If I read one more "my baby started kindergarten" post I will probably explode into three zillion little pieces. Not because I begrudge any mother the bittersweet emotions of sending her baby into the wide world of elementary school, but because I can't help picturing my own little kindergartener some 13 years ago.
Seriously, I have no idea how we got from point A to point B. What I mean is, how on earth did that five year old child (the one with the flowery lunch box) grow up and leave for college? I know that I was there every day for her growing up years. I decorated her rooms, shopped for halloween costumes, made her favorite meals, cheered her on, and disciplined as needed. I watched and worried and nursed her back to health when she was sick or allergic or her eczema was driving her crazy. I was there. I promise. I have pictures to prove it, and still I will swear up and down that there is no way that was eighteen years. And I'll also promise that she's been mine for my entire lifetime. Linear time is indeed problematic in parenting.
But the moving her into her dorm room? It was fabulous. It made all of my "moving my daughter into her dorm room" dreams come true. We shopped, and organized and shopped some more. We bought bins and containers and every available form of the 3M removable adhesive strip. We hung pictures and installed print drivers and arranged her hanging clothes in the order of the rainbow. In between the work parts we went out to eat (Cafe Rio) and to the bookstore and to check out the bee-utiful campus. It was glorious. Every part of it.
But then the very last night came. After dinner in Heber we drove her back to her dorm. On campus there were "games" on Helaman field, which meant at least 5,000 freshman milling and playing and socializing. And I was supposed to send my little baby into that fray? Really? But we'd already completely unpacked her dorm room, so there didn't seem much left to do but push her on. Jordan was visibly distressed, which only sent my mommy alarm into overdrive. If I sense that one of my kids is sad about anything I immediately HAVE to make it better. I have to convince them of all the good parts of their sadness. I turn into some uber crazed, deranged cheerleader. IT'S OKAY. IT'S OKAY! YOU'RE OKAY! WE ARE ALL OKAY!! YAY!!! !! And then I hugged her and told her I'd miss her and that she would be just fine. Fantastic even.
And then before I knew it, she was walking away and Sterling was steering the car out of the parking lot. And just like that, my baby was at college. And I wasn't.
I just sat there, kind of numb, in the darkness of the car as we rushed along I-15 back to Salt Lake. At first I tried not to think about it. But every molecule of my being was focused on that one spot back in Provo where my first born walked and talked and moved into her new life. I felt sadness and confusion and rage. Yep, I was mad. Every billboard or point of light I saw out my window made me more angry. I hated McDonalds and the illuminated Chase Bank marquis and the 27 missionary mall signs. I hated red tail lights and white headlights and blinkers. I hated mountains and freeways and convenience stores. But most of all, I hated the really dumb idea that motherhood should require letting go. I didn't want to. I still don't.
And you know what else is weird? Suddenly I felt like Sterling and I were two steps from retirement. I aged about 27 years that night. I realized that with a grown-up kid I better start closing up the proverbial shop. The end is nigh. Life as I know it is ending. Quickly.
I know...before you start telling me I'm nuts...I know there are a whole bunch of good things about her leaving for college. I've made that good list in my head about 300 times. But still, I'm not ready for that part of my life -- the part that means my kids don't sleep under my roof anymore. The part where there is less laundry and less people stealing the lunch-only snacks from the pantry and less girls to fight over clothes or giggle late into the night. I still need Jordan to wander into my room to tell me the latest news about her friends. And plus, I know that everything in my life hereafter will be divided between "when my kids were all still at home" and "when Jordan left for college." And how on earth can I do all of the fun stuff in the Family Fun magazine when my kids are grown up? And who will I be? And will I like her?
I'll probably like the grown-up-kid-me just fine. Eventually. But for right now I feel like there is a giant hole in our family and a knot of confusion deep inside of me. Yesterday I was moving along just fine. Made dinner. Chatted with the kids about their new classes. Played card games in the evening. And then, as I was brushing my teeth, I did my normal "is everyone home" checklist in my mind. And then I remembered that Jordan wasn't coming home, and my stomach lurched. Just for a second. But it was super uncomfortable. And slightly miserable.
Now I'm wondering why I haven't been properly instructed in "letting one's child move away." I'm Mormon. We have lessons for everything: how to store food, how to prepare for a hurricane, how to feed a family of 9 on a budget, how to make those fake grape clusters for your dining room table. But never, never have I sat through a lesson entitled "How To Let Your Baby Move Away." And how to do it with grace and dignity...without curling up in the fetal position...clutching her kindergarten picture...in the same clothes you've been wearing for three days straight.
Just kidding. I've been changing my clothes. Sort of.
But really, what's a distressed mom to do?
No, really. What?