I suppose I thought it might be easier this time.
I suppose I thought, because I’ve done it once now, that sending my boy off to college wouldn’t weigh so heavily on my heart.
I suppose I thought the wisdom of experience, the fortune of having traveled this path before to guide me would make it all a little easier.
Turns out, I was all wrong.
What I will miss is different this time around. What I will worry about has changed, too.
And that knowing what to expect … well it turns out to be a little bit of a pain in the ass because I know what’s coming. I know the homesickness, the struggle to fit, to make a new life right down to the sheets he sleeps on and the food he eats and how it hits them upside the head somewhere after … well after the beginning. After the newness wears off and the reality of being on their own settles into their bones, that’s when it gets tough.
When Cooper left I mourned my tribe of five. Our dinners at home and the schedule we had kept for 18 years. I missed the waves of his schedule, his coming and going in and out of our orbit. I missed how he laid in the middle of the living room and did his homework while he listened to music and watched Netflix. I missed how his brothers looked up to him and I missed the weight of him in a room. But I still had two. I had two that needed me, a middle schooler still! I couldn’t see the end of my time with them clearly, only the end of Cooper’s tenure at home.
This time? This time is different. This time I have an independent sophomore in high school left to mother. And he is alone. Something this third of three has never been. Something he isn’t — despite contrary folklore that the babies can’t wait for their older siblings to fly the coup — at all looking forward to. In fact, a lot of my sadness this time around comes from him. How he shut himself in his room on Sunday when the older two boys were sorting clothes, packing and prepping lists of things to do. How he hasn’t hopped in the driver side when we go to leave like he was when he first got his permit — instead choosing to slide down in the passenger seat and listen to music, looking out the window. How he says, “I don’t want them to go, Momma.”
It’s different in that Cooper isn’t moving into a dorm. He’s moving into an apartment and already making plans to rent a house next year, and stay at school to work and do his internship next summer. This was probably his last summer living at home. That stings.
Jackson is my handful. Two handfuls. Maybe three. I worry about his impulsive, ADHD, overly excitable decision making skills. I will miss his music, the guitar and singing, the acents and the puns. I will miss his humor and the levity he can bring to any situation – even when it’s probably not appropriate. I will worry. I will worry about him being so far away. 1234 miles away to be exact. I can’t get to him if he needs me. That’s hard.
Having done this before leaves me both feeling a little raw and a little under prepared. One thing I know about raising young adults is that you never, ever, ever … ever … know what’s coming. And I just don’t know how much I have in me to be able to navigate this all over again. Like when you find out you’re pregnant for a second time (or third …) and you are elated … and then you think, “What the fuck am I doing?” I’m not sure what the fuck I’m doing.
One thing that has made it easier this time. Everything is going to be alright. It is. If it goes well, awesome. If it isn’t a good fit, that’s fine too. Decide being an underwater welder is more your speed? Awesome. I’m more comfortable with a crooked, winding path than I was the first time around. Which makes me kind of proud of myself — because there in lies the lesson I have been trying to learn. Being comfortable with the winding path inherently means I’m more comfortable not being in control. And while I still don’t love it — I am actually learning to enjoy it at times! Letting go and allowing them to fail or succeed on their own is infinitely more rewarding than controlling their outcomes and the older they get the easier that reward is to see. Plus, I’m just getting too tired to control it all. So there is that … that helps, too.
So if you see me this week and ask me how I am … I’m ok. I’m not ok. I’m weepy. I’m happy. I don’t know how to let him …. them … go. Because letting go each time is a little bit different. Because letting go of two is harder than letting go of one. Because watching my baby let go of his brothers hurts. Because knowing in three years they will all be gone is hard. Because they were never mine to keep. Because part of me wishes they were. Because watching them trust their wings and not the branch on which they perch, that is where the beauty is. Two more sleeps and the beauty begins.