I took my youngest, Andrew, back to school this weekend. This was my first time dropping him off by myself. Somehow, three years later, this just doesn’t get any easier. When my husband and I made that drive his freshman year, I recall battling with so many conflicting feelings. The entire time we were helping him unpack and set up his dorm room I pushed down the rising panic that I was feeling at the thought of leaving my “baby” behind and so far away- a 9 hour car ride.
When the time came for goodbyes, my husband pulled a fast one on us and announced we were leaving- without warning. We were standing in the lobby of the student living center. It was bustling with freshmen and their families and the chaos involved in moving your child in for the first time. I looked at my husband in shock and squeaked out, “Right now?” I remember him not quite meeting my eye as he nodded, quite curtly.
I scarcely got a hug and an “I love you” in before my husband placed a firm arm around me and started walking me away. I remember turning back to look at Andrew and much to my dismay, he was standing there looking at us….walking away. He looked so young and scared. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I cried all the way to the car. It all turned out fine. Andrew survived. My husband probably did the right thing by rushing me out.
But this time it was just Andy and me, sitting in the car, saying our goodbyes. I was feeling that familiar panic at leaving him, this time sharing a house (along with all of those responsibilities) with three friends and no dining plan to provide him with meals- no matter how crappy he might think they were. As we sat there, I didn’t think that I had not prepared him for this. I knew it. We had an awkward goodbye hug in the car in front of his house. I couldn’t justify making him get out of the car and hugging me on the street….. neither one of us could do that. Without my husband to herd me along, it was harder to just pull away from the curb. I wanted to sit there and watch him walk into the house. As I turned the corner and headed toward the highway I wondered how I was going to make the long drive home without crying.
Before I continue I should really clarify that I know that Andy will figure out how to live in this environment. I understand that kids grow up and away from their parents and it’s all part of life. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy though. Especially when it’s the kid, who when he was younger, asked if he had to go away to college or could he possibly live at home because he didn’t want to leave us. I knew we would be okay…. I just didn’t know how I would handle a 9 hour car drive all alone with my thoughts.
Lucky for me, that part was taken care of for me, compliments of my GPS. Looking back I can pinpoint exactly where the directions went wrong but at the time, I was slow to pick up on it. It seemed odd that I was getting off at a different exit than I had gotten on when we arrived. It wasn’t until I saw that QEW showed up as a direction on my screen. What was QEW? I was certain of one thing- I had never heard of it or seen it in my directions before this minute.
It was only as I was really paying attention to signs (and crossing a big, vaguely familiar bridge) that I knew that I was not heading in the correct direction. It appeared that I was on my way to Niagara Falls (and Canada)! I pulled off into a Tim Horton’s Restaurant parking lot to get my bearings. I paused and looked around, wondering idly how far I was from Niagara Falls. (It was 6:30am and I really didn’t need to rush home, did I?) A quick check on my phone confirmed that I was only 20 minutes from the US side of the falls. I entertained the idea of spontaneously taking a side trip but that lasted all of thirty seconds before I quickly did the math and realized that I still had a 9 or 10 hour drive ahead of me, depending on construction, traffic, potty stops, enjoying the Falls time and making up the distance I had gone out of my way. I quickly pulled up directions on my phone, after shaking my head in disappointment at the car GPS that apparently thought I might like an adventure today. I threw the car into reverse and nearly took out two men who were enjoying a leisurely stroll through the parking lot, coffees in hand and lively conversation distracting them from noticing my car backing right at them. I stopped, they reached their car, and I turned out of the parking lot…heading in the wrong direction.
Luck was still on my side and I ran straight into a roundabout, which was empty. My momentary panic subsided when I realized I didn’t have to worry about yielding or stopping or doing anything wrong. I was able to turn around and head back in the right direction. For the next hour I had dueling GPS voices with the Australian guy on my phone winning out over the electronic female of the car GPS.
Despite my early morning detour, I managed to make it home in record time. The rest of my ride flew by without incident and my GPS mix-up managed to distract me from thinking about and worrying about and obsessing about how Andrew was going to manage. When I checked in with him during one of my rest area stops, he seemed to be doing fine.
I have a few short days before Kris will be returning from their summer job. Then it will be time to make plans to help Kris move into their new place as they head back to college next week. I can hardly wait to see how that goes!