Yesterday I dropped off my son at the airport to go back for second semester of his freshman year. He is very laid back. I am very much not laid back. Our relationship exists precariously in-between these two poles.
He goes to school 1600 miles away. The distance has been hard but it’s also been good and I mean for me. A year ago we were not talking very much. It was short staccato questions like-Did you schedule your appointment? Can we get more waffles? Where are you going? Not a lot of substance. Many one word answers. It was a long and painful year.
We had forced family time (emphasis on forced) that didn’t go well. Lots of eyerolling and loud audible sighs and again I mean me. Eighteen months ago I wasn’t sure he would go to college. He seemed only lightly invested in high school.
In a flash of anger my son said he would leave home and not come back
High school during a pandemic was spirit crushing for both of us. Two years ago he said in a flash of anger, “Once I leave here, I’ll probably never come home.” But I was wrong about college and he was wrong about not coming home. Luckily, we were both wrong about a lot of things.
First semester of college was transformational for him in every single way. He was tossed into a completely new environment which is what he said he wanted. A fresh landscape of people, climate, classes, structure and space was a very large test for him. Far outside his comfort zones like all young adults, he had a lot to navigate and he has survived and in some areas thrived.
It was not all perfect. He cracked his phone the first day of class. He lost his key card the first week. There was a bomb scare. There was/is no hot water in his bathroom. The fire alarm goes off often because college kids can be boneheads and set off fire alarms. In his case, thousands of freshman pour out onto the front lawn each time the alarm sounds. Sometimes it’s in the middle of the night but he has been rolling with it. I have been gritting my teeth.
I miss my son so much while he is at school
I have missed him so much. Hungry for tidbits about what he is experiencing and if he likes it and if he is well and if he is eating vegetables. I’m grateful for FaceTime and texting and phone calls now like never before. And somewhere amid all of it, he not only started reaching out to tell us things, he also became grateful and poetically told us so. He thanked us for everything we did to get him there, for supporting him, for our sacrifices, for believing in him and for letting him make this choice. So then I missed him even more.
Having him home for a month this winter was a joy. Like a celebrity sighting every day. Him in the kitchen. Him picking up burgers for all of us. Him on the couch. Him warming up the car. Him eating all the chips. He fit in a haircut, a teeth cleaning, a passport photo, seeing friends, working a bit, hanging out with his family. The things adults do.
On the way to airport he talked about what he wants to do differently this semester. He wants to get more involved. Maybe he will join a club. He would like to make the Dean’s List. He said he wants to read again. Not just for school just read. He wants to READ??? Be still my heart. I would have fallen off my chair hearing these words but I was driving. A year ago I could not even imagine this man who wants to read sitting in the passenger seat.
Where is home now, asked my son as he returned to college
But then he said, “I do feel kinda weird.”
“Weird how?” I resisted not adding 500 more words to my inquiry which is one of my special talents.
“I don’t know. Just…I mean I’m looking forward to going back but it was good to be here…where even is home now?”
Where even is home now indeed.
And as if falling back through time, I remember my 19 year old self. Feeling like home was different but school was still a foreign place. Until it wasn’t. And I distinctly remember saying to my own mom, “When I go back home…” but by then I meant school where my friends and my boombox and my experiences were.
And I told my son it’s normal. He’s in the in-between. And so much of adulthood is sitting in the in-between. Waiting for the new normal to feel comfortable. To get the other side of a big challenge. So for all the young adults out there that are living in the in-between…we parents have been there before. Some of us are there now. We are here for all of you until you sort out where home is.
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