Six months later, it’s Parents’ Weekend at my son’s university. I’ve traveled using public transportation–bus, train, shuttle, then Uber. My driver isn’t familiar with the large campus, so I have him drop me off at an information booth only to find that the parent check-in is still a long walk up the street. (Did I mention it’s a large campus?) So here I am with my son’s well-used high school backpack on my back, jeans, hiking boots, and an old wheeled carry-on bag that has seen better days. I learn quickly that the bag’s wheels make a very loud click-clacking noise over the cobbled walkways. As I walk against the tide of parents who’ve already checked in, my case screaks out. I feel so many eyes staring (something the introvert in me despises). The eyes are of parents who are well put together. They look like money. Perfect hair, jewelry, expensive clothing and shoes. My boy is here on scholarship, and I’m having an “I’m out of my element” moment. Half of me sees the situation as ridiculously funny; the other half of me is mortified. I try to give myself a quick pep talk. “Why do you CARE what these strangers think of you?” I alternate between picking up my case and carrying it for a few feet, then wheeling it a little because my arm grows tired. I feel like such a hobo.
My boy is thriving in his element though. He and his roommate, another goofy kid who, notably, has a large collection of rubber ducks, hit it off instantly when they met back in September. They’re two peas in a silly pod, and when I check out their dorm, I see that they’ve plastered Wanted posters of their friend Erik, accusing him of stealing a fictional boat, all over their residence hall. Their dorm room door is well decorated with random humorous observations and art. His girlfriend is thoughtful and sweet, and I have to remind myself not to giggle when I see how cute they are together. He sleeps and eats, he assures me, and has even found a “reasonably priced” black bean burger with sweet potato fries and drink combination for the late nights when his residence hall is closed for dinner. He has adopted a vegetarian diet.
I still worry about his health–he’s gotten sick twice, both times when he’s come home for holiday breaks. My sister-in-law assures me that this is his time when he can afford to let down and be sick. My mother and mother-in-law both confirm that a mother never stops worrying. Fathers either. I find some… comfort in this? (Maybe?)
I’ve read the words of many other empty nesters, and the things I wrestle with now are similar, such as the realization that the day-to-day part of raising my son has come to an end. In all likelihood, he won’t be living under the same roof again, other than a few weeks between his summer internship’s end and the start of school. The hard thing for me now at this point is figuring out what and where to focus my energies now that these concentrated eighteen years have come to a close. I lie in bed now, not worrying about him so much, but I worry about my own future. I assess and reassess my next move.
The leap of faith the three of us took six months ago has paid off. He is developing into a young man of substance. I just hope that I can continue to develop and grow in a way that he can be proud of.