Today is the day I’ve been dreading all summer. Today is the day we follow our youngest son Lucas to college, help him unpack all his stuff, take him to lunch, and then get out of his way.
I know I’m going to cry today (I already have been). My only goal is not to cry in front of him; I’ll try to save the majority of my tears for the ride home and for tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.
I should be happy for him. I AM happy for him. He’s excited about this next chapter in his life, and he has all the confidence in the world that he will conquer every challenge and meet every goal. I have the same confidence in his abilities.
I’m just sad, and I can’t help it. I’ve been talking a lot this week to some of the mothers of his friends, and I know they’re feeling the same pain. We’ve been reminiscing and crying together–misery loves company, I guess. It’s hard for us moms to watch our little boys walk away as grown men. Sure, they’ll be home every few weeks to visit (we hope), but they will already be changing, conforming to their new worlds.
It’s impossible for me to see the impressive young man Lucas has become without remembering the adorable little boy he used to be–and missing, just a little, the sweet innocence of those long ago days. This is the little boy who was my “chair buddy” when he was young, sitting by me in my recliner and twirling the ends of my hair. This is the same little boy who wanted to be a worm farmer when he grew up and swore he would live with me forever. (I am glad his goals have since been set a little higher!) And this is the little boy who used to be so quiet and shy and backward–until a Christmas concert in the third grade when he suddenly and magically fell in love with little third grade Julie and discovered the power of love and the power of being silly.
I could go on and on, but the point is simple–I’m going to miss him. It was hard enough when his older brothers left for college, but I eventually got through their departures, and I know I’ll get through this, too–millions of mamas before me have had to do the same. This time is a little harder, though, because Lucas is the last son leaving–the “nest” is suddenly empty, and I’m afraid the quiet will consume me. Even harder is that, for the past 15 years, I have had at least one of my sons in the same school building with me every day, and now that pleasure is also gone. I have been so fortunate to see them walking the halls, laughing and clowning with their friends and interacting with their teachers and classmates–very few parents get to share that part of their children’s lives. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, but their absence from those halls now makes the hole in my life seem even bigger.
I’m not ready for this; the summer disappeared too quickly. There is still so much I need to tell Lucas, so much I think he needs to know in order to have a successful college life. I’m pretty sure he thinks he already knows everything he needs to know–and he may be more right than I realize, but here are a few pieces of advice anyway. (It’s probably easier for both of us if he just reads these on his own time–that way I don’t have to try so hard to fight back the tears, and he doesn’t have to try so hard to be patient with his sentimental old fool of a mother).
To Lucas, From Mom:
- Don’t throw your sweaty clothes and wet towels into a forgotten pile unless you think mildew stains are attractive (no one else does).
- Work hard, eat well, and rest easy (and then work hard some more).
- Be careful who your friends are, and be a leader, not a follower. It’s easier to see where you’re going (and to know you’re on the right path) when you’re out in front. In high school you had the comfort of being surrounded by the same group of friends since kindergarten, and peer pressure was never an issue. Now you’re faced with making a whole new set of friends, which can be exciting and wonderful–just choose wisely.
- The library is your friend. Go there.
- Having the filthiest room in the dorm is not a status symbol. Somebody has to clean the bathroom. Somebody has to clean the refrigerator. Sometimes this somebody needs to be you.
- Time and effort. The road may seem long from your current vantage point, and there will no doubt be curves and bumps and even an occasional wrong turn along the way–but every mile logged is an accomplishment, and every wrong turn contains a valuable lesson. Arriving at your destination will be thrilling, but don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
- Warning: Due dates on calendars are usually closer than they appear.
- Don’t become one of those people your parents have warned you about.
- Go to class–every class, every day–and stay awake–every minute.
- Home is a great place to visit. However, don’t come home every weekend. You need to experience college life, you need to get involved, and you need to have fun.
- Your previous self was already pretty cool–just imagine how great you’re going to be tomorrow and next week and next year! Always look for ways to improve yourself, and in your spare time you might look for a few ways to improve the world around you as well.
- Be safe and be smart. You may sow a few wild oats (parents really aren’t as stupid or naive as their children think they are), but try to save a little of that youthful energy and enthusiasm for much later when the rules will be even greater and the opportunities to break them will be even less. Don’t break the law; your mother doesn’t provide bail money.
- Making mistakes is inevitable; learning from them is essential.
- It’s okay to email papers to your mom for proofreading. However, waiting until an hour before the paper is due will not make her happy (and you know what she’s like when she isn’t happy).
- You will not be awarded college credits for playing XBOX Live all night. It will, however, affect your GPA.
- Don’t park where you’re not supposed to. Your mother doesn’t pay parking tickets, either.
- Lock up your valuables. Don’t assume that your suitemates will always remember to lock the door, and don’t assume that the other 20,000 students on campus have the same morals and ethics as you do.
- Education isn’t just about regurgitating on a test everything a professor has told you (even though you may have some professors who expect that). Think, process, apply.
- Do your best, do your best, do your best. Never settle for mediocrity; you have so much potential you haven’t even tapped into yet, so don’t settle for just “good.” Keep searching for better alternatives until you find what you know in your heart is the absolute best for you. Imagine the possibilities!
- Sometimes life is tough, but hardships make you stronger and make you appreciate even more all the good things in life. Chin up. The mother in me would like to protect you from all pain and suffering, but the realist in me knows that such protection is neither possible nor, in fact, desirable. So I can only pray that every trial contains within it seeds of understanding and wisdom and that every defeat makes every achievement that much more glorious.
- Wash your sheets.
- Study at least a little every day. If you wait until Thursday night to study for a Friday morning chemistry test, you’ve waited too long.
- Did I mention go to class? And when you’re there, participate. Professors like that, and you never know when it could make a difference in your semester grade.
- Don’t be too cool to carry an umbrella. It’s better than being wet and cold all day.
- You are a person of great ability, talent, heart and worth. Always try to do what is best and what is right (and you will know in your gut what is right), and when you are sometimes met with nothing but criticism and complaint for all your efforts, consider the source and keep on shining. The people who matter–yourself included–know who you are, what you have done, and what you are still capable of doing. You are appreciated, respected, and loved.
- Call your mother. She will always be happy to hear your voice.
I’ve got at least 157 more pieces of advice to offer you, but the cars are loaded, and MSU is anxiously awaiting your arrival. As soon as I can find the box of Kleenex, I’ll be ready to go. Not really, but …
Today is the day.