Well here we go. It’s that dreaded season. You know the one where kids complain, teachers complain, everyone complains. No one wants to go back to school! It’s dragging kids out of bed early so they will be able to function on the first day of school with half opened eyes and words of understanding coming out of their mouths instead of the typical morning grunt. It’s new backpacks, lunchboxes, tennis shoes, and haircuts. I’m thankful for teenagers who no longer care about having new things at the beginning of the school year and are all growing their hair out and refuse even a snippet of a hair cut. Oh how perspectives change from the elementary years to the high school years! Now I’m just glad they can actually find their backpack from last year and remember to restock it with pencils after shoving all the old crunched up papers into the trash. I’m thankful when they grab a pop tart out of the pantry seconds before walking out the door instead of starving themselves until noon when they eat about 1/3 of the partially edible food on their tray. On Monday night at 10:38, Travis and I will remember we need to stock the pantry and fridge with food so they can stuff their mouths when they walk in every afternoon after another “it was boring” day at school. Having teenagers is easy because they refuse to eat nutritious parent-made breakfasts, and we can say “well if you choose to starve, that’s your problem not mine” and really mean it. Gone are the days of feeling guilty for not having the perfect plate of two scrambled eggs, a piece of buttered toast and a cute little bowl of berries along with a glass of cold milk. Oh and the vitamin sitting next to the plate – can’t forget the vitamin. Now I just look at the pop tart box to remind myself there are actually vitamins crammed under the frosting. And besides, what’s the difference between a pop tart, a muffin and a piece of bread anyway? They all have the same ingredients, right?!
Ryan will be an 8th grader on Monday. I can tell you now, Travis is going to have a fight on his hands trying to get the boy out of bed for school. He loves his sleep, and he really loves being able to sleep well past noon every day then get out of bed when it is his idea, not dad’s. He has no idea what’s coming! And Tuesday is the big day when Trevor and Sidney head back to Southeast as a sophomore and junior. I asked Trevor if he was glad he didn’t have to be a freshman all over again and he gave me the typical response – “sure”. Such depth of insight from the 15 year old. Go figure. Unless he is talking to his friends or engaged in a subject that really grabs his interest (video games and friends), these one liners are the response we get. Oh but we do sometimes get an “I guess” or “I don’t know” out of him which is super exciting. He is the child who says little but when he does want to talk and opens up, ya better drop everything and listen or you will miss the path into his heart. He can be very engaging when he chooses to be and has quite the funny, sarcastic sense of humor when you get the chance to be a part of his conversations.
Sidney is going to be crazy busy this year. She is heading into her junior year which is widely known as the hardest year of high school. But not only is she in her hardest year, she is entering her last year. After deciding to graduate a year early, she has plowed ahead full speed toward shoving all her necessary classes into her schedule. She’s nuts, let me just say it. But I absolutely support her and admire her drive. Last spring she finished three e-learning classes in one semester along with her otherwise full schedule. She plans to do the same this fall with a crazy hard class load, but the girl is a workhorse when she sets her mind to something, and I have no doubt she will finish well. She drives me insane sometimes with her fierce determination and pure stubborn attitude, but she really does come by it honestly. I have absolutely no idea where that passion and determination comes from. Ha! I really do admire her vision and drive and often wish my mom was still here so I could talk to her about how she managed to survive my teen years. At least Sidney is putting that stubborn, determined, self driven attitude toward something good as I cannot say the same for my own high school years. Travis and I are very proud of her for her self direction as she has planned and prepared for this shortened high school career independently, using nothing but her own free will and determination. The girl will move mountains some day if she chooses. I think she already is.
While the high school thing is now a well known, comfortable, worn path of understanding and sheer routine, the college years are as new and unknown as bringing a baby home from the hospital. It is the “now what?” attitude of the early days when you just simply have no idea what to do or how to respond. We have eleven days until the van gets packed, and we head down to Missouri to get Brad settled in at Missouri Western. The dichotomy of emotions is as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon. I am excited for him, but then I am crying as I stare at an old picture showing me a chubby cheeked little five year old riding his bike down the sidewalk on a hot summer day. I am laughing and excited one minute then emotional and defensive the next as I fight the desire for control over making sure every single detail is just perfectly aligned and set. It makes me laugh thinking about the differences in how Travis dealt with sending our firstborn off to live in the dorm compared to how I handled the situation when the planning started. He simply said “we can figure out what he needs for his dorm room when we get there and see the space”. I being the mom, on the other hand, flipped out at hearing those ungodly words spill from my husband’s mouth. What do you mean wait until the very last second when we are about to say our goodbyes through ugly sobs and blurred vision from all the water running down our faces?! Oh no. I planned, wrote a list of all things necessary that I was just absolutely certain Brad would DIE without. I searched the internet for hours looking for the perfect guy comforter and schemed and studied every single item he will need. I signed up for Bed Bath and Beyond text messages so I could get a coupon to buy his perfect comforter that matched the navy blue, cream and grey themed colors I planned out. Brad could not care less about colors, towels, organizing or making any college related decision. I did check before I went on my crazed shopping spree. I went to Ikea for the very first time with one of my dearest friends and bought all kinds of necessities for his dorm room like the desk drawer organizer I am now 100% certain he will not use. Oh, it will sit in his desk drawer because I will put it there in my emotional state of needing to control the organization of his dorm room, but I know it will not be used to keep the 18 year old laid back college student organized. Because he doesn’t care about being organized. He’s laid back. I already said that. He lives in the moment. Goes with the flow. He’s all about laughter, socialization and having fun. I’m not sure he will survive. Will he study? Will he give himself enough time to write the paper due the next day instead of spending the entire afternoon playing frolf (that’s frisbee golf for those of you saying “whaaat?”) with his new found friends then going to Chic Fil A because cafeteria food sounds awful? Oh my word I’m not sure I bought enough organizational supplies to keep him on track!
I am pretty sure the ability to laugh at one’s self is a necessary gift when you become a first time college mom. And I have it down. No worries. I realize I am a mentally unstable 40-something woman who is a bit crazy and a tad irrational about what this college life thing will really be like. And I went to college, lived in the dorms, survived and thrived. Imagine that. My heart hasn’t caught up yet, and I am not sure when it ever will, but my brain says Bradley James will be just fine down there in St. Joe two plus hours from his mommy and daddy and all things comfortable, secure and known. I will have my phone in hand at all hours of the day and night, ringer up as high as everyone around me can tolerate as I wait for the first text, the phone call that will come much later than I will like. My family will want to slaughter me after I say for the 500th time, “I wonder what Brad is doing right now?” And when he does finally come home that first time, I will have homemade chocolate chip cookies which he absolutely loves ready and waiting as I nearly shove them down his throat after getting that first hug and telling him how happy I am to see him. Because that, of course, will make everything right again with the world. And some day, after the initial freak out ugly cry after we move him into his new college dorm, some day this will all become our new normal. Some day I will be used to not seeing him around our home for weeks on end. Some day I will be able to find joy in his growth and maturity and amazing experiences in the stories of all things college. I know that peace will come. I know the new normal will one day become routine and familiar. But I’m not there yet. So if in the next ten days you see me at Target standing in the cleaning supply isle starting at the Clorox wipes trying to decide if lemon scent or unscented is best for college kids all while trying to secretly wipe the tears from my eyes, do me a favor and just give me a little hug and tell me it will all be OK. I’m gonna need a little grace.