn’t want that game to end. By the time he entered grammar school, he didn’t want to play the game anymore.
And I wasn’t ready.
We used to hold hands everywhere we went. His little fat fingers holding on, first to my hand and then any part of my body he could grab as our family grew and my arms were filled with babies. Eventually, he would grab a toy or wagon and run ahead of me to prepare himself for all the fun we were about to have. The load I was carrying was lighter as each of my children no longer needed to lean on me.
I knew I wasn’t ready.
As he’s made his way through high school, there have been ups and downs. I’ve endured the “drop me off here” technique, a mile from the door, so no one could see my ugly van. He’s opened the door WHILE THE WAS CAR STILL MOVING to get away from me and the girls and to his friends a little bit faster. But in an emergency, when I’ve seen tears making their way to the surface I could barrel through a crowded room and be by his side at a moment’s notice.
Raising a son is not easy, and I’m not above mentioning those mom moments when I’ve failed miserably.
I made him run naked in the yard because potty training was just not at the top of his list and I didn’t know what to do, so I took off his diaper and said, “Good luck to you.”
I’ve pretended to “lose him” in a mall (long story) because he was having a breakdown and my novice mom skills were ill prepared to deal with it. (That’s for another article.)
I’ve stared at him in disbelief as he’s made up words like “sh-elbow” and tried to convince me that deodorant didn’t go in your armpit; instead it went between your shoulder and your elbow, in your “sh-elbow.” I had no words.
I lost it when he broke his sister’s leg trying to teach her Parkour in his military training facility (our garage), filled with boxes and sharp garden tools. When she fell, he proudly announced, “Jacqueline, the good news is you can jump over six boxes … but you can’t jump over seven.”
He’s lied, stayed out past curfew and probably a number of things I don’t want to consider. Thankfully, while dealing with all of it, I’ve lied, drank too much wine and most likely mumbled something about how I couldn’t wait to have some time to myself. But now it’s here.
And I’m not ready.
I know college is a rite of passage for him and for us. He’s our first to leave and he’s our only son. My hope?
I hope he’s happy. I hope he knows he is loved, here at home and anywhere else this great world shall take him. I hope he remembers to hold doors, give thanks to those who help him and take chances. I hope that my voice is ingrained in his ears and not in the “eat your vegetables and pick up your clothes” way, but in the “be kind to other people and remember who you are” way.
I guess that’s what all moms want to know when their kids take the next step in their journey. We want to know we did our jobs. We want to know we raised good people. We want to know our kids will come home on holidays and write thank you notes. We want them to pick good partners and raise their own good people.
I’m going to miss him. Every day. I mean, when I’m stalking him on campus it will be hard to MISS HIM because I can see him.
BUT when Jim has pulled me away, given me the “give Dean some room” speech and I’m sitting at home wondering if he’s OK, if he’s happy and if he’s eaten, I’m sure I’ll cry a tear or two because …
I’m just not ready.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 12 (March 2018).
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