I am approaching what one calls a “life event.” My only child is leaving for college. I don’t know how other parents feel about this sort of thing, but I am struggling.
I never “left for college.” I was kind of a jerk as a teen (to put it mildly) and I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 17, without so much as a high school diploma. I got pregnant shortly thereafter. Despite the love and support they have shown since, I’m certain this was a nightmare for my parents. I know, because I now feel every fear my parents must have felt 18 years ago.
My son is amazing. There is irrefutable evidence that he is intelligent, wise, generous, kind, and responsible. I know these things are true. I know these things are true despite the party he threw while we were out of town, when he got drunk for the first time. Or so he tells me.
However, what happens when he leaves? He and I are close … close in a way my parents and I never were. This isn’t through any fault of theirs, it’s a result of my inability to recognize their wisdom and my desire to rebel against any and all authorities posed. But for my son – who has spent his formative years next to me, willingly – what does this mean? How will we maintain our bond?
I am amazed to think of my peers – those who are successful and still maintain close relationships with their parents – dealing with this conflict in the pre-digital age. My friends, my sisters and brother, could not email, text, Facebook, or Skype their parents. They relied on infrequent phone calls and snail mail. My son equates email with snail mail … it’s instant communication or none at all.
He promises me we’ll talk once a week … we haven’t chosen a medium. I recently learned we can have Face Time with my iPod and his iPhone … as long as there’s a wifi connection. Letters will be few, far between, and one-sided. I don’t intend to, or want to, be a “helicopter parent.”
These are first-world problems, I know. I have a son who is smart enough to go to a great school, I can afford to send him, and I’m freaking out about what will happen when he gets there. I am freaking out about the loss of control I will experience, despite how illusory my current control may be.
I don’t know what I struggle with more … my despair that I may not have taught my child enough to let him leave, or my desire to keep him close, to continue to teach beyond his adult years.
There are no perfect beings. There are no flawless characters. Why do I continue to try to be both, and reflect those attempts on my child?