Today Is the Day


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:

  1. Don’t throw your sweaty clothes and wet towels into a forgotten pile unless you think mildew stains are attractive (no one else does).
  2. Work hard, eat well, and rest easy (and then work hard some more).
  3. 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. 
  4. The library is your friend.  Go there.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Warning:  Due dates on calendars are usually closer than they appear.
  8. Don’t become one of those people your parents have warned you about.
  9. Go to class–every class, every day–and stay awake–every minute.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Making mistakes is inevitable; learning from them is essential.
  14. 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).
  15. You will not be awarded college credits for playing XBOX Live all night.  It will, however, affect your GPA.
  16. Don’t park where you’re not supposed to.  Your mother doesn’t pay parking tickets, either.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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!
  20. 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.
  21. Wash your sheets.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. Don’t be too cool to carry an umbrella.  It’s better than being wet and cold all day.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.

Look out world; here comes Lucas!

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About icedteawithlemon

I have recently retired from a 30-year career in education in one of the best school districts in the world. I hope to spend my second life reading, writing, photographing, traveling, biking, cheering on my favorite baseball team (the St. Louis Cardinals), and soaking up glorious sunshine. In my spare time I enjoy playing with my pet tarantulas, trying out new flavors of chewing gum, and knitting socks for prison inmates. I'm almost positive that in a past life I was one of the Seven Dwarfs (most likely "Grumpy"), and in my next life I'm going to be either a taste tester for Hershey's or a model for Victoria's Secret's new line, "Bloomers for Boomers." I want to travel country back roads, singing Vanilla Ice songs at every karaoke bar and rating bathroom cleanliness at every truckstop. And someday I plan to own a private beach where skinny girls aren't allowed. I want to be a writer when I grow up. "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."--Henry David Thoreau
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16 Responses to Today Is the Day

  1. Janet says:

    I’ve made the journey you’re making today, and there’s no doubt it’s going to be a soggy drive home. But you’ve done your best, and now it’s time to let him do his best. And he will! Your boys are great boys….pat yourself on the back … and Norman, too … and look forward (when you finish crying) to having some new, carefree adventures with him. There IS an upside to this new place in your life! In a few weeks, you’ll be able to see it.

    • Thank you, Janet. I take comfort in seeing that so many friends have already traveled this road and are doing just fine. We may plan some weekend trips that we couldn’t before because we were always so involved in our kids’ activities. I’ve never been to Eureka Springs; I think I need to change that!

  2. That’s great… really nice story! You’re going to have to find other hobbies to keep yourself busy in your quiet house now…

  3. How can I be crying?! Makes me love you even more, Mrs. Eubank. 😉

  4. Rhonda Newton says:

    Karen, What a great writer you are! You expressed the thoughts, feelings and everything else a mother has toward her sons’ leaving for college. The youngest is definitely the hardest. Take care.

  5. Darla Sullivan says:

    Bravo Karen! I’m definitely printing this for future reference. This is the exact list we want our adult kids to post on their refrigerators and refer to multiple times on a daily basis AND maybe even carry a condensed version in their wallets, but experience tells me they would find it unnecessary. A lot of it will be absorbed, but I have a feeling your careful and wonderful advice will suddenly mean the most to Lucas when he’s carting his own son or daughter off to college…..

    • Thank you so much, Darla–what a wonderful compliment! Maybe I’ll print it out and post it on Lucas’s refrigerator the next time I go see him at school–I’m sure he wouldn’t mind!

  6. Jabet says:

    Geez… now I’m crying! I mean, I’m going to miss Lucas, too, as he has been an invaluable helper at the dock this summer (and the past several summers); but, I’m not typically this weepy when my summer help goes back to school. (Perhaps being eight months pregnant has something to do with it… ) Great post, by the way. We know Lucas will be successful in whatever he does!

  7. Beth (Bradley) Rodgers says:

    Wow. I can’t believe your baby is going to college. It honestly seems like yesterday that he was in grade school. But I’m quite positive he will do well.

  8. marymtf says:

    I liked your post and related to it. As a mother myself, how could I not? It’s been almost twenty years so I’m almost over it. I notice that you wrote this post three years ago. Hope things are going well with you. ps iced tea with lemon is one of my favourite drinks

    • Thank you, marymtf. Yes, that youngest son will be starting his junior year of college in a few weeks, and I’ve accepted the quiet and have learned even to appreciate it while exploring new opportunities to fill the void. Thanks for stopping by!

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