Forever Different by Sharon O’Donnell
Today I’m on my way to tour the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with my husband and our 17-year-old son. It’s one of the colleges to which he has already applied, but he has not yet taken an official campus tour. The school offers several of the majors he is considering and has made national surveys in the up and coming type categories. Of course, the university is in Wilmington, which is on the coast and near several beaches — a definite plus. As a matter of fact, I’ve been on the Internet searching for the best seafood restaurant to go to after the tour. (Haven’t told my husband this yet — but we have to eat, and eating on a deck by the ocean sure beats stopping on the interstate for fast food.)
It’s extremely hard to believe that my son is old enough to go to college. My oldest son, Billy, is a junior in college already, and I’m just now finally getting used to having him gone. And now it’s time for son #2 to take that step. Thank God I still have my youngest son at home with me or I think I’d be a basket case. Families do change quickly though as the kids get older. They are still your kids of course, but once they leave, it’s different. Forever different. I find myself getting misty-eyed when I’m shopping and see moms out with their young sons – – particularly when the boys are brothers spaced age-wise about the way my oldest two boys are — three years in between. I can’t help myself. All those times when my boys were little and people would say to cherish those times — well, I was too caught up in the present then to really pay attention. And I thought it would happen gradually — that I could feel it happen gradually — and I guess in a way it is gradual as they do things like get a driver’s license, shave, and date. But overall, it doesn’t feel gradual at all. One minute he is at the dinner table with us or battling his brother for the shower, and then the next minute he’s not here. Nothing gradual about that at all.
So I have to learn to adapt, to accept the fact that my family dynamics will never be the same as they used to be. My sons are successful and talented young men, and I’m proud of them and want them to pursue their dreams wherever they take them. Independence is a part of that. But I’ve found I can never be fully independent from them. They are my life. Sure, I have my own dreams and goals that I still pursue, but I don’t mind saying that they truly are the essence of my life. Always will be.
I was sitting on the couch last night with my youngest son, Jason, 11. We were watching the complete season 2 of the show The Middle (great show, if you haven’t checked it out) and laughing out loud at the mishaps that hit very close to home for us. One episode was about how the youngest child in that family had to always go with his mother to run her errands, and Jason could relate to that very well. At the end of the episode, the boy’s mother explained to him that one reason she made him go with her everywhere was that she liked hanging out with him since her other kids were teens and didn’t do anything with her anymore. As Jason leaned his head against my head and pulled a blanket up over me, I calculated how long it would be before he would be going off to college.