Last night, my middle child was packing his car so he could head back to college this morning. He’s not my first college student to leave home, and it’s not his first year. In fact, it’s his last year of his undergraduate program. But at a certain moment last night, as he took the last load of stuff to his car, I lost it. I bawled like a baby. As he walked back in the house, he wrapped me in a big hug and said, “Did I break you, Mama?”
Yes, he broke me but in a good way. Once upon a time, he was just a little guy who wouldn’t talk to anyone. If you asked him his name when was 2, he would whisper, “Baby Cole”, at an almost inaudible level. He had the biggest, bluest eyes that appeared much too big for his face, which he did eventually grow into. And he had three dimples on each cheek (those he still has).
He’s always been introverted, even around family. He would interact, but was quiet unless with me and his brother and sister. With his siblings, he was never at a loss for words or energy. But with others, he was an introvert. He would avoid birthday parties, Christmas parties, and even large family gatherings. The poor kid really hated family reunions, as they were always guaranteed to bring nearly 100 people.
So, when he was looking at colleges three years ago, he was set on attending one close to home. And then it happened – his audition day at a school that was three states away. He had only agreed to apply because he had a friend there who encouraged it. So, he applied. Wanting to major in music, he had already committed to the audition but had made up his mind that he didn’t care how he did because he was not going there. He was adamant about it!
That should have been my sign, right? Well, this Mama didn’t see it.
So, I drove him to his audition, and he was then whisked away to talk with faculty and get yet another campus tour – much like the one he had taken months earlier. When we met back up at the end of the day, he said, “Mom, I REALLY want to go here!”
Did he not realize that he would be several hours from home?? Three states away. Three! This freaked me out more than just a little because, as he put it, he “didn’t do people”. He was the opposite of his older brother, who was – and still is – quite outgoing and talkative. Even his little sister can talk your ear off once she gets to know you. But Coleman – not so much. He would smile and say hello, but that was it. He would then quietly and politely look for the nearest exit.
So, last night, as he prepared to leave for his last year of college, and while this Mama sat there crying tears of pride, he jokingly said, “So, is now a good time to tell you I’m going to Alaska for grad school?” You see, my very introverted little boy knew better than his Mama – he knew that the college he’d selected – the one three states and several hours away – was the right one for him. And he was right! He has grown into a confident young man, who dates, goes out with friends, is an officer in his fraternity, and can handle his own business matters – including grad school interviews. He knew what he needed, and he went after it.
So, yes, he broke me. He broke me out of the bubble where I tried to keep him so he’d always be safe. He broke me out of my role as the caretaker, as he is now able to take care of himself. He broke me out of my illusion that he’s still a little boy because he’s proven to be quite an amazing young man. BUT…in my heart, he and his siblings will always be Mama’s babies!