The Hand Off

This weekend C. and I delivered B. to college. We moved him into his dorm room, helped him secure his meal plan, pick up his student ID, set up a bank account, buy his books…the complete disaster.

B. was uneasy throughout the process, champing at the bit, anxious to shoo his parents off like stragglers in a bar after closing time. I didn’t take it personally. I felt exactly the same way 31 years ago when I was the one moving into a dorm room. Fine, I love you, thanks for bringing me up these past 18 years, now go, go, go…get in the car and let me start figuring this thing out.

We came back to campus the next day for a parents’ orientation seminar—something they didn’t have when I was a Freshman, but was actually somewhat informative and helpful. By Day Two, B. seemed to have formed a fast relationship with his two roommates, and was already complaining about the food (I think he’d had one meal in the dining hall).

He also complained about his Orientation Counselor. He complained about the weather (which was, in all honestly, kinda crummy). All this complaining made the next thing we had to do that much easier. After helping him schlep a few more supplies up to his room, it was time for us to bid our firstborn child goodbye (at least for a while). We pulled him out of his room, so his roommates would be spared the scene, and I talked to him in the cinderblock hallway. I reminded him about the sacrifices many people had made for him to be there, and how proud of him we were. I encouraged him to keep an open mind and stretch beyond his comfort zone. I stressed to him the importance of making good decisions—regarding time management, studying, partying, friends, money—everything. C. and I each gave him a final hug, he went back into his room, and we descended the cement staircase.

Considering what a soft touch I am with emotional situations, it’s a miracle that I didn’t tear up like the Nile at that point, but I didn’t. For one thing, B. made it easier when he said this was really not much more than just going to camp (something he’d done for many summers), and that we were going to see him again in a month (at Family Weekend). I think another reason is that this just feels like such a natural progression to me. It would be like crying at the changing of a season.

B. has been fiercely independent for many years, and has pretty much come and gone through the house on his own schedule for months now, so not having him around the house on our first day back doesn’t feel that strange. I’m sure the enormity of his absence will hit me in the coming days and weeks. This is a huge rite of passage. The handing off of a child from childhood to semi-adulthood (and semi-childhood), but right now this doesn’t feel momentous. It feels natural.

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