It feels so normal. Hustling everyone around to get out the door on time. “Emma! Do you have your shoes on yet?!” Exchanging glances with my husband as he sees me check the time, knowing I am about to hurry him too, he offers “I’m just looking for my glasses then I’m ready.”
But today is not normal at all. Today we will start the day with three children at home and end with two. Today our van is packed to the top with most of our son’s things to relocate his life to Nashville. Today he leaves for college and life changes for us all.
We arrive just a few minutes behind our scheduled time. Vanderbilt has a huge campus and finding our destination, “lot 77” takes a phone call and some rerouting, but now we are in a long line of cars and vans with mini fridges and suitcases and pillows all crammed around families with precious cargo. Kyler does not love all the overly caffeinated welcoming crew screaming and making us honk our horns while waiting in line. He is ready to get moved in and not feel so new and watched. I kind of like all the festivities. At least the college is acknowledging what a big day this is.
We are greeted by a pack of kids in fluorescent green Move In Crew t-shirts, eager to help unload our van and find Kyler’s room. The husband is sent off to a parking garage with our van and Emma grabs my hand as we follow behind the green t-shirts. “I’m sad Kyler is leaving today” she whispers. I squeeze her hand, kiss the top of her head and blink back tears that are welling up. Time for that later. He is the first of his roommates to arrive as we walk into the empty space that will hold his life next year. Time to find comfort in my familiar role of nesting and I am delighted to direct everyone in unpacking and sorting. Emma and the husband set off to locate some breakfast for us and Kyler and I settle into our familiar patterns of working on a project together.
It is surprisingly easy to get everything settled and I begin to feel unsure. I anticipated a longer process, not wanting the day to rush by quicker than it must. We have been introduced to a myriad of smiling, helpful welcoming people, all with clip boards and instructions and stickers for us to wear. We are now officially Vanderbilt Parents and a Vanderbilt Sibling. We decide to loft Kyler’s bed to give more space below, so the men redo the bedding while I read instructions and Emma swivels in his desk chair. Our next job is to walk across campus to the Commons, where he can get his ID, then on to pick up text books. His roommates have not yet arrived, and he is getting anxious waiting, so we decide to head out to explore a bit and check off our tasks for move in day.
The day continues on, minutes ticking by as I try to take in all the details of his new home. Thinking about home, I text our middle son to update him on the progress of the day. He is not the kind who enjoys big crowds of strangers, so he opted to stay back. I wonder how he will adjust to being the oldest child in the house. The only big brother at home with Emma. My mind wanders back to when the boys were little and no matter what we asked Klynt to do, his first response was “What about Kah-ler?” in his two year old squeaky voice. They have always been together and now they branch off.
We meet his roommate Dre, and I am so thankful. He is very different from Kyler but I sense they share some common values as we interact. I resist the urge to take a picture of them, knowing the look my oldest would give me if I tried. We grab lunch off campus at our favorite Indian restaurant. Kyler attends a presentation by one of his deans and then it is dinner. We are all tired. We follow him back to his room one last time before we go and I feel myself wanting to stall a bit, but knowing it’s time. My husband leads us in a prayer and then we hug him tight. The tears are about to burst when I realize I have not taken one picture with Kyler all day.
And then, we are done. We walk out and he closes his dorm door behind us and we head to the car. Emma wipes her tears with the back of her hand, but I just let mine fall. I cry because I love him so much. I cry because he is no longer nesting with me. I cry because it feels so strange to let go of one whom I have held so close for so long. I cry because while I am happy for him, I am sad for me.
I know I will see him again, probably soon. I know this is right and good and everything we raised him to be: a strong, independent, smart, loving and Christ following young man. But for tonight, I am not consoled by what I know. I am raw and inexperienced with this phase of parenthood and my mind keeps wandering backward to the comfort of all that I have known, all that is familiar when you have been a mama almost 19 years. Tonight I simply sit in the strange empty newness of releasing a child into adulthood and trust that God will bring comfort and joy tomorrow.