Wednesday, February 6, 2013

End of an Era

Part One: Party Planning

I flip the kitchen cow calendar to February – gracing and grazing my walls since 2002 – and interrupt my mother/writing partner at work.

“Andrew’s graduation party is three months from tomorrow!’ I say.

She looks up.

“Do you want to start baking cookies today?” she asks. And goes back to typing.

Part Two: End of an Era

For years I taught college students and directed freshmen orientation programs for a school of journalism at a university back east. Every June I’d gaze at those parents sitting with their son or daughter  and launch into a ‘holding on and letting go” spiel.

I was particularly zealous the year my older son, now 22,  was a foreign exchange student overseas his junior year of high school. As gently as possible I explained to the hover parents who were freaking out about said son or daughter leaving home, that I understood. 

Empathy fairly oozed out of my pores – along with bewilderment. How could these mothers and fathers not understand if we do our job as parents right, our children leave us. That’s the whole goal of parenthood – to launch sons and daughters into adulthood. I had it all figured out, or so I thought at the time.

Until turning into a hover mother myself lately.

My youngest graduates from high school in just a few months. It truly seems like only yesterday (but it was five years ago this month) my husband and I were flying out to this small city on the prairie for his job interview at a smaller university. I went along mostly because I needed to get on a plane again after many years flight-free, thanks to my forties inflicting claustrophobia on me.

I needed to get on a plane because we were going to fly to Germany the following month for a spring break trip to see aforementioned eldest.  Freaking out about flying was not an option. And whereas my husband spent a year living and traveling in Europe as a child when his dad was on sabbatical (and my parents and in-laws had traveled extensively) I’d never been overseas.

And how could I let a phobia prevent me from seeing my older son?

So spouse and I flew to Nebraska in February, then to Germany with our younger son.  And later moved that little 8th grader to the prairie.

Time flies too, without any pharmaceutical assistance.

And the closer it gets to younger son’s leaving home – he’s going to attend the university his dad teaches at and live in the dorms five minutes away – the more I realize this holding on and letting go thing is a lot more complicated than I thought.

I’m still an ardent proponent of the ‘letting go’ part, but I’m struck by how much I’m going to miss having any children – young adults – in the house.

It’s not about them, it’s about me.

It doesn’t matter if they go one mile or a million geographically, it’s the distance we measure in our hearts that matters.