Fly away home

For Angie

The one little hummingbird we’ve had at the backyard feeder this summer hovered and chirped at me from the other side of the porch screen yesterday. It is late August and the feeder is empty.  I need to take it down so the tiny, nagging bird moves along. I told him the bar was closed and he glared and made a final squeak before shooting off over the fence and into the woods.  Endings are hard.

Moms of college freshmen this week know this better than anyone. They are lugging bins up staircases and trying to make themselves useful in dorm rooms with less square footage than some closets they’ve seen in the suburbs. Cement block buildings where their dear ones will sleep and study and magically turn into young adults by Thanksgiving.

As a mom of adult children myself, there are days from their childhoods I would give anything to re-live. The days they each took their first steps and said their first words. The year my son was Four. Brushing my daughter’s long, black, hair and putting it up in a bun for Ballet. All the Boy bear hugs from behind and Girly secrets shared through the years. The moments that pass in a flash that we take for granted.

Moving my children into their new lives was not one of those days.  Everyone who’d done it before me said that I should be happy that they were ready (I was) and that they’d be just fine (they were) and that life would go on (it did) and that the loss I was feeling was normal. It was.

But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t still hurt. Their leaving me. My leaving them.

And so, if you are one of those moms (or dads) who are feeling a little empty today, take heart. You’re normal. I have been in the business of educating college freshmen for twenty years and here’s what I know. They are feeling a little empty, too. And scared. And unsure. This is true even if yours gave you the bum’s rush out the door or glanced around nervously as you swooped in for one last hug.  If you helped them unpack, this is the neatest their dorm room will look until next June when you come to move them out. They may not call you as often as you’d like them to, especially at first. This does not mean you have failed. This does not mean they don’t love you. They think that texts count. They will tell you this when you ask why they don’t call more often.  In Freshman English, when they are asked to write about themselves, they will write about their homes, and siblings, and the dog. When I ask them to write about the people who have had the most influence on them, more often than not, they will write about you.

So moms (and dads) here’s some advice.  Be a little sad for yourselves today. Resist the urge to turn the car around and see if you can move into the dorm room down the hall from where your Dear One will sleep tonight. Go home and pet the dog. Eat ice cream. Cry if you must. Hug the rest of your tribe hard.

It gets better. You’ll get better at this. I promise.

Endings are hard. In the time it takes for a hummingbird to flap its wings, they fly away.

If we’ve done our jobs, our children do, too.

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