When my daughter and her friends left for college this fall, there seemed to be a flood of emotion online. Suddenly everyone I knew on Facebook was dropping off children for their first year of college, and everyone was tearful and choked up. Not me.
“This doesn’t mean I am not emotional,” I told my daughter, as I pictured her in a therapist’s office 15 years from now (“Everyone’s mother cried. Except mine.”). I just didn’t want to make it about me. She was the one leaving for college, after all.
That’s an oversimplification, of course. I didn’t want to post about her departure and have been kind of quiet this whole first semester, as a matter of fact, because there are just so many emotions. I’m not sure where one begins and the other ends.
Let’s start with my need to take care of her. Leeannah worked all summer at a consignment shop with the hope that she would have enough spending money for her first semester of college and not need to work once she got to Temple University. Perfect planning, right?
But once at school, she wanted to work. She doesn’t have any classes on Tuesdays and was bored, so one day she took the subway into Philly’s Center City and got a job at a chain clothing store there.
Initially I was angry about this. Why hadn’t she told me? And worried. Could she manage a job and her first semester of college classes? Was she short on cash for some reason? No, she said, she loved the store and the interview process got her thinking about what she’s good at doing. Which led to some soul searching about her major, and actually, she chose one: Public relations.
Wow, this kid mastered the subway. She got a job! She picked a major! Anger turned to worry turned to pride. And back to worry momentarily about the subway. Then back to pride again.
Anyone else have whiplash? I thought I was alone on this dry-eyed roller coaster of sentiment, until I talked to Kristi, a friend of mine who lives in Bozeman, Montana and whose son goes to Georgetown University. He spent Thanksgiving with us and will finally head back home to Montana for the first time this month.
“How is it to have a child in school so far away?” I asked her. She admitted that she dislikes that question for the way it is so often posed, like how could she bear to be so far away from her son. Of course she misses him, but she is also really excited for him. This is what he wants to do.
Yes! That’s it. I loved what she said. These are exciting days in my daughter’s life and I want her to embrace them and remember their lessons. And you know what? I want the same for myself as well, which means some things will percolate for a while before I post. I am just too busy embracing them.