The Boy, whom some of you may remember went off to college, came back after a year and a half, and spent a year working while he Got His Head Together, decided his head belonged in a "Dixie cup," otherwise known as a United States Navy sailor's cap. He shipped out to Naval Station Great Lakes (also in Illinois) last week, and
I don't know, I'm envisioning them as a brother-sister team of super spies, maybe?
Two farewells in one week made me think of the many, many times we've said goodbye to the kids over the years. (We keep saying it because so far, they keep coming back.) I'm going to share the benefit of my experience, dear Readers, with you, so you'll know what to expect at any age (up to 23, that's as far as we've gotten at this point.)
1. Daycare/Preschool. Peel child off your body, thrusting her towards Miss Ashley and Miss Taylor, the teachers. In a bright, cheery voice, tell her how much FUN she's going to have today. Flee up the hall with her screams trailing behind you.
Sit in your driver's seat and sob for five minutes.
Call after you get to the office to find out how she is, only to be told she started smiling and playing with the other toddlers twenty-five seconds after you left the room.
2. First Day of Kindergarten. Put him in his adorable new pants and shirt and take thirty pictures of him at the breakfast table, getting into the car, getting out of the car, walking through the school doors, exploring the room, etc. He is excited and distracted and barely notices when you say, "Goodbye! See you this afternoon!"
Sit in your driver's seat and sob for five minutes.
3. Second Day of Kindergarten. Kiss him goodbye before the bus comes, then encourage him up the steps. Introduce yourself to the driver, trying to make her like you because for God's sake, you're entrusting your tiny child to her and you saw that movie where all the kids die in a bus accident in Canada. When the door closes and the bus pulls away, realize that from now on part of your child's life will always be unknown to you.
Go inside and stare into your coffee for five minutes.
5. First overnight stay at Grammy and Grampy's. Go over the List of Dos and Don'ts at Grammy's House. ("Do always ask to be excused from the table. Don't wear shoes inside on Grammy's wall-to-wall off-white carpet.") Remind children not to say anything about the hair in Grampy's nose.
If they're flying, take them to the gate, give them lots of hugs and kisses, hand them over to the flight attendant. Go home and pray.
If you're dropping them off, ease up on the hugs and kisses. You don't want Grammy to think you don't trust her, do you? Go home and pray.
6. Summer Camp (First Year). Hold her hand while you complete the registration. Assure her she's going to love camp. Tote three pillows, sheets, blankets, a quilt, a sleeping bag, a suitcase of clothing and a sack full of stuffed animals up to her cabin. Make introductions between the rest of the girls, who are staring at each other wide-eyed. "What's your name? Emily? Emily, this is Sarah. Sarah, this is Emily."
Make her bunk, unpack her clothes, set up the stuffies against the pillows and hold her hand as she walks back to the car with you. Assure her that if she still wants to go home after twenty-four hours, she can tell the camp director, and you'll drive up to get her.
Sit in your driver's seat and sob for three minutes. Stop when you realize if you get going, you and your spouse can make it to a real grown-up restaurant (one without paper placemats and crayons) in time for dinner.
7. Summer Camp (Every Year Thereafter) Haul the pillows, sheets, blankets, quilts, sleeping bags, stuffies and suitcase up to the cabin, along with face and hair treatments, her archery equipment, cake mix and frosting for a birthday cake, and every book in the latest hot YA series (all the other girls in her cabin will have the exact same books.) She will not help you with this, as she's too busy shrieking and hugging friends.
Give her a heartfelt hug at the car and watch as she dances off toward the lake with one of her cabin mates for her swimming assessment test.
Head for that restaurant. You deserve a drink.
8. First Day of High School. Don't mention his hair, or his clothes, or his backpack. Do not helpfully point out a zit on his nose and don't ask him if he's got all his recommended school supplies in his bag (he doesn't.) In fact, it's best if you don't say anything.
When he's not looking, grab him for a quick hug and kiss. Watch through the window as he sprints toward the bus (don't let him see you!)
Wonder if maybe boarding school would make dealing with your moody, hormonal teen easier. (No, it won't.)
9. Moving In Day at College. This is the big one. It's first day of summer camp, first day of high school, and first day of the rest of your life, all rolled into one. Spend two hours lugging books, lamps, a printer, a rug, hangars, a mirror, bedding, speakers, laundry detergent, personal hygiene supplies and enough clothing for a round-the-world cruise up three flights of stairs. (Yes, there's an elevator, but every other parent is trying to get on it at the same time.)
There will be scheduled activities to which you can go if you didn't forget something vital and have to make a last-minute run to WalMart. Try and have a meal with your child. Go to the school bookstore and buy her an overpriced sweatshirt and a back-window sticker for your car.
Hug and kiss her in the parking lot. Assure her you won't call until she contacts you first. Watch her dance away across the library lawn into her future.
Sit in your driver's seat and sob for ten minutes.
10. Every Other Year of College. Since you've discovered your child's future includes a whole lot of time spent in your house, borrowing your car, and eating your food, this goodbye process is best described by the theme song to the classic western, Rawhide: Head em' up, Move 'em on! Move 'em on, Head em' up! Rawhide!
Kiss, kiss, bye-bye, see you Parent's weekend. You and your spouse could stop at a real grown-up restaurant, but college tuition means you can't afford to eat out.
11. Leaving for Basic Training/OCS. Ruffle his hair. Tell him you're proud of him. Do not ask about taking along his special hypoallergenic body wash. Do not ask what's going on with his girlfriend. Do not ask when he'll be able to write or call you.
If you can, have a meal together. Reminisce about silly things he did as a little kid. Do not express your deep reservations about the wisdom of the United States Government trusting him with leading soldiers/nuclear power/airplanes.
Take anything he's not bringing on the bus trip. Press money into his hand to buy a decent meal at the airport. Hug him, and let yourself feel how big he's grown, how strong, how ready to leave. Say goodbye briskly, smiling, remind him you'll see him at graduation.
Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry.