Last week, traipsing through sunny California college campuses with my boy was a little surreal. First, because, well, he's my firstborn, the wee lad I used to leisurely stroll with down Brooklyn streets while gazing at him lying like a mush in the carriage all cozy under his blankets, sporting the cutest, stylish Baby Gap clothes. I relished those (not-so-) lazy days with him, and then two years later, when his sister arrived. I knew I had embarked on the most important new job I'd ever have, and I gleefully stayed home with my children a good 10 years before returning to a full-time job. I was lucky, and I knew it.
These days, we are once again about to kick off a new chapter in our lives. For our boy, he'll soon be embracing a certain freedom, leaving behind the tiresome mom-and-pop rules and regulations we've established over the years, adjusted to age and maturation levels when necessary, but taking on grander, adult-like responsibilities. For the rest of us, we'll sadly feel the absence of him everywhere in the house. (At least I know I will.)
But looking back, it feels as though each phase of growth for both children has been preparing us for the stage we're about to enter. For me, it was a tough transition grasping that their interests had migrated. For our daughter, that meant that mommy and daddy were no longer the center of her world--it had become her friends. For our son, it meant discovering individuality and exploring independence.
In California, I watched him sitting on the lush lawns, and listening to the tour guides as they seduced us with the glamour and appeal of their schools. And at each of the six we visited, I was easily able to envision my son as part of the student body. He's interested, he's excited, he's smart, and he's determined to be a success.
It was an emotional trip for me, but for my son, it's a rite of passage; one he's been looking forward to for a long time. I tried to preoccupy myself with thoughts that would take me away from the looming watery mess I had the potential to be. As we journeyed through the paved, sometimes shady walkways between the imposing buildings--science hall over here, library over there--I concluded that there's no way around it: I must fully accept that my baby boy is becoming a man. I once mentioned this to him, and he scoffed and said, “It shouldn't come as a surprise; people do grow up, Mom.” Yes, of course I know this, but facing it head-on and being in the thick of what will soon be his college life was a little too grown-up for me. And, I admit, I only cried once, but I don't think anyone even saw.