My son left two days ago. I washed the clothes he needed to take, watched him pack his luggage and totes, helped his sister make some cake balls for the 18 hour road trip, and helped him load all of his luggage and snacks in his car. Then I hugged him tight (took some pictures for posterity), and watched his brown vehicle pull out of the drive. I didn’t cry. I really wanted to.
He has a summer job in Yellowstone working in one of the park’s restaurants. Last spring he wanted to work at Yellowstone as a junior park ranger or some glamorous park job, but he applied too late and ended up working on the grandparents’ farm and at the local barbecue restaurant. This year he started the job search early (December) and applied for every and any job position at the park. They called him on New Year’s Eve as he and his dad were putting together his Christmas present (a chicken coop). They offered him $5 an hour plus tips. He responded hesitantly “Only $5? It’s a long way to go for $5.” The man responded, “And tips. We see over three million visitors a day at Yellowstone.” So now he’s off on his first across-the-country-solo-tour.
For me, his mother, this trip is momentous in many ways. For one way, he is leaving for the duration of the summer, then moving straight to the dorms to begin his college life. In all reality, our address is just an in between place, a place for the weekends and holidays when he starts school.
He is the least experienced driver with the most accidents in our little family of four. Letting him drive to Norman or Moore by himself causes me great panic and despair. Never mind those other trips to the edges of the state he takes with his friends. But now he is driving 18 plus hours, 1300 miles, through five states by himself. I drove from the north side of Dallas to my home three hours away by myself once. That is it. That is another momentous occasion.
It is also momentous because he tried something, failed, then tried again. And he set a goal and work for it. My son often lacks maturity, but this process has shown growth and maturity on his part. (Can you tell I’m proud? I’m just about bursting!) He is not going to work in the glamorous position of park ranger or anything like that. The whole purpose for him to go somewhere different and do something different. And it is a step in the direction of where he wants to be and do. He’s also going to encounter problems or make mistakes that my husband and I will not be able to help him with. I always thought we were the type of parents that let our children fail so they could learn and be stronger. Now, I am not so sure we did that enough.
This event is momentous because in the past three months, he has been to Ireland, Wales, England, New York City, and Yellowstone without us. No, he hasn’t gone to all of these places by himself. He has gone with various groups. Even if he stayed at home to work instead of going to Montana, the previous trips are a lot for us. We like to travel, but we usually go to one place each year or two.
Finally, my son leaving the nest is momentous, because I am learning to let go of my fear and anxiety. I worry about so many different things (car trouble, car wreck, people taking advantage of him, bears eating him), but I finally had to put my worries in God’s hands, because they were too much for me.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. – Isaiah 41:10
(We saw this on a girl’s tattoo as we were going through orientation at UCO.)
We are not completely empty nesters. Our daughter is home from OSU for part of the summer (she reminds us daily). She too will be taking a trip that I will no doubt blog all of my worries on. Then it will be me, my husband, the dog, and the chickens.