Three weeks ago, I did one of the hardest things in my life. I put my second born on a plane headed for Kansas to go to college. Kansas! Wow! I never saw that one coming, and let me tell you, it hit me pretty hard to realize that I blinked and here he was, all grown up and heading off to college.
It has ALWAYS been my Nathan’s aspiration to play baseball. My husband, knowing this, has kept him on track, making sure his grades were on point, and that he played high school baseball, travel baseball, made videos, and took him to various baseball camps for recruiters to scout him. He kept him safe in that he monitored his pitch count, took him to various appointments when he suffered an injury, and bought him the equipment he needed to succeed. My husband does the same for our younger son, Noah, who has similar aspirations. Had it not been for him, I’m not sure that Nate or Noah would be in the positions that they are in now.
Enter Coach Bartman from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. In mid July, my husband received a call from Coach Bartman asking for Nathan to come out to Kansas to tour the campus and to talk about possibly going out there to go to school and play baseball. Unfortunately, because of timing of our vacation to Maui, and the Coach’s availability, it was not until early August that they could fly out and meet. My husband, thinking that Nathan wouldn’t really like the thought of going to school so far away, especially in Kansas, agreed to take him just for the experience of interviewing and talking to a recruiter. That meeting would prove to be a life changing moment for all of us as Nathan was offered an athletic scholarship, and then we were surprised that Nathan was excited and signed his letter of intent to play prior to leaving Kansas.
Here is where is become somewhat tricky … Nathan signed the Letter of Intent on August 8th, school was to start on August 18. There was no time to process. No time to ask for time off from work so that I could help him move and get settled. The only time that we had was to make sure that he got immunized properly, got a physical prior to leaving, pick up some clothing, and pack only the essentials that he needed and then send him off.
You cannot imagine my anxiety prior to his leaving. I like to let everyone believe that I’m made of armor, that I’m this emotionally strong person who doesn’t cry. It’s a facade. I’m really good at pretending and not letting people see that I’m vulnerable. I’m not good at letting people see the “real” me, nor do I like to let my guard down and let people get through the wall that I have built so nicely around myself as protection. Let me tell you, the heavy heart, the chest tightness, the constriction in my throat, and the tears that leaked out of nowhere … I had no idea that it could be so bad. The pain and struggle are both so REAL. The anxiety attacks would come at me out of no where, and the only thing that would help was for me to run – to physically run because I really felt as if I were crawling out of my skin! It’s safe to say, to tell everyone that I’m NOT made of armor, that I’m as normal as the next person. Awwww, com’mon now, don’t be so surprised!
Putting him on that plane, watching him walk away to fly a distance of 1,665 miles away was one of the hardest things I have ever had to endure. Let’s face it, it’s just not somewhere you can hop into your car and drive to should he need help. I asked my husband if he would tell Nathan that he couldn’t go, to tell him that he had to stay. He would not. He reminded me that this was what we have worked so hard for. He reminded me that this was the goal – to raise independent, strong, good-willed children, who go off to college and find their passions and go after them. I know and understand that, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me. He also told me that had I coddled him just a little bit more, and done more things for him, that we would not be in the situation that we were facing, that he wouldn’t want to leave the nest and that he would just want to stay home and let me continue to take care of him. Yeah, that wasn’t happening!
It’s safe to say that Nathan made it to Kansas and got himself set up without the help of his Mama. Despite my anxiety, I am incredibly proud of and happy for my boy! I will be okay, and I know Nate will be successful. He is making his dreams come to reality – how can any parent be upset about that! I only wish that I had a little more time to spend with him; that time could’ve crept by a little slower instead of sneaking up on me so quickly! I was okay, once I knew that he had made it to Kansas and situated for the most part. So hard to believe that he can do those things … without my help.
When I was much younger, even before I had thoughts of having children of my own, I read a book by Kahlil Gibran called The Prophet. I pulled my dog-eared copy from my bookshelf and re-read page 17:
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”
I’ve always loved this passage. I didn’t quite fully understand it until I had children of my own, and got to where I was letting them go to do things like go to parties without me, learn how to drive, go off to college, and then move far away from me.
My advice to you younger parents is this: Don’t Blink. Seriously. It seems like just yesterday when my kiddos were learning how to walk, how to ride a bike, starting kindergarten. Time flies by so quickly. Enjoy your children – EVERYTHING about them because it’s true that you’ll miss it. Hug them a little tighter, but not so tight that you stifle them. Give them the space, and foster an environment where they are able to learn independence and grow with your guidance. Set their wings securely so that eventually when the time comes to let them go, you can be confident in the fact that they will fly in the direction of their dreams but yet know that they can always come home, that you will provide them with a safe place to land should they need help.
I am so proud of all of my children. This year Grace started 6th grade, Noah started his senior year of high school, Nathan started his freshman year of college, and my Samuel started teaching a college class and started graduate school! Wow! I look forward to what the future brings. I am excited and happy for all of them. Like I said though, I wish I hadn’t blinked!