When Birdies Leave the Nest



We’ve got a major milestone coming up next week.  Our oldest son is leaving for college.  The college he chose is 8 hours away, which all of the sudden feels like the other side of the planet.
The past week has been a blur as we drove down for orientation, registration, vaccination… and several other “ations” I’m sure we must have covered.

This whole process of getting this boy into college has been an interesting one, and one that’s taught me some important step-mom lessons.

1. Don’t assume the other parents have prepared this child for college in any way.  Just don’t assume.  For some reason I thought all moms treated school the same way I do.  School is a priority.  You are the advocate for your child.  You work with your kids teachers throughout the years to ensure they are getting a.) a good education, b.) their special needs met, c.) all the tools they need to be successful.
Because I assumed certain groundwork had been laid, I’ve felt like we have been playing catch up all year.  Getting him ready to take SAT & ACT, working with the Department of Rehabilitative Services to find out what assistance they provide (this son is hearing impaired), teaching him to clean a bathroom and do his own laundry.  Basically it’s felt a little bit like parenting on fast forward.  But no matter when you start, you just do it.  Like anything else just take it one step at a time.

2. Your spouse is going to have a really hard time letting go.  This is one of those things you know in theory, but it’s really something to watch it play out.  At first I didn’t realize what was happening.  I started to get aggravated that my husband seemed to be bending over backwards for his oldest son.  All of the sudden he was cooking his favorite dish every week, letting him get away with sarcastic remarks that normally wouldn’t be tolerated.  But the more I heard myself saying, “He’s getting ready to be on his own.  Why are you babying him?”, the more I realized my question was actually the answer.  Dad is having a hard time letting go.  So I did something very difficult and uncharacteristic for me – I shut up.  Yes, sometimes I have to literally bite my tongue, but I understand that these two men in my life are taking part in an important process, and it’s one I need to stay out of.

3. The soon-to-be college student will push away.  I’m so thankful that AK (I’m just going to go with his initials because I can’t decide whether to refer to him as man or boy) is such an honest, trustworthy, easy-going guy.  He doesn’t drink or party.  He brings the girls he likes to church so we can meet them.  Yes, he’s the complete opposite of me at that age.  And I’m thankful!
However, his attitude has been changing a bit.  I notice little ways he’s pushing away.  It’s very subtle, but it’s almost a “I don’t need you to tell me anything” vibe.  Again, it’s an important part of the process, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.

4. The Ex-Wife-In-Law will be dealing with some stuff too. 
Whether or not your student has lived with her, the mother is most likely dealing with her own feelings regarding her baby growing up and leaving for college.  This became apparent to me when I posted some pictures to Facebook of a college visit last spring & then heard through the grapevine that she was upset that I was the one doing these things with him.  After careful consideration I decided that my actions were motivated by the best interest of the boy and my post was motivated by genuine excitement for him, so I simply left it alone.  I do try to be careful not to say anything on Facebook that makes it sound like I’m trying to take her place.  I’m not.  But I’m not going to censor my love or excitement as we launch the first of our blended family out of the nest.

There will be many more lessons ahead as we embrace college life.  Like the one I learned at the student health center when I realized the “candy” jar on the counter was filled with colored condoms.  Plus a new dynamic will begin at home as we prepare for a new school year with just an 8th grader and 5th grader in our home full-time.  Many changes on the horizon, but no worries here.  God’s plan is a good one.

(archived from Aug. 13, 2013)

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