I wrote so often about Cooper’s Senior Year, about his impending graduation and moving away that I have found myself, now that those events have passed, with very few words.
I didn’t cry. Well, that’s kind of a lie. I didn’t cry … too much. And not in front of him, but save a few tears when I hugged his big bear chest one more time, wrapping my arms around his broad shoulders and hiding my face in his arm. He said, “Hey, hey, hey … none of that momma.” I kissed my hand and placed it on his forehead, just as I have every. single. time I have left him for 18 years and 9 months. As we walked away, leaving him in academic meetings, Eric, Aiden and I walked the pathways and the sidewalks of campus. I tried to envision him there, walking with buddies, backpack slung over one shoulder. He would be laughing, his baseball hat on, the curls hidden behind his ears. I looked for places he would be drawn to – the small lake on campus, the football field. I felt the Ohio sun on my shoulders, and tried to take in the details of his new world.
We passed a sweet woman, tears streaming down my cheeks, Aiden’s arm around my shoulders and Eric’s hand in mine. She spoke as she approached us, “Oh sweetie, you just dropped your baby off. I cried too, the whole way home. He will be ok. I promise.” She kept walking, her words soothing me. I know he will be ok. I just missed him already.
In the 4 hour and 28 minute ride home I cried relentlessly for the last two hours. Just wept, tears streaming down my cheeks. Aiden often chirping from the back seat, “It’s ok momma.” as he rubbed my shoulders and kissed my wet cheek. Eric holding my hand and looking out at the road, the road that was carrying us away from our boy, with his own feelings of loss, pride, sadness, excitement. It’s not the worst thing, God knows we have watched the worst thing this week, but it is something. And it increasingly becomes difficult to translate it for those who haven’t experienced it, who don’t know what it feels like yet, or maybe never will. This boy, this boy who I have loved and raised and taken care of, who I have folded laundry for and made his favorite fettuccine Alfredo from scratch, scrubbed his baseball pants and ironed his dress shirts, packed him lunches and filled out school forms doesn’t need me as he used to, and never will again.
For some people that would be a relief. And believe me, I get that. There have moments where I realized there were some perks to him being gone — his stuff isn’t all over the house. I have less laundry and less food to make, frankly there is less fighting. I just really enjoy being his momma. I enjoyed those tasks, of loving him by washing his sheets and reading to him, I enjoyed the motherment of his life. Managing his schedules and organizing his activities. I will miss that.
Without the motherment tasks (I didn’t even fill out his housing or meal plan papers – when I suggested we needed to get it done a few months back he answered, “I turned that in a few weeks ago.”) I am looking, searching for new ways to connect with him. New ways to be relevant, important, without being a pain in the ass, without saddling him with “keeping momma happy” obligatory phone calls or text conversations.
What I am starting to see, is space. Space for a new relationship to develop. Room, where those motherment tasks (did you finish your homework, did you turn in your paper, did you remember to get your homework from yesterday when you were sick? For the love of God would you please put your laundry away?) used to live, I see time. Time I can spend talking to him. Asking him about his day, listening without the desperate feeling that every interaction must be a teaching moment, hearing him, learning more about him.
In the busyness of motherhood, in the race of our chaotic days, we can lose those moments, those moments of true connection with our kids. I relish the idea of having time to learn more about who he is, as an adult, as his world grows, as his horizons and thoughts and ideas expand. What a gift!
Over the past months to year I have wrestled with letting go. I wondered how to do it, I wondered when and why, I wondered where the line was, when I was to back off – when I should press forward. I wavered, I stepped over the line — hell I fell over the line at times, I respected and drew the line as well. I know myself well enough that all the ruminating was needed, welcome, for me. I needed the time to loosen my grip, to turn his life over to him, to allow him to take over my job. What I never thought about until now — was the silver lining — the room, the space, the time to create a new job for myself in his life.
We arrived in Ohio last Friday — Aiden, Eric and Cooper and I worked at unpacking, organizing, shopping and setting up his dorm. We went out to dinner, we laughed and enjoyed each other’s company, we missed Jackson. Saturday morning came and Cooper was scheduled to attend a day’s worth of “Preview” meetings to acclimate him academically. I had looked at the schedule and didn’t see much for us, as parents, to do. When we arrived to the check in spot, with the intent of letting him check in and leave to do a little more shopping for him before we left, I noticed parents everywhere. My momma heart started racing. “Am I supposed to stay? Does he need me here? Will he be the only one without a parent here with him? I need to stay. He can’t do this alone, look there are parents everywhere!”
When I asked Cooper if he wanted me to stay, his answer was, “Whatever you need to do, mom. It’s fine either way.” I looked at E, my heart still racing, I went to the check in desk and asked, “Am I supposed to stay here? Am I supposed to be here? There are a lot of parents here!” I spilled out rather quickly.
The sweet girl at the desk said, “No, not at all. The sessions are all geared for the student, it’s just that most first time college parents like to stay.” The panic that had set in settled. “I am a first time college parent,” I said. “But, I don’t think I need to stay. After all, in 3 hours I am going home … 5 hours away, if he can’t handle this, we have bigger problems.” She smiled, said “That is awesome. He’s gonna be just fine.” I had let go, and hadn’t realized it. I had set him to sail, albeit with his own pushing off, but we had done it. I smiled at him and said, “You’re on your own, kiddo.” My broken heart swelled with absolute pride.