My son’s first two weeks at college haven’t gone as planned. In all honesty, with the exception of the people he’s met so far, I’d have to say these first days away have been pretty crappy for him. He’d probably use a lot stronger adjectives to describe the time.
Not that he’s been sheltered, nor has he had life handed to him, but he’s had a series of “welcome to real life” smack-downs in such quick succession, it’s a testament to his stubbornness that I haven’t received a “come and get me” phone call or text.
In just nine days, the short list looks like this: his bike was stolen; the bookstore ran out of the books necessary for two of his classes (BEFORE classes even started); he caught a bad cold; there was a shooting not too far from campus; the insurance company suddenly decided they weren’t going to fill a (very necessary) prescription for him without making him jump through a bunch of hoops, paperwork, and delay; he overslept one morning, missing an 8:00 class; and he just found out he has to work the day of the first home football game.
To some, that last detail about the football game may seem trivial. But you need to know, my kid LOVES college football. Fanatically. Although it wasn’t a (completely) deciding factor, his college choices came down to Big 10 football schools. He’s been making plans with other football-crazy new friends since orientation in June. When things started going off the rails a week and a half ago, that football game was his light at the end of the tunnel…
My heart hurts for him.
He dealt with the stolen bike immediately, reporting it to campus police, filing a report, and even called local bike shops with the serial number and his contact information in case it showed up. Although he texted me asking how he should best deal with the insurance/medication debacle, he’s handled that on his own. With the MIA books, he immediately got on Amazon and ordered them. He texted and asked which medications would work best for his cold symptoms (he rarely gets sick, so is unfamiliar with that portion of a medicine cabinet).
When we talked at the end of the first week, after the bike theft and the shooting, I reassured him that he was in a safe community — that there is crime in every town. We talked (again) about being aware of his surroundings. That just because he’s male, that doesn’t make him less of a target if he’s walking alone at night, and that his computer and his phone need to be in his hands or locked up at all times because that’s just the world we live in.
But the football game…
I so wanted him to experience that part of college life with his new friends as much as I want him to go to classes and learn. This is a kid who loves school, who is excited about his majors and the honors college, who is outgoing and is a proud “nerd.” And life came along and whomped him up one side and down the other in a very short time.
And I can’t fix it.
I can console him; I can send funny memes; I can write him letters and send care packages. But I can’t fix any of it. Ouch. I told you all I was doing fine after dropping him off. But not being able to help him is what made me cry… several times.
And now the doubts roll in…
Did I teach you everything you need to go out into the world on your own?
Did I teach you to love enough, hard enough?
Did I convince you that you ARE enough?
Did I teach you to ask for help when you need it?
Did I give you enough ammunition to fight for what you believe in?
Did I teach you how to find answers?
Did I teach you enough about compassion?
Did I encourage you enough?
Did I teach you enough about how to be a good friend?
Did I teach you how to recognize the imposters?
Did I show you how to be grateful for what you have?
Did I show you how to find the funny in dark times?
Did I teach you how the only way to get over pain was to go through it?
Did I teach you that whatever you feel is real and it’s true , not right or wrong — but how you choose to act on those feelings is what counts as right or wrong?
Did I reach you?
Did I let go soon enough?
Did I hold on long enough?
Did I do enough?
This too, shall pass. And we will all be ok eventually. I know that in my head. But my heart aches, and I can’t hug him. And that’s the change I didn’t think would come so soon.