“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;/You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,…” (Psalm 30:11)
It wasn’t the heat I was trying to beat this summer; it was tears I worked to fight back. And I’m afraid I lost that battle before the fireworks lit the July sky. It was a rout actually, for the waterworks threatened when the Crusader worked on his college application; the dam burst while reading his acceptance letter; and the waters overflowed when he registered for classes. They soak every backpack, towel, sheet, and college-ruled notebook we pack into his steamer trunk. I think we’ll simply float to school on the river of my tears come August.
No hyperbole here. You’ve probably seen animals walking two by two in your neighborhood, looking for the Ark.
Well, I’ve finally decided to just go with it, to drop the not-so-brave front (really, I have tried). Frankly, I’m tired of folks telling me I shouldn’t miss the Crusader. “You have six other kids at home,” they say. Okay, so what if I lose the pinkie toe on my right foot? Sure, somebody could go to the market and another could stay at home, but who’d cry “Wee, wee, wee”?
Well, I guess I could. I am doing a pretty good job of that so far.
I know my friends are just trying to help—plus, they’re running out of patience—but really, they could keep some of these golden nuggets of wisdom to themselves, advice such as:
“It’s natural.” So are childbirth, gas, growing pains, and getting new teeth. But they all hurt, too. Long, long ago and far, far away, we decided to have a baby that I planned to hold close—not a college student who would live ten hours away.
“I’m ready for my kids to go.” Perhaps your little people aren’t as cute as mine. Our nest gets a little chaotic at times, with worms, broken eggshells, and twigs flying everywhere, but it’s hard to watch these little birdies fly away.
“It’s what you’ve been working toward.” We’ve taught, corrected, discipled, and loved him…right out the door apparently. I even propped the keyboard beneath his procrastinating fingers and encouraged him to apply early decision. But I’m starting to think just knowing he got accepted is good enough.
“Six more to go!” I don’t see my little people as merchandise on an assembly line, where we affix parts during production so we can use ’em up and ship ’em out: eyes, check; ears, check; nose, check; legs, check; SAT scores, check; writing skills, check; self control, check. Rather, we’re each an integral part that forms a whole; we’re not interchangeable. Come on, y’all, if my toe hurts, I’m going to limp.
“Girl, by the time M&M graduates, you’ll be used to it. It’ll be easy.” This makes as much sense as the ever-popular “I bet it didn’t hurt by the time you had Number Seven. You could just spit him out!”
That said, I couldn’t bring myself to rain on our family’s Fourth of July parade. After all, this summer before college is a rite of passage for him and us; as much as there is to mourn, there is even more to anticipate. We should live it up this summer, friends and family alike, storing up, creating, and refreshing memories. Our tears will be joyful and sorrowful, salty and sweet. We must make time for it all (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
We’ll party hearty. Who doesn’t enjoy celebrating a birthday twice a year? (Okay, anyone over forty, put your hands down.) We’ll miss the Crusader’s 18th birthday, but we won’t miss him blowing out the candles. This summer I’ll cook a lot of his favorites—chicken Parmesan, quesadillas, homemade pizzas—including his one-of-a-kind apple cake to honor his birthday a few months early. Together, we’ll mark the day he becomes a man by celebrating the day he became our first baby boy.
We’re hitting the road, Jack. There’s lots to do before August—packing, buying, and yes, crying. But we don’t want that to hinder our summer travel. During that time we bond, suffer, and learn on the road. Since it’s something we all look forward to (and dread) it’s important that we maintain that tradition even in the midst of this season of change. Besides, we’d all miss hearing the Crusader whine about the lack of wi-fi in the Maine cottage.
Say it in pictures. Now is not the time to get camera shy, so this summer we’re capturing everything from day-to-day moments in the kitchen to the the Crusader’s speech. It’s painful pleasure, these pictures and videos from the past and present, as we share them on his graduation announcements, play them during his going-away party, and view them on our Friday night movie nights.
Plan for the future. We’ve already pinned up the Crusader’s college schedule. That way we can anticipate breaks, holidays, and long weekends when he or we can visit. With this in mind we’re already booking holiday flights to get ahead of the game and our little people can check the calendar to see when big brother is on his way. And no worries, Songbird. The Crusader’s picture won’t replace the star atop the tree.
Yes, the countdown has truly begun. In less than a month, the Crusader will point his Adidas sneakers toward college, and it’s equal parts bitter and sweet. But as I’ve released him to forge his own way in the world I’ve clung to God’s Word as my refuge and comfort. And yes, my well-meaning friends, even your words have a ring of truth: it is natural; we are ready; it’s a goal we’ve worked toward; six little people do follow in the Crusader’s footsteps; and one day I’ll enjoy some Southern sweet tea for two because hey, Hubby is waaayy cuter than the little people.