Donny went to college orientation this week. This was something I was happy to be distracted from thinking about with the trip to Costa Rica and having the boys home, but as all things do, the task showed up anyway- whether I ignored it or not. (Women are famously good at getting busy when something hard to do is imminent.)
I remember my own college orientation. My mom dropped me off for three days on campus where I would stay in the dorm and meet the people in my program, tour the campus, register for classes and feel the weight of college approaching. Orientation is a vital transition from the great euphoria of being a senior and being center of attention and the cause for applause to realizing that really you are only at the bottom rung of another ladder. The college ladder is just another mediary ladder towards beginning a career or graduate work and somehow this registers at orientation. The fun factor also registers as well as the new delights of independence. Necessary. Valuable. Important….for the student….
…but for the mama… it’s another story. Craig decided this young man of ours at seventeen should man up and do it himself. Craig took over and asked me to step aside, because I assumed I would drive him there, deliver him to the necessary attraction points and get as much out of it as him from the parents programs offered during orientation. Craig shook his head. He said, Tonya you are not going to be a helicopter mom, you are going to let him do this himself. I pouted. I don’t want to be a helicopter mom to my son, but I instinctively was acting like one.
Craig asked Donny to go on line and find a hotel near campus, get the directions, make the reservation and prepare to go on his own. So he did. And he quite liked the responsibility….until about three hours before leaving when he came up with any and every excuse why I might need to be there. He was nervous. I was nervous. But Dad said and we don’t argue with his final decisions.
He drove the three hours, got lost a little in Waco, but found the hotel and checked in himself. The next morning he got to campus for all the activities and then I couldn’t get him to respond to my calls or texts. He was all in the campus groove. He was beyond happy and excited. And I felt left behind… as I should. In eight weeks this man is going to be dropped off for the real thing. I better get my subconscious mind at peace with that. Ouch. I hate it when my mind betrays my good sense.
I also remember the summer before college when my mom allowed me to travel to Iowa to spend a weekend with my stepsister. I drove by myself for eight hours to Iowa and did some camping with her. It was a quiet contemplative time for me. I remember telling her I would like to be a writer but someone told me I didn’t know enough to write anything that anyone would want to read. She used graphic language to basically encourage me to not listen to that sort of advice. I listened anyway. I probably knew at eighteen it was true. I put that dream on a shelf. Anyway, the point is when I returned from that great independent adventure of finding my way in our country alone I had changed in a way that I would never be able to go back.
This happened to Donny by successfully making this trip on his own.I need to give him the respect for discovering his resourcefulness and allow him to flex those muscles. Receiving him home has changed who he is, and how we parent him from here on out. I can’t really tell him what to do. If I do it is out of fear that he will make a mistake and really he ought to make a few mistakes to become the man he needs to be. Mama needs to bow her head and allow God to guide this man. I can be here when he asks for advice, needs help or comfort and pray for him without ceasing.
It’s hard to let him go. I love him so much and I am going to miss everything about having him at home. Ihave really completed the big work that God gave me to do for him and I had no idea it would be so hard to give him the exact independence I have been raising him to have all these seventeen years. I’m going to end this post now simply because my eyes are bleary and my throat hurts. I know I am not alone because every mom who has sent a son off to college knows what I am feeling at this moment. Bittersweet.
p.s. he returned with this to say: “there are five girls to every guy at Baylor and out of five girls six of them are pretty”. Yikes.