Our girls went to private school for the first 5 years of their formal schooling. It was a small Catholic school based on community and a sense of belonging. All three of our oldest children went there and I’m glad for them they did. They benefited from that experience in many ways. As High school began to wrap up for the girls and their last Summer before college came upon us, we were drawn back together with that same group of kids and parents who had been in our lives as routine just a few years prior. One at a time all those girls began to send senior pictures (another story) and graduation party announcements (yet another) Parents began to brag on their kid’s achievements, their plans for the future, summer jobs and so on. At one point both our girls got fast food jobs. One girl, they tried to work to death so she quit, the other actually worked at her job until end of this winter break. Our girls didn’t seem all that excited about that last summer of theirs. They didn’t spend a lot of time out with friends, they weren’t working that hard at getting ready to go off to College at least until the end. I think we all knew our little family was in for a major period of adjustment…we just didn’t talk about it all that much. Our little boy talked about it…not even really understanding what it meant that he was going to be the last kid at home. Due to schedules and finances, we didn’t take a family vacation that summer, we threw a party for the girls, a combined effort with their Mother, and just hung back waiting on the preparations for their move to begin. Well finally in July, our oldest twin, the planner, the one who made plans to go to the school up the road, began to get excited. She pulled her new room up on-line, began the search for a room mate, hooked up with a gal and they began to discuss important issues such as color scheme for the room, what size clothes they wear that they could share etc. Move in dates were right around the corner. Hey at least this seemed to be progress, we thought. Our other daughter…nothing. She took in her sister’s new room mate with crossed arms…sort of sizing her up a bit. When their Mother tried to take her shopping for just a few things in preparation for being out on her own, she was everything but excited and grateful and it turned into a big argument I’m told. I couldn’t help but feel for their Mom. Heck if I’d been her and had been done that way, it would have been the last offer I made to help that girl get ready, that’s for sure. Anyway, no talk, no fuss, no nothing from her. My husband you see, had made it pretty clear to both girls that financially he didn’t think they had a clue and that he believed they both lacked the maturity to live on their own and really focus on what was important, at least for that first year or two. This of course was met with silence from the girl going up the road and indignation from the girl staying in town. She was adamant to live in the dorm, spending an ungodly amount of money unnecessarily because she would not hear of her sister getting to do something like move out while she stayed home. No how, no way.
SO the summer wound down and before we knew it, it was move in weekend up the road. I was proud of my husband as he worked up the strength to be supportive and go help her get settled. When we arrived the roommate was already completely moved in though they had agreed to arrive around the same time….and well the rest of this room mate experience I will write about in another story…it’s a doozie! Our other daughter walked around like she had 100 pound weight on her head, no fun, complete downer…at the last minute she pulled a fast one, in an effort to separate from her sister she piled in the car with her Mother. so as we drove our car full of her furniture and their Mother drove her car full of clothes, with a total of 3 passengers; our daughter made her first drive to her new school alone. Nice! We got our eldest girl moved in, had a nice lunch out, took her to stock up with food, bought all her textbooks and supplies…allowed baby brother to run around like a crazy person, jump on her bunk, be excited and endear himself to every female on the floor; then home we went. A week or so later, their big brother came back home, and we accompanied our youngest twin to her new dorm room, helped get her moved in…which took like 10 minutes because unlike her sister who took way too much of home with her, this girl took nothing but the clothes on her back a laundry basket or two of stuff. Her Mother got her squared away with groceries and she ditched us for lunch; then we went back home. That really threw me. A few weeks before this day she had asked if I would show her around campus as that’s where I’d gone to school. I was sort of excited about that so I said sure! She never brought it up again, downplayed it when I reminded her a couple of times that we needed to go on up there. Turns out she had asked her Mother to do the same thing, though her Mother had never been on the campus before; so as a complete afterthought and maybe an oz. of guilt, she called later that afternoon and wanted us to come show her around campus. Actually we just ended up going and getting her text books, we tried to show her things, she was disinterested. I tried to share a story or two, again disinterested. I kind of thought why would you ask me to be involved like that, sub with your Mother and blow me off? Why? I mean I know when you’re in the middle like that, trying to involve everyone, someone is going to be disappointed. I so get that. I also know that this is an important time and kids only have their first college move out experience once. So I was trying to balance being there for the girls yet respecting that this was their Mother’s moment. But here again, she has two parents with intimate knowledge of this particular campus, one of whom went there for years and what does she do….relies on her Mother…who was just as wide eyed at the whole thing as she was. After we bought her books, she ditched us in the parking lot though her little brother wanted to go see her room too…said she had somewhere she needed to be, so we left her there. It was a real anti-climactic puzzling day with her. I will write about how the first semester went from our perspective a little later…but I think back now to that particular day and think maybe what we were seeing was displaced angst about this whole stage in her life…and she just acted out inappropriately. Still it hurt our feelings and wasn’t the kind of parting we wanted.
So just as these two girls have always been at opposite ends of the spectrum, here again we have two totally different experiences. I threw my arms around one girl’s neck and shook my head in bewilderment at the behavior of the other one. This last summer was like an emotional roller coaster the likes of which I’ve never experienced. Started slow…tick tick tick…went around and around up and down and then abruptly stopped.
When we got home and all was quiet, I put our boy in the bathtub. When he got out and his jams on, I sort of lost him for a minute. My husband snapped a picture of what he found then which I ended up submitting to our local paper and they ran. There he was sitting on his sister’ bed, the one he’s closest to, the one up the road…with his dog…bottom lip pooked out..both of them…looking lost. It summed it all up for all of us I think. Life had changed as we knew it…. More to come as we carry on.
You never know how things are going to go. You can script these important moments in your and your children’s lives and it just is going to go the way it’s going to go. Might as well relax about it.
You won’t always understand. I don’t suppose our parents did either.
It’s hard to watch your kids go through big change and uncertainlty, but you have to let them. It’s part of growing up and it’s their turn now to start their journey. It’s hard, did I mention that already?
Hang on to each other…support them from afar where you can and pray for them to respect themselves, that they make more good decisions than bad and that they are happy and stay safe.