Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Letting Go as Our Babies Head to College

This past weekend, I had it all planned. I would take my son out to buy his clothes for college, having already warned him that I was on a budget and anything beyond that budget would be up to him because he has a job. You'd think I'd be excited because my son, my baby boy, is about to start college.

Maybe it hasn't hit me yet. Maybe it hasn't hit him either because he said he didn't feel like shopping this weekend.

Maybe I'm less frazzled because he's going to the University of New Orleans, which means he's staying local, living at home. Also, in my family going to college is a given, the expected next step after high school. Sending my daughter off to college back in 1999, however, was another story completely. Frazzled is too weak a word for what I was back then.

I was still married then. We had just moved from Georgia to Missouri, and her father and I rented a van to drive her and too many of her worldly goods from Kansas City to Princeton, NJ. And I cried. And cried. It was a huge production. We bought not only wardrobe, but linens, dorm room decorations, late night snacks, and a mini fridge.

You might think my son would feel cheated. No one's doing flips about his going to college, but he's more nonchalant than I am, and the more I think about it, the more I think it's due to all I put him through to get him emotionally prepared for the college experience, the freedom to fail mixed strangely with the terror that failing is not an option. Then came the hemming and hawing over finances, followed by relief when his money from the TOPS scholarship rolled into his UNO account. Whew! UNO is a good school and what we could afford. The only thing I'll be paying for is books, clothes, gas, the same stuff I've been paying for since he was born. Plus, unlike his sister, he'll be home at night.

He's not even excited about being able to sit in a classroom in street clothes again. For the last two years he, with the rest of public school students here, has been wearing a uniform.

Anyway, college is a piece of cake for me this time. I see it as college vs. running the streets of New Orleans. College or running the streets aimlessly with dead end job. College or running the streets. O.K. I'm good. The family and I have fooled him into thinking he must go to college. I've brainwashed him carefully over the last 18 years. Yes. I'm very good, but the next four years will be my report card. Shhhh. Don't tell him.

Now, what's going on at the House on a Hill blog is a big deal, one I can relate to because it reminds me of what blubbering mommy I was sending my daughter off.

She was the sweetest baby a mother could ask for. She talked before she walked but she never went through the “baby talk” stage. A part of me wishes that she can always be my baby but that would be selfish. Sam is 16, she’s going to college and, in less than two weeks, I’ll be seeing her only during the weekends. I’m trying to be brave about the whole thing, you know, but I end up getting soppy sometimes. She’s my firstborn, after all, and she’s never been away from home longer than three days. (House on a Hill)
Connie's stronger than I am. Her 16-year-old baby is going away study photography. ... 16.

CalicoDaisy's wailing up a storm:

Can I tell you how much I miss my son right now? I didn't sleep well last night, and I woke up crying this morning. This is the first time in 14 years I didn't get him ready for the first day of school. I couldn't sleep last night because I thought he could be anywhere. Is he in his dorm room bed? Is he visiting with friends? Did he get a wild idea to run to Wal-Mart at midnight? I don't know. Will he get up in time for college classes? Will he make nice friends? Will he remember to be kind when he is frustrated? Will he remember that he and his sister are my #1 reasons in life right now? I don't know. Will he stand on the firm foundation we laid for him to make good decisions and to know that he has a purpose in life? Will He Remember To Call His Mother ???? !!!! (Read full post)
If her son is like my son, she'll only hear from him if he gets terribly bored. When my son's gone away for school trips or summer adventures, I've heard nada. Nada. Nada. She's thinking about exactly the kinds of topics I'd think about too, but I've taken a vow not to worry, to let my son grow up. God knows I've slacked off on letting him grow up more than I should have. At least that's what my dad, the drill sergeant used to imply. He's let up on me lately with the "let him grow up" line, however. Maybe that means I've improved, that I'm becoming less protective.

Almost Got It is sending off a son as well. I like her post because it makes me feel less like a slacker. She writes that they've "managed to teach him how to make a bank deposit." My son finally got a bank account in December. Before that I spent time kicking myself that I didn't get him one sooner. I know he's sick of my lectures about how to handle his money. He may not be going away to school, but he is going away to roam a campus with no hall monitors and the French Quarter just a bus ride away.

We attended UNO's orientation in July. He met his advisor and registered for classes. I confess I was excited that day. In some ways, I guess, he's already started college in my mind. He stayed overnight and had fun. I expect next year he'll pester me to live on campus. Ugh. I can't afford that. One of the reasons I moved back to Louisiana was the lower tuition at its public universities. I knew that if he went to UNO, I could swing that with probably few objections from his father who should pay half.

So far, my only concern, other than anticipating that I'll be pestered about his living on campus next year and Gov. Bobby Jindal possibly cutting the TOPS program through which my son has a free ride, is that the child has chosen a major for which he's exhibited limited interest over the years. I'm with DrunkenData on this. I don't like pigeonholing. My daughter did the same thing. She insisted she knew what she wanted to do and started out as an Engineering major despite a letter to students from the university's president saying college is in the beginning an exploration and my admonitions that she was rushing herself.

Three years later she switched to English. I couldn't help it. I said, "I told you so." Perhaps it's my experiences with my daughter that have me chilling as my son enters school. The first child taught me that sometimes children have to bump their heads, as one of my friends likes to say. The second child taught me I still don't know what I think I know about life and being a parent. And as he sets foot into his first college course later this month, I suppose I officially end my time as the mother of a boy. He's a man under construction.

I'll always be a mom, and my son and daughter always be my babies, but just as I did when they learned to walk and later took off running, I must sit back, pray, and say, "WOW! Look at 'em go!"

Two other blogging sending students off to college: Moonbeams in Cyberspace, a lovely post about her daughter who had some growing to do, and Elegantly Random, who is not sending off a son or daughter but giving great advice to her younger brother, words of wisdom for any college student. One of those suggestions is "check your email."

Nordette Adams is a BlogHer CE, where this post is cross-posted. She is also the African-American Books Examiner. Keep up with her writing adventures at


le0pard13 said...

Congrats to you and yours. If they are anything like their mother, they are survivors and will succeed in whatever endeavors they strive for. Great post, Nordette.

PPR_Scribe said...

OK, I am taking notes from your experience. It is still about 9 years til I am in your shoes, but I know it will pass quickly. I will have 2 leaving at once--I honestly do not know how I will survive it!. It has only been a few months since I have been comfortable letting them walk to the bus stop by themselves! LOL

Well, congratulations to you and your "baby" on a successful launch. I know he'll be fabulous!