Since Jack was about 7, I’ve had the book Empty Nester near my bedside. I haven’t cracked the cover, but the book sits there as a looming reminder that one day Jack will leave home for college and begin his life out from under my protective wings. Today I had a glimpse of what that day will look like.
Now that Jack is well into high school, gone are the summers where I packed-up his things so he could spend a couple of weeks at summer camp. Camps where kids escape the clutches of their parents to hang out with old friends and soon-to-be new ones for warm, sunny days full of outdoor adventures, bland food disguised as “spaghetti night,” and evenings of bonfires and ghost stories. As cherished as those memories will someday be to Jack, that “kids-stuff” is now pushed aside for more manly pursuits like Football Camp.
This afternoon I dropped Jack at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland for their “Football Academy.” In preparation for the overnight program we received a list of items to pack. The list was very similar to traditional summer camp (i.e. extra clothes, toiletries, sunscreen, etc.), except with a subtle difference: Whereas last summer I was throwing a sleeping bag in the trunk, this year not only were we packing bed linens but we were going to be unpacking them in a college dorm. To say it made me a little nervous was an understatement.
With traditional camp it seemed so natural to pack up my kid and drive him four hours to stay with other kids whom I was convinced didn’t have the parenting structure of my child, and all of them being supervised by young people who were really older kids themselves. Yet, because Jack was going to be in a college setting, albeit during the summer, my heart began to beat a little faster. I knew he’d be safe, fed and well-taken care of, but… it’s college.
Jack was excited from the minute we arrived and saw the beautiful campus! I was getting pretty excited too. We checked in and then were pointed to the direction of the dorm. After a little confusion we finally found Jack’s dorm and met his roommates. The dorm is set-up like an apartment for six people, with a kitchen, dining area, four bedrooms, and two bathrooms. While getting unpacked and setting up his bed I chatted away with another mom whose son was the same age as Jack. We shared our nervousness as our boys rolled their eyes and heaved deep sighs which screamed “Are you serious? I’m not a little kid and you’re embarrassing me!” The other mom and I just chuckled, and I began to relax a bit.
After making a quick run to the grocery store to stock the fridge with drinks and munchies, it was time to say good-bye to my not-so-little man. It seemed very natural to leave him among his peers getting ready to spend a few days playing a sport he loved. I didn’t shed a tear.
This little glimpse into the future has been a gift. My protective wings are still securely in place, just not wrapped as tightly because I know Jack will do well in this world. So, little bird, it’s time to fly from this nest.