Kim in Baltimore enjoying some peace and quiet.
I have an empty nest at my house. No, really, it’s an empty bird’s nest and it sits on my porch mocking me. You see, I have an empty nest in my heart as well.
Louis, my youngest child, has left for college. People tell me not to be sad and that York College is only a forty-five minute drive away. They say he’ll be home on weekends and holidays and at some point I’ll even look forward to him going to school. I know they’re right, but I am still sad.
When Louis was nine he was a Boy Scout and went away to camp for the first time. Neither of my children had ever been away overnight before without me. I was sick to my stomach with worry over the endless possibilities of what could go wrong. He would be with his leaders, people I knew well and trusted, but that gave me no comfort. One thing I worried about was that he wouldn’t receive any letters at mail call. Yes, that’s right, lack of mail was my greatest fear.
I knew a lot about how kids treated one another and how slippery the slope was from one of the gang to being completely ostracized. I had taught elementary school for years and saw up close how the game was played. I didn’t want him standing alone while the other boys received letters and packages. I spent a week phoning relatives and neighbors giving them Louis’s camp address. At night I sat up cutting out comic strips from the newspaper and copying jokes from books that he could share with his group. I started sending the letters a few days before he left so that he would be sure to receive one on his first day.
The time he was away flew by and soon we were on our way to pick him up. He had had a great time and nothing had gone wrong…except for one little thing. It seemed that asking people to write to your child is not the same as inviting them to a party, you don’t need to pad the list. If you ask thirty-two people to write a little boy, thirty-two people will do just that. Louis said he was embarrassed every morning when his name was called because he would receive a pile of letters and the other boys never had any mail at all. Some were still unopened in his sack when we got home. He said he didn’t have enough time to read them all. I guess I really shouldn’t have sent two letters a day.
I promised next time I would organize things better, but Louis informed me there had better not be a next time. Don’t you just hate parents who get overly involved in their kid’s lives? In the years that followed whenever he went away, whether to camp or the National Young Leaders group, I kept my writing to journal entries. I realized it wasn’t Louis who needed the letters, it was me. I needed that connection to him.
It has been one and a half weeks since Louis left for college. We had dinner last night. He made sure I had the address for his post box. I better get started on those letters.
Readers: How did your parents handle things when you left home?
Awww, Kim. You’re a good mom. <3
Ha! Most of the time I’m the “embarrassing mom”!
I got letters when I went to camp, but not a million of them! I was also given stamped addressed postcards so I wouldn’t have any excuse not to write home, and i still have a couple of those. But college? I was an hour’s drive away and barely went home. They didn’t come and visit, either. No memory of letters or phone calls. Different times!
Edith, he has already been home once since school started. I think he misses his room more than me!
My mom said I wrote some great letters when I went off to college. We didn’t ever go off to camp for long periods of time — that whole experience fascinates me.
I’m a city girl and never had the camp experience. I was a Brownie for about a month until my mom was tired of driving us around. Louis has had several extended stays away before college, but this is different. This isn’t just a few weeks away, it’s a step into his real life. Exciting, but bittersweet…for me, he’s absolutely fine!
Oh my goodness, this post is so relatable! I bet your son will look back on that fondly, remembering how much you love him! Now that he’s older, there are so many ways to keep in touch…text, email, Skype/Face Time, etc. I hope they’re comforting during an inevitably bittersweet time.
Thanks, Susan! I try not to be too demanding of his time, but sometimes I slip in a text here and there…and there!
I’ll never forget the sight of my oldest son walking around the corner with his orientation group at College of the Holy Cross as we drove away and left him there in 2005. I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it. He survived and so did we (he actually lives at home now at age 28). My daughter has been in Tennessee doing a psychology internship since the end of July and we probably won’t see her until Christmas, so I’ve been calling almost every night just to say “hello.” Today I’m planning NOT to call for a few days because I know it’s gotten to the point where the calls are for ME, not for her. Being a mother is an emotional roller coaster ride, but eventually you will have a day when you suddenly realize that you haven’t thought about what he’s doing or how he’s feeling. It will be both a shock and a relief. Of course, then he’ll move on to some other new adventure and it will all start over again!
So very true!
Kim, you have been on my mind about this so much lately! It is so hard and so essential all at the same time. I am not sure if it ever does get easy but it does become the new normal and there is a lot of good that comes of new too. xoxox
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