The New Normal

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My son forwarded an email to me the other day. It read,

“Dear Andrew and Roommate,

Congratulations, your applications for rental have been approved.  Thank you for choosing XXX for your new home!”

Your new home address is….”

Could the email be any clearer, putting into words what we already understood to be true? Our eldest son, soon to be a college graduate is moving on, not in a temporary, “I’ll be home for the summer” kind of way but in an “I no longer live in your house, and if all goes well, never will again,” kind of way. He’s moving to a new city in a new state to do exciting things with his life and this development, while joyful and thrilling is also a bit heart-stopping for me.

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It is not startling because our son is not ready to make his world debut. He is. He is as prepared for this transition as any young man his age can be. More prepared than many, I would even say. Often the most responsible person in the room, he is THAT kid, the one who at sixteen made copies of his teen tour itinerary for his group of friends before they set out on their journey. We moms laughingly reminisce that his friends had no worries as they fully expected Andrew to have copies available for everyone on the trip.

There is much written about the angst of sending your children off to college and indeed college is a huge step in a young adults first foray into independence but truth be told, when kids go off to college their home address is still your home address. Family vacations are planned around school breaks. Certainly college affords parents a break from daily hands-on parenting but in reality even though your children may be physically away from you they continue to be “all yours.” When someone asks a college student where he/she lives most will still give their parents’ address.

This post graduation move feels palpably different. It is different. This strikes me as a “Wonder Years” moment: a moment beyond which the new normal lies. The problem with all of these “milestone” moments is that while they happen bit by bit, they come upon you suddenly and leave you not knowing quite what to make of them.

When my son was barely bigger than a babe in arms we had a bedtime routine. I would place him in his crib and then I would sit in his rocking chair and I would prompt him, “Let’s talk about your day.” He would begin with, “I woke up this morning…” and often would get no further than that before he would digress and eventually chatter himself to sleep as I slipped away. As he got a little older, in a classic bedtime stalling tactic, he would beg, “Don’t go yet. Talk about my day.” He knew that I was a sucker for developing “communication skills” and his plea would always get me to stay at his bedside for just a little while longer.

I’m glad I stayed those extra moments. Perhaps he and I have always known that the hardest part of our relationship would be the letting go.

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Guest Post: Don’t Blink

I’m delighted to have my friend Marlene Kern Fischer as a guest writer today.  Marlene’s oldest son is graduating from college this Friday and I asked her to share some thoughts with us. She and I graduated from college together twenty-eight years ago. Yikes!

“Don’t blink–just like that you’re six years old and you take a nap and you wake up and you’re twenty-five…Don’t blink, life goes by faster than you think.” Kenny Chesney

I hadn’t heard that song since your high school graduation but I heard it today when I stopped at Bea’s for an iced tea. I started thinking about our first trip out to St. Louis to look at Washington University (WUSTL). You had been accepted to WUSTL but we hadn’t seen the school yet. I wanted to see for myself whether it was the right college for you, so even though I hate to fly, off we went. When we were walking around Forest Park in St. Louis I thought of all the hopes I had for you in college. I guess I was thinking about what I was looking for in a college for you.

I hoped you would make good friends–some of whom might last a lifetime. I hoped you would become more compassionate, mature, and considerate of others and less impulsive. I hoped your temper would mellow and that you could learn to accept losing graciously. I hoped you would improve your housekeeping skills. I hoped you would be with people who were like-minded and that you would learn from those who weren’t. I hoped you would experience romantic love. I hoped you would find a major that interested you and that you would figure out what the next step in your life would be. Through all of it, it was my hope that you would stay connected to us.  In retrospect it was a pretty tall order but by the end of the trip I think we both felt comfortable that WUSTL would be a good place for you. Not that you might not have accomplished all those things elsewhere, but we were pleased with what we saw and felt in St. Louis.

Now, even though the song said not to blink, we blinked and quite miraculously the bill came for the cap and gown. All of those hopes I had for you have been realized to a greater or lesser degree (ok, maybe you can still use a little work on the housekeeping skills). Your transcript and diploma reflect only a small part of what you have achieved during your four years of college. I couldn’t ask for more. At graduation this week I’ll savor the moment, but only for a moment, because I have more hopes and dreams for you. And, I’ve already started working on that list.

XOXO

Mom