We dropped off our third child at camp over the weekend. He’s 14, and it’s his first time to be away from home. We left early, drove two hours to the University of Illinois, where he will spend a week playing tuba in band camp. He is matched with a roommate he’s never met before, will sleep in a dorm room, and will likely learn to navigate the campus like a pro by the end of the week.
My life flashed a little before my eyes as we drove towards the camp to drop him off. I couldn’t help but sneak glances into the backseat and see my boy–my baby boy–looking out the window, absorbed in his own thoughts. His face is taking on the elongated angles of a young man. But all I see are his trademark chubby face and sparkling eyes, the mischievous glances he used to give me as a toddler. I can still hear the cute high-pitched voice he used to talk and laugh in, now deepening as he slowly becomes a young man before our eyes.
This is the deal we sign up for as parents. If we are lucky enough to have children, our life is swept away by a torrent of 2 a.m feedings, diaper changing, snotty-nose-wiping-potty-training-temper-tantrum-ing years that seem to chew you up and spit you out. It’s exhausting, hilarious, maddening, heartwarming. Each year brings new challenges, many that weren’t discussed in What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Just when you think you’ve handled one problem, another one crops up. You’re batting away obstacles and quietly celebrating each small victory, and if you’re even luckier, you have a partner who can bat away and celebrate alongside you.
Next thing you know, you’re dropping him off at camp, trying to figure out whether he wants you to hug him goodbye, or whether a public show of affection would embarrass him to death.
And yet, this is what I want, isn’t it? I want a young man who is independent and can handle himself when I’m not there. And there he is, smiling at me, waving, then turning on his heel to go into the residence hall, alone. He didn’t even hesitate. He’s ready. I’m ready.
Back at home, I’m wondering about him. I hesitate, then decide to text him.
Did you find out which band you’re in?
40 minutes go by, then a reply:
I answer back immediately: Woo! Congratulations!
Another 30 minutes go by.
[He calls me that–homeslice. Sometimes I’m dawg. On really good days, I’m Schmom. Or Mom.com.]
I exhale. He’s fine. I’m fine. I’m not going to text him again.