By Ann Loyola
I remember the day I drove off to college in a ’66 Ford Mustang, loaded up with stuff and snacks to get me from San Jose to La Jolla. My surfboard was snug in the car rack and I felt like the world was indeed my oyster. I sported a smile and not one tear for the five-hour drive but a few years later, my parents admitted that they cried as I backed out of the driveway. Tears of joy, they both emphasized as if my rebellious teen years had been a living nightmare for them. Sheesh.
The summer of 2016 will go down in our family history as the summer that my son left for college.
First born, first to go out in the world. My husband and I began grieving around May. As summer progressed, we had to accept that all of the chances we’d had for the prior 18 years to bestow wisdom, life skills, and hovering protection were over. Now he’ll have make sense of the world on his own terms, and although we’ll always be a font of parental advice, it will be clear that he’s moved on from boyhood.
I started cleaning his room the other day and found the secret hiding places for lone socks, underwear, and coins. He left behind a few other items, too, such as the guidebook we bought him about going to college, his Eagle Scout sash, and his mini-dachshund, Waffles. The room still smells like a teenage boy which isn’t entirely unpleasant; wet grass, a touch of mud, and a tiny whiff of rotting beef. Perhaps I’ll find a moldy hamburger as I continue my deep clean but for now, I just sat on his bed and absently petted Waffles, my new lap dog and bedmate.
My daughter is a senior this year and she’s planning to go to college soon after. She’ll leave us with several of her cats, possibly a horse, and another empty room. I suppose that if all goes well, both children will establish themselves and for the most part, leave us with empty rooms. On the other hand, we can’t ignore the statistics about kids returning to the nest so I shouldn’t be too quick about converting their rooms into expanded closet space.
All of this leads to the inevitable moment that parents face when the kids grow up and go. It’s that moment in time when Mom and Dad look at each other and say “Who the heck are you?”
We’ve been practicing how to talk to each other. We’ve been on a few dates where discussion about the children was self-limited. We’ve even begun calling each other by our real first names.
After spending two days up at Grand Targhee Resort manning the Teton Valley Health Care sponsor booth, I saw many fit mountain bikers in their 60s and 70s giggling with joy over the abundant trails and high-tech demo bikes they were taking advantage of. It was a great event, the Wydaho Mountain Bike Festival, and my husband actually mounted his bike for the first time in years and rode some of the trails. That’s when it occurred to me that it’s our job as parents to raise the kids and send them off on their next big adventure. I just didn’t realize that the kids would return the favor.