Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Big Gulp

It's been an intense few days for me. We just returned from taking our recent high school graduate to orientation at his soon-to-be college. In a matter of weeks, he went from being at the top of the food chain (high school senior) to a bottom feeder (college freshman). Gulp.

As a parent, this tidal wave of emotions has truly blindsided me. I was excited to see where my son would be going to school but also nervous. It's 5-1/2 hours away, in the middle of Indiana. While our son, who tends to be shy and reserved, needed a bit of a push to fully participate in orientation activities, we parents needed the opposite - someone to hold our hands and let us know that everything would be OK. I must say, we got that and a whole lot more.

So many things amazed me about this 2-day experience. First is my undying need to mother my child. The first night, my son slept in the dorm and my husband and I stayed at a nearby hotel. When we picked him up the next morning for breakfast, he had slept only 1-1/2 hours due to a roommate who came home very late and also snored loudly. He looked crushed. Although his horrible mood was silent, I could almost hear him screaming: "This is gonna suck! This is too far from home. I'll never sleep and everyone will be a stoner!" I practically had to handcuff myself not to run into the administration building and withdraw his application. Gulp.

The second incredible thing was the many parents that took this orientation as an opportunity to incessantly brag about their kids. There was the dad who was frustrated that his son had chosen the state school instead of the full-ride scholarship to the preppy private school because his son was such a genius that some schools turned him down because he was too smart and when he graduates he'll make six figures no problem. Gulp. Then there was sweet little April who plays violin, sings and was offered a bowling scholarship and was recruited heavily by many schools to be on their bowling teams and in their schools of music but who deemed Julliard as "yucky." These people look at you in the face and proceed to regurgitate every aspect of their child's brilliance never even considering that maybe you think your own kid is pretty great too and perhaps you'd like to share a word or two about him. Gulp.

Then there were the goosebump moments that happened throughout the two days. Seeing my son overcome his shyness and connect with one, two or even three kids, thereby giving me hope and making him feel like this whole college thing could actually work. Or listening to an advisor talk to him about being a music major, his passion in life, and tell him that he is required to attend 60 recitals during his college career and hear my son say to us that he's so excited that he "gets to" go to 60 recitals! Gulp.

Along the way we were supported, cheered, prodded, cajoled, humored, educated, warned, consoled, bored, reassured, congratulated and appreciated for taking two days out of our life to get our child ready for college....something none of us are truly confident in doing or prepared to accept. Gulp.

Hands down, the one moment that I'll remember for years to come, was the session where the parents shared their hopes and fears for their children. Most of us expressed concern about things like homesickness, homework and too much partying. One mom quietly said that her son, Evan, was in a wheelchair and had never spent a night alone away from home but that they had been preparing him for this all his life and her hope was that he become the kid that they thought he could be. That stopped me dead in my tracks. Here I was whining to myself about my healthy, able-bodied son being able to survive college and dorm food while this mom was legitimately concerned about her disabled son getting through each and every day. When I sit at home stressing out about how my son is doing at college, I'll pause and think about Evan and his mom. Big gulp.


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