Over the weekend I said goodbye to my son as he moved on to his transfer years at Biola University. During the build up to the weekend, I was filled with mixed emotions; but they were mostly centered around practical impact of his leaving.
I started thinking about what would I do with his room (of course I’d already made plans to convert it into some space that would be more useful for me). I began realizing that he would no longer be here to help with transporting his 16-year old sister to or from somewhere, nor would he be the adult in the house while I did X,Y, or Z activity. He wouldn’t be here to take out the trash or contribute to other chores that he shared with his sister and me. I thought about those little irritations that would be alleviated by his absence – like reminding him not to put his head on the white chairs; asking that he stop hanging his pull-up bar on the door frame because it caused dents in the wood; or asking him to keep his late-night television noise down while I was tried to sleep. Yes, some of the disadvantages of his absence were self-serving and some aspects would bring relief, but naturally my heart also swelled with emotion as the college orientation drew near. I knew that I’d miss him, but boy was I surprised about how strongly I felt when we actually parted.
As my daughter and I sat with him Friday night over dinner after checking him into his dorm room, something in our conversation triggered memories of my son’s growing years. From his birth, to his enthused infatuation with Barney. The baseball games, basketball games, and piano recitals. Crazy accidents and ER visits – from things like jumping from a kid-sized car and splitting his eyebrow on the edge of the coffee table, frequent asthma attacks, and the hospital visit when he thought he wanted to play football (I was quite relieved to see that this idea didn’t last longer than the first clinic). My mind also revisited the graduations and the prom… His first love… his first real heartbreak. While he stands at 6”1’ or so, every time I look him, all I see is my little baby boy with chubby cheeks who’d often run to me full of excitement when I’d pick him up from school. The little boy who loved Top Ramen noodles and video games – well actually, the grown man still loves video games!
And then, at that table, out of no where, the tears started. First just a few. But then the flood gates opened!
I thought about all of the experiences that have shaped him into the person that he is today. The person that he is still to become. He is a Christ-centered young man of strength, character and of strong moral ethics. His heart is as beautiful as his genuine and warm smile. Though it may have taken him a little bit longer than he’d thought to get to where he is today (which has brought him some disappointment), I am so proud of where he is and where I see him going – where I pray that he continues to have the strength to go.
So as I dried my tears and gave my son a hug, I realized that the little irritations that I once grumbled about would actually be missed. I held him tightly when I gave him that last hug goodbye on Saturday night after the school’s beautiful communion ceremony. We talked for a little bit about the road ahead and I accepted that he’s coming into his own. Back at home, I crept into his room, my eyes taking in its partial emptiness. The cluttered chaos of the things he had to leave behind brought me comfort. I remember the palpable shift as I looked at him in those final moments when the heavy sadness of his move was replaced with a simple understanding . The understanding that he is now a man who must do what we parents raise our children to do: leave.
There is great joy for this particular mother as her elder child breaks free and steps out on his own. His father and I have done what we can to shape, nurture, and protect him, and with God’s further protective embrace, I know that my son will go on to make his mark on this world.