I know everyone who is a parent at one time or another has looked at their children and said “where does the time go?!” to themselves. And don’t you just want to smack someone who tells you for the hundredth time to appreciate the stage you are at with your kids…because before you know it, they’ll be grown up and gone.
Well, get ready to smack me because I’m echoing that sentiment.
I think the rate at which the clock began ticking quicker commenced when my kids started high school. The flurry of basically everything in high school is a blur. From one proverbial frying pan to the next. Homework, extra curricular activities, driving (gasp! especially because I was their driving instructor), social events…and did I say homework? The best is when they tell you at 10 o’clock at night that they need a coffee cake made for Bible class the next morning. Or when one of them (definitely not Jack) gets a third or fourth wind and wants to sit on your bed at 11 o’clock and chit chat.
I have found I don’t have a second wind past 10:30 at night and my husband never caught his first wind past that same time. When junior year hit for my oldest child, Jack, I started to have that little bit of tightening in my chest when I thought of how close he was to being a senior. And I knew the girls were next. I was noticing that the days were flying by – why can’t the days fly by when you are sick…or better yet, why can’t the days fly by when your husband is sick? Just kidding. Kinda.
There has been a shift in our family that has taken place since Jack went to college. Not just a shift in me, one in everyone. While I fully acknowledge and understand that he couldn’t be a senior in high school forever (I couldn’t have survived it), I still wasn’t ready for him to leave. His sisters weren’t ready. His dad wasn’t ready. Oh, but he was ready. We all know the time was right and he is as happy off at college as we have ever seen him. It’s just flat-out weird not having him around anymore. But you know what? Nothing can stay the same forever (except for my love of chips and queso). But I can control my attitude towards the shifts of life and remember that God will prepare me to handle them. Boy, did I have to control the impulse to cry like a baby as I was watching Jack say goodbye to our dog, Scooter, on his way out the door for move in day at college. I wasn’t expecting that to be so ruff.
When we took him to college in mid August, why would I have expected a simple drop off? No, that happens to other families. Not the my family. I took the advice of my sister, who told me to make his bed as comfortable as humanly possible because a comfy bed is hugely important to a college kid – it’s their “home”. I bought a temper-pedic type topper along with all the other bedding necessities (mattress topper, hypo allergenic pillow case to protect from bed bugs -gross, but it’s reality). I’m so glad I did, because for some reason, knowing he was able to climb into a super comfortable bed 200 miles away enabled me to sleep well.
I was all business moving him in that day. Productive, focused and unemotional (basically I was an imposter). However, my family must think I am a hothouse flower – every so often throughout the day my girls (who we let miss their first real day of school to move their brother in) would give me the look as if to say “Mom, you ok? You going to lose it?” You know how a dog will cock his head and look at you quizzically? That’s how they would look at me (the same look as Caroline in the photo above). What have I done over the years to make them think a grown woman is going to lose it at a dormitory in Waco, Texas? Apparently a lot.
It’s like the clock started ticking louder and louder like something out of Alice in Wonderland when the time had come to say goodbye. Of course, it started raining cats and dogs. So our goodbyes outside had to be quick. Which was best, because lingering would have made it that much more difficult. Wayne pulled the car around and was waiting for me and the girls to say our (third) final goodbye to Jack. Watching the girls hug their brother while they were crying was cruel for a mother to watch. I was mad that I was having to actually act my age and encourage everyone. Nothing prepared me for driving away. I wanted to stop the car, jump out and say “Get in the car, big fella. You are coming home with us…college is for losers”. But Wayne’s sweet and comforting words (and a death grip on my arm) kept me in the locked car. We drove off in basic silence (which is a rarity in my family) except for some muffled cries. I was hoping that Jack would see us happily waving goodbye as we drove off, but fear he just saw our noses pressed against the window like pathetic little puppies who had been left at the pound.
We got our act together and stopped in College Station for dinner. College Station is our halfway point home from Waco. I remember thinking to myself that it was odd that Wayne wanted to stop and eat. Normally on a road trip, we slow down to the required speed to get through a drive thru so we can make the best time possible getting home. Plus, the girls had school the next day, so the decision to stop was even more of a shock. But God knew we needed to stop and not make it all the way back to Houston. As we were eating dinner I got a text from Jack with the picture of a digital thermometer. The thermometer read 102.7. It took my brain a while to comprehend what I was looking at.
We had left him no more than two hours ago and he’s now showing me a thermometer with 102.7 on it (who knew he actually listened when I told him where I left his first aid kit). I shoved my chips and queso to the side and called him immediately. He told me his RA (room advisor) was going to take him to the ER because the health center was closed for the day. Excuse me? ER? Wayne said without hesitation and quite emphatically: “We are going back to get him” (I am sure the thought of an expensive ER visit never crossed his mind). My first thought was, “We’re not allowed to! We just gave up our rights as parents! He’s in college!” Then I started thinking rationally and realized Wayne (forever known as the rational and level-headed one of the two) was right. So we quickly jumped in the car to head back to Waco. Guess the love for their brother had worn off because both girls were stressing as they started to do the math and figure out that our trip back to pick up sick brother would get them home after midnight. Remember, they had school the next day.
We got back to his dorm and found a very sick boy. Wayne followed me in Jack’s car back to Houston so he could drive himself back to Waco when he was better. I took him to the doctor the next day and found out he had strep. Jack decided he wanted the painful antibiotic shot in his leg (that had the consistency of sour cream) so he could be on the mend quickly and back on the road to college. Amazingly, he never missed the first day of class. But this is where it got interesting for me…
When we came home from the doctor and he just laid around recovering all day, I had an epiphany. He is not supposed to be living at our house. He’s supposed to be in college forging a new life and new relationships. There was nothing left for him in Houston and at our house. His time here had been completed. The Lord was so gracious to give me that extra bit of time with him to make me realize that I actually wanted him leave and go back to college. Who knew I would ever be saying that? God left the light on in me that day. And for that I am grateful.